Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Response to comments on last post

Sorry to have to do this in a separate post, but Blogger ate my last attempt and now there are even more comments here...

Becca wrote: Oh the horror! He offered you a job- how very offensive. ;-)
Mind you, it sounds like this particular fellow was a jerk and managed to blow the communication badly. Maybe there was some body-language




Becca, it wasn't a tenure-track job. And I have it in writing.



Kea wrote:the MAJORITY of women with jobs have partners in the field, or a closely related one

which also kind of answers profgrrrl's question about how common it is. This is also the case in my field (and Kea and I are in different fields).



geekmommy prof: I misunderstood. I thought your comment implied that you both have tenure-track jobs. That is what I mean when I'm talking about couple hires.

you also wrote:

you present your advisor as a spineless, gutless, completely uncreative shmuck. Yet he must have had some redeeming qualities at least when he was young, otherwise he would not have been hired

He had pedigree. And he does have some skillz.

He is also uncreative, extremely clueless in many ways, and a big fat liar. But I never said spineless or gutless. In fact I think it takes great courage (or arrogance?) to be a brazen, self-serving liar.

Good luck to you and your group.



Anon 6 pm wrote: Another implicit assumption you are making is that anytime someone makes a spousal hire, someone else does not get hired. Being on the other side of the hiring committee, I can assure you that this is not true. I have seen several occasions when deans have opened up specific slots for spousal hires from some sort of faculty-retention fund, and these positions are positions the department would have never gotten otherwise; the money would have simply been lying around in the university

This may be so at very rich places, but in the current climate, and at most universities, it is either/or, not both.

Very few schools have a lot of money "lying around" with which to hire tenure-track faculty and give them startup.




Lou Dobbs: you bring up the important aspect that being a woman in any department can be crazymaking. I already had that as a postdoc. I think this is a MAJOR reason why a lot of talented women leave academic science. On top of having to defend your research to peers both internally and externally, women have to fight an extra battle for credibility in the career path just because we're women.

I lost.



Anon 6:02, thanks for commiserating! sorry you are getting this too. congrats on the job! you're one of the lucky few. Very few.




prodigal academic wrote: The employer doesn't care about sampling the whole wide world of available employees.

This is a major point for women and minorities and why our numbers in the tenure-track are not representative of our numbers coming into the pipeline.

particularly in regions where professional jobs are difficult to find.

This is actually a believable argument, and it makes sense to me. But I've seen a lot of spousal hires in major, multi-institution cities with a high density of job opportunities.




Anon 3:47 wrote: In addition to dealing with male scientists in her department with super-egos, now she even has to deal with people like you!

Um, no, she doesn't. I'm not there.

Don't you think you are being hypocritical here by assuming that just because a woman was hired as a spousal hire, she has no merit?

I never said that, actually. I've been talking more in general about whether this women are a) willing or b) able to act as mentors to younger women, given that they got their jobs via a rather specialized route that may not apply to their mentees.

In my field, when I went looking for women mentors to help me with my applications for faculty positions, I realized that almost none of them had gotten their jobs by applying on their own. I asked anyway; they had no idea how to advise me.

And actually I also want to point out that all of my spousal hire complaints apply to men, too. It's just that in my field it's still mostly the husbands being recruited and the wives following; others have posted here (and on previous posts) that they know of several examples in other disciplines where the wife was recruited and the husband followed (as in geekmommyprof's case, except that her spouse took a non-tenure track position).

I've read FSP's blog for a long time, as have most of my readers (I think). I often find her posts inspirational, but she's coming from a slightly(?) older generation, a very different discipline, and she's just one person. She has been highly successful, I think, and may not be representative of the average experience of most women in science. Neither would I say that I am representative of the "average experience". But on the spectrum from me to her, I think we both have valid points to make, and deserve to be heard.

Labels: , , , ,

22 Comments:

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Becca said...

From what I understand, it's... unwise to ever imply a job is being created *for* anyone in particular. Mostly because a member of a legally protected class (e.g. person of color) would have a shot at a successful discrimination suit. I'm surprised McJerk didn't have better HR handlers than that. But it's not so much how *you* were treated that is the legal issue.
Which is perhaps related to why, although I'm trying to empathize with how you felt, I appear to be somewhat lacking in this department. To be clear- I do (very much!) understand "annoyed they can see my partner as valuable but not me". I don't, so much, understand "offended that they would dare offer me such a lowly job"- or exactly how he implied you weren't 'worth hiring on your own' (that's why I attempted to allow for 'tone'- there are many ways of coming across as condescending).

