Tuesday, May 15, 2007

sorry not writing much.

Lots to say, just trying to figure out how to say it anonymously.

Some very interesting stuff, in fact, and could use some advice. But, leaving out specifics to protect identity in this case would mean I can't say anything at all, and I really want advice on the specifics.

To be vague... well... what would you do if you found out that at least one of the reasons you didn't get any job interviews was in fact outright discrimination and had nothing to do with your scientific qualifications?

I'm wondering if this was an isolated incident, but thinking that it probably was not.



At 12:19 PM, Blogger lady macleod said...

I believe there are legal steps you can take, no? Consult with a solicitor who specializes. On the quiet I should think...

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends in part on how you know it was discrimination. If you have strong (documented) proof, or someone who is prepared to go on the record, then you could consider an official recourse. If you heard this from someone off the record, then the situation is much more complicated and the specifics do become important. If you don't want to blog specifics, consider talking to the careers or equality officer of your professional society (assuming you have one).....

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ms. PhD,

Your voice has been missed. As for your question, that's a tough one. Discrimination based on what? The fact that you're female? How did you find this out, did a job search committee member actually come out and tell you?? If not, I don't know if you would have a leg to stand on if you wanted to file some sort of lawsuit. And I don't know what good that would do anyway, even if you had solid, documented evidence. Maybe you could win a settlement from the institution, but that doesn't help you get the job.

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous wingsy said...

I think there is no definite way to know that it's that , but I am convinced that is the real reason and I can prove it ,then I will look into legal action against them.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Charlotte said...

As others have said, you might consider contacting an organization with broader experience in such matters - Assn for Women in Science comes to mind, www.awis.org - they (or someone similar) may be able to point you in the right direction.

good luck

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Sorry, I wasn't being clear.

I don't think legal action is the right way to go, since I don't have documented proof and I don't think anyone would go on record, and I don't think it would help me in the long run.

I want to know how I could
a) get the word out that this still happens and
b) avoid having it happen every time I apply for a job

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Bug_girl said...

Been there, done that. I have stopped applying for anything at large entomology departments, since they are such old boys clubs, it's just not worth it.
Certainly the discussions on my candidacy, as reported to me by friends in the department, centered more on my record of feminism and tattoos than actual scholarly contributions.

Not much you can do, since then you'll be "difficult"

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Funny you should say that, since one of my heroes is an out lesbian with multiple tattoos who has been very successful in biology.

Does that give you any hope?

I don't have any tattoos, btw, and while I'm openly feminist I shudder to think that my level of activism (quietly donating money to groups like NOW from my home address) would be enough to get me on the Crazy Women's Libber List.

(I'm picturing the KKK in pointy white hoods setting fire to a giant flaming penis on my lawn...)

But maybe they noticed that I have a blog on the topic, or that I mostly wear pants, sensible shoes and only a little makeup? Gosh, and here I thought I was blending in with regular society so well.

At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Bug_girl said...

All I can tell you is the (not very satisfying) platitude that if they can't see you for the great scientist you are, you wouldn't be happy there anyway.

I have written several papers that are pretty "out" in terms of questioning women's status in science, and criticizing some behavioral theories for being, er,

That didn't help :)

While I wish things were different for me, I do think it's all turned out for the best. Where I am now on the periphery, I can continue to take potshots at the bigwigs, but suffer no employment consequences.

It's all good (eventually).

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't wish to diminish your plight, but are you sure you are being discriminated against based on your sex? I work in a fairly large lab, and in the last 5 years all the women I know have landed the positions they wanted (primarily academic research). It's only one lab, but still. I read your blog religiously and agree with a lot of what you say, and I'm sure there is discrimination out there, but are you sure there's nothing else? Lack of pubs, bad references, poor presenting skills, unknown advisor or some silly scientific feux pau…..etc?? Maybe I'm naive, but I'd like to think that it's not as dire as it sounds. Good science is good science, right? Or am I totally off base? Are you really that qualified and still not getting interviews? If so, there's no hope for any of us.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Thanks for your carefully worded question. And it's "faux pas," in case you want to spell it correctly.

I'm really happy to hear that the women in your lab are doing well at getting jobs. I'm a little worried that you list "unknown advisor" as if it's okay for people not to get jobs based on that?

And my presenting skills don't enter into it, since I got axed *before* interviewing anywhere.

Anyway, yes, I'm sure. Since I can't go into specifics, let's just say that I know what was said about me, and they are things that relate to my gender.

In fact all the indications are that at least in this one case I know about semi-directly, I would have gotten invited otherwise. So, it's not the package that's the problem. But of course I will continue to try to get more, bigger papers, since that can only help.

I hate to say it, because I feel like the poster child for the old Bill Clinton saying about the economy. I feel like I have a big red stamp on my forehead that says in block letters:


At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you may be a little paranoid or looking for an excuse as to why you are not getting any interviews. So, assuming that there are a lot of jobs out there and you applied for them, you think that 20 or 30 places all didn't give you an interview because you are a woman? That just doesn't seem logical since there are women getting jobs.

Maybe you should do a scientific study on this. You can find out who was hired from all the places you applied and see if any of them are women. Somehow I think there will have been women hired.

You said before that you didn't have the greatest publishing recored. Well sister, science is all about publishing.