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger geekmommyprof said...

MsPhD,

This has been a spirited debate.

Spousal hires are usually as meritorious as any other random sample of faculty (see a recent article in Chronicle of Higher Education). There are many more reasons one doesn't get a position or even an interview before 'trailing spouses' are to blame...

I have actually started writing a lengthy comment along these lines and then if got out of hand, so instead there is a related post

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Becca,

That's just it. I don't think he could *create* a job for me anyway. I think it was a lie intended to push buttons.

He knew I had been struggling to get my own lab for several years. He NEVER offered to get me a position, or even write me a letter of recommendation.

To say after the fact "oh, well I COULD have helped you if only you had been willing to _______ but now it's too late" is just an empty threat.

Anyway, I don't expect you to understand if you've never dealt with people like this. Think mafioso.

geekmommyprof,

Spousal hires are usually as meritorious as any other random sample of faculty

That's exactly my point. I've been questioning just how many of them are really based on merit at all. Most of the people I know got jobs because they knew people, not because they were head-and-shoulders above the rest of the applicants.

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may be so at very rich places, but in the current climate, and at most universities, it is either/or, not both.

And you know this, how? Have you been on _any_ hiring committee?

No offense, but it seems from reading your blog that while you do claim to know a lot and question a lot about what hiring committees do, you have no actual experience about what goes on in a hiring committee.

But based on this "so-called" knowledge, you are already ready to dismiss people such as geekmommyprof or this writers of articles such as this one in the chronicle of higher ed, who actually know what they are talking about. And those people (who actually know) have always claimed that the money for spousal hires come from a separate line.

 
At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a junior TT prof in engineering, all of the spousal hires I've heard about in the past 4 years have all been trailing husbands. Science and engineering departments are trying to hire more women, and women tend to come with the two-body problem. So if a dept wants to hire more women, they will eventually have to figure out a way to solve the two-body problem. My university has unfortunately not figured this out, so we recently had 3 very promising jr faculty women get poached by other schools willing to do "spousal hires". All 3 had husbands who were excellent faculty candidates, but our university couldn't get past the politics of spousal hiring. Too many older faculty resented the husband candidates, so they were unfairly judged harshly IMO and not offered slots. We ended up losing them all.

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger geekmommyprof said...

A comment on your latest comment:
I don't think you can decouple merit from the network. If you are excellent but no one knows you, then you are really not excellent for any practical purposes. Someone has to vouch for you...

That's why, as you wrote in recent post on picking your students, it's best if you can be a politician too instead of just a scholar.

I often tell my students that 40% is you technical skills, 60% is everything else: how well you write, how fast you write, how well you give talks, whom you know, whom your advisor knows, are you likable or abrasive, how well you hold your liquour (at conference dinners and outings), how you dress... But scientists are smart, and can learn many of these skills very well, they just need to realize they are important and part of the game...

Love your blog, it's very inspirational (not in the New Age kind of way, but rather intellectually stimulating).

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger Kea said...

In my field, jobs are brazenly created FOR people all the time. In fact, I'm not even sure there are any other kind of jobs. No wonder there are still (essentially) no women. And even my 'good' colleagues clam up and say nothing when I try to explain to them (from my unique vantage point) just how bad things are. I'm just another whiny bitch, after all. I should get back to the waitressing and stop annoying them.

Anyway, thanks YFS, for carrying on blogging. I am pretty sure that if blogging had not been invented 10 years ago that I would be dead by now.

 
At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all the postdocs that are at a low point:

"Dafni's former job inspired at least one of the songs. "I was at a low point during my research job as a postdoc at UCLA. A lot of the time things don't work and it becomes really frustrating. I kept a guitar in my lab; I locked the door and wrote 'One day' really quickly. The lyrics---'one day I'll wake and this will all be a dream'""

From: http://www.dafni.us/bio.html

Here's the song "One day":

http://www.dafni.us/music/Drifting-in-circles/

 
At 12:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She also has a youtube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/dafniamirsakis

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 11:41,

You're right. I don't know. I can only go by what I'm told by faculty who have served on hiring committees.