I'm not saying there is no discrimination out there, but it seems to me that you explain everything based on discrimination when there may be other reasons. You go there first. If you don't have an outstanding publishing record you aren't going to get interviews. Period. If I look around in my lab, the people with the best records (science for instance) got the most interviews. People with second-tier publications got fewer interviews and people with third-tier publications were basically shut out of the process.

The other factor is that you may not be getting good letters. Do you get along well with the people that write you your letters? Do they respect your work? Do they think you should pursue the academic track? These are important questions to understand.

I wish you would give the specifics because I'm having difficulty believing that it is just because you are a woman.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I apologize for my spelling error, and I had no intention of insulting you. My poorly composed comment was simply to ascertain if you're sure it's blatant sexism. It's a really tough market right now, and sometimes it's easier to blame something you have no control of (i.e. your sex) than deal with the fact that you may have made some bad decisions or aren't as smart, creative, clever as the next applicant. That's all. It sounds like it's not the case, so I'm sorry.

And I agree with you 100%. Many of the arbitrary conventions are completely ridiculous, but as long as everyone is held to the same standards I have less of a problem with it.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason my comment was never posted. I had a similar sentiment which was, maybe you are not being discriminated against because of sexism but because of who you are. I know of a female grad student who comments on your blog. She has her own blog too. I know her in real life and she is a complete idiot. She blogs about discrimination but it seems the way she gets treated is directly due to her behavior, not because she is female. n=1...

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about your misfortune, however I have to agree with the poster above. Each and ever female I know who has looked for an academic job in the last couple of years has been very successful. I know men who have been turned away because departments need to hire women. And let's not forget that almost all job ads ask for women and minorities apply (although it is, of course, ultimately up to the committee who they invite for interviews). Perhaps you need to find a good mentor to adivise you on how to better portray yourself on paper?

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

I find it very interesting that the knee-jerk response, even from a typically receptive audience, is that I am paranoid or imagining this. Does the denial run so deep? Is that why this still goes on, because everyone wants to look the other way?

Maybe it's not all that common, but clearly if it happened to me, then it still happens.

Let's just say that many of us, regardless of gender, do not get job offers and never find out why. We assume it is because we all work on slightly different things, so it is apples and oranges, scientifically not a good fit, or whatever reason.

I was very fortunate to find out the WHY in this case.

I don't know if it applied to the (many) other places that received my application.

It was not that anything bad was said in my recommendation letters.

I really like the suggestion that I should look into whether women were hired for the positions where I applied. I will do that when I have time... which may be never.

But the reason I haven't done it sooner is that it may not address my specific point in this case.

I think it is a situation where certain kinds of personalities are expected and preferred for women vs. men.

The implication is that I possess certain traits that would be perceived as a benefit in a male scientist, but are considered undesirable in a female scientist, at least by some departments.

In addition, someone apparently spread a rumor about me that suggests something totally false, and has nothing to do with my work, but which typically would only apply to a woman.

It's not so much that someone said it, since it's not true.

It's the fact that at least one search committee used it as justification for not inviting me to interview. Since it would never be said about a man, that's sexist.

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous bug_girl said...

anonymous is apparently unaware of the huge literature dealing with the ways in which women are rated differently than men in teaching and tenure evaluations.

I hope he's a guy, because if a woman is making those comments, she's in for an unpleasant wake up someday.

At 6:33 AM, Anonymous TW Andrews said...

Unfortuntately, from what it sounds like there's not much that can be done except to not let it embitter you (though I would personally find it difficult to not be).

And in one way, you can take it as an encouraging sign, because it means that you're in good shape on all the factors you can do something about, and any place that would ding you for your gender isn't somewhere you'd want to work anyway.

Eventually, there will be opportunities with departments which have low enough levels of sexism that you'll be able to enjoy working there.

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It was not that anything bad was said in my recommendation letters. "

Hmmm...in my experience, almost all recommendation letters are "nice". It's usually what's not said in the letter that will kill your chances.

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


I agree. But don't we think that most people who didn't want to write a good letter would just say they didn't feel comfortable writing a letter at all? Or is that just too naive?

I know someone who requested to see all her letters via the Freedom of Information Act, and found out that way that one of her recommenders hadn't been very laudatory. But I don't know how long it would take to do this or how hard it would be. She did it several years ago and is now very successful, but now I can't remember what tipped her off to going to such lengths, I seem to recall that someone actually told her one of her letters wasn't good.

I have heard from outside sources that my letters are 'good', but as I think I blogged about ages ago, Americans seem to expect letters to say you can not just walk on water but also fly and make PBJ sandwiches while you're doing it. So it is of course possible that certain catch phrases are missing from my letters in a way that would be obvious only to seasoned search committees-??

Obviously getting better letters can only help.

At 1:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: letter writers

There are some people who can't delicatley bow out of writing letters for you. If your graduate or post-doc advisors declined to write you a letter, it would be pretty awkward. (I once was on a search committee where an otherwise intriguing candidate didn't get an interview offer because there was no letter from his graduate advisor.) Rather that not writing, I assume that these people would instead find a way to write a letter that doesn't say anything- positive or negative- about the candidate, and the meaning would come through loud and clear.


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