And they're usually lying, right?

At least to me.

Anon 1:42,

I can see that for engineering. At my school, engineering faculty don't excel at navigating campus politics.

geekmommyprof,

We'll have to agree to disagree. I rarely see technical skills AND political skillz in the same people. In my field they are almost mutually exclusive.

I would describe myself as good at all of those things except the "likeability" part and the "whom you know" part. So I'm not sure if I agree with the percentages you assigned, since those two things seem to vastly outweigh the others (and I often argue that it real takes technical skill to know real technical skill vs. fake data) but you've got all the right ingredients on your list, so....

glad you like the blog despite my sometimes snarling at commenters. Sorry about that.

kea,

thanks for thanking me... this topic made me again question whether i want to keep blogging at all. but hey, i got into science to save lives, so, if i can help a few people put off their suicide until they die of natural causes, that's a fair accomplishment. ;-o

Srsly, read about the factory workers in China "jumping" off of buildings in record numbers... I'm just really glad I wasn't born into a poor family in China. And wondering if my bad karma is worsened by owning an iPhone?

 
At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Isabel said...

"So if a dept wants to hire more women, they will eventually have to figure out a way to solve the two-body problem"

but if they do it by hiring the husbands they are hiring another man every time they hire a woman.

 
At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, with all your whining and complaining, you've never really presented any evidence you are qualified for the jobs you can't get. For all we know you're an advanced version of that undergrad who "knows he deserves an A".

In general, this blog is ridiculous. It's 5 and 1/2 years of whining and anonymous accusations, and no science. This isn't a science blog, this is a complaining blog.

So Youngfemalescientist, in all this time.. what have you done to develop an alternative career, since you've known that despite your (extreme) brilliance and (unappreciated) talents, you very likely will have to leave science?

And don't say you're too busy to do anything about it. You've had years and years to.

 
At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 7:37am,

Agreed. Although I wouldn't put it in such harsh terms.

If you read her previous posts/comments, it is very clear that MsPhD is too proud to actually do anything to develop an alternate career. Because she has a PhD, going to career fairs is too "soul-sucking" for her, and an industry job (which, frankly, many of us would be delighted to get) is a "waste of so much training." In short, she has simply blogged and whined, and sneered upon honest, good, industry jobs, because, of course she has a PhD and is so much better than everyone else, that she deserves so much better.

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

but if they do it by hiring the husbands they are hiring another man every time they hire a woman.

Yes, but so long as the number of women is originally less than the number of men, if you do the math, the fraction of women still goes up,
as (W+1)/(M+1) is still greater than W/M :-)

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger Kea said...

Anon at 7.37:

If you like, anon, you can email YFS or me, and get a short 77 page version of my particular story. Then you can ask dumb questions.

 
At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anon7:37: "You know, with all your whining and complaining, you've never really presented any evidence you are qualified for the jobs you can't get. For all we know you're an advanced version of that undergrad who "knows he deserves an A".

Umm...ever heard of the need to remain anonymous to protect one's identity??? And remaining anonymous necessitates not disclosing personal identifying details?? You're right, for all we know MsPhD may not be who she claims she is. Heck, she could even be a man!! When you read a blog you have to assume the blog author is who they say they are. If it bothers you so much to not know FOR SURE who they are, then you need to stop taking blogs so seriously.



"In general, this blog is ridiculous. It's 5 and 1/2 years of whining and anonymous accusations, and no science. This isn't a science blog, this is a complaining blog."

So let me get this straight. You have spent 5 and 1/2 years reading a blog you hate. Why?? Don't you have anything else to do with your free time? The word "absurd" comes to mind...Oh and also while you're on the subject of telling people what they should and should not write on their blogs, where's your blog? Link, please?

 
At 4:11 AM, Anonymous prodigal academic said...

Ms. PhD, I was intrigued by your observation that in your experience, political skills and technical skills are mutually exclusive. I will agree that being great at both is not super-common, but most of the really good scientists I know also have pretty decent political skills. It is hard to get around in life without them, and particularly to be successful. I guess I'll have to agree with geekmomprof there.

As for the "who you know" part--it is very hard to take a paper file and project what kind of scientist the file represents without the benefit of observation. Since the search committee can't know all of the applicants personally, this means relying on letters. Surely you've seen people at major labs that are carried along "by the system", ending up with quite a nice CV almost by accident? That is exactly who we don't want to hire, since it is unlikely they will reproduce that system-based success independently. Failed hires suck up a lot of resources, so we try to find people who will be successful and stay at our university. More thoughts on hiring here.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

prodigal, you wrote: most of the really good scientists I know also have pretty decent political skills. It is hard to get around in life without them, and particularly to be successful. I guess I'll have to agree with geekmomprof there.

Um, that's my point. You've probably met "really good" scientists with political skills because the truly amazing technical folks without political skills all end up leaving at the postdoc level.

I also see a lot of people, and I would include myself in this bunch, who are better than "really good" technically but only "ok" at the social stuff.

Overall, I'd rather work with those people than the ones who are only "really good" technically but great at the bullshit politics.

There's a giant hole in the postdoc pipeline, and we're losing some of the best people because of this.

You also wrote: Since the search committee can't know all of the applicants personally, this means relying on letters.

Have you considered the fact that some people write their own letters, based on templates from others who have gotten faculty positions? How does that fit in? Is that considered technical skill or political skill, in your equation?

I consider that "almost by accident". If "accident" means "plagiarism and lying will get you what you want".

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger geekmommyprof said...

You also wrote: Since the search committee can't know all of the applicants personally, this means relying on letters.

Have you considered the fact that some people write their own letters, based on templates from others who have gotten faculty positions? How does that fit in? Is that considered technical skill or political skill, in your equation?

This is pure cheating, and is statistically insignificant.

It has nothing to do with political skills. Political skills imply that you can assess the hierarchy, balance of power, what drives other people and what their agendas may be, and work within those constraints.

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

geekmommyprof wrote:

is statistically insignificant

PROVE IT.

I think it's much more common than anyone wants to admit.

No one is checking for it, either.

It has nothing to do with political skills. Political skills imply that you can assess the hierarchy, balance of power, what drives other people and what their agendas may be, and work within those constraints.

I call bullshit. Knowing what people want to read in recommendation letters is the EPITOME of political skills. It means you have correctly assessed what people's agendas are and how to manipulate them.

 
At 3:36 AM, Anonymous prodigal academic said...

I think we are talking about different things when we are talking about political skills. I am not talking about schmoozing and cheating. What I mean is being able to notice patterns in human interactions in your organization, to try to understand what motivates others, and to and use that knowledge in your favor. I kind of sucked at social skills in grad school, and slowly and painfully learned how to do better. This, like anything else, can be learned. I still suck at schmoozing, but I've learned enough networking that I am not at a total loss.

I hear you on the letters--I have been asked to "write my own draft" before (I don't know how many changes went into the final letters after, since I never saw them). That is why when I was on a committee, we liked for someone to have personal knowledge of at least one letter writer for calibration.

I do think political/social skills are distributed (like anything else). It is just that in my experience, I don't find that the technically best are also the politically weakest. I've known a few students/postdocs who were wonderful in the lab, but just couldn't get it together politically/socially, but they are really in the minority. I've also seen a few of the "golden boys" in grad school fall on their asses at the next level, since being completely isolated from developing political skills left them short as postdocs.

 
At 8:32 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

prodigal,

Yes, we must be talking about different things. In my vernacular, you are talking about basic social skills, and I use the word "political" as a euphemism for hard-core schmoozing and back-room deals.

I agree that there are many people who have good technical and social skills. However, in my field, the ones who make it have outstanding *political* skills.

In my opinion, the "have personal knowledge of at least one letter writer" criterion by definition discriminates against people coming from small labs, isolated locations, women and minorities who can have a much harder time getting connected into the higher-up networks.

So I don't think that solves anything, and it may only make things worse.

I can't really say that I have a great solution for this. Personally, I think you can learn a whole lot more from a phone interview than you can from a recommendation letter, and it would be worth the time to call any candidates who make the first cut based on their CV, rather than putting so much weight on these letters, which can't be validated by any method other than gossip - itself a highly suspect assay.

You also wrote I've also seen a few of the "golden boys" in grad school fall on their asses at the next level, since being completely isolated from developing political skills left them short as postdocs.

We're talking about different things here, too. In my field, the "golden boys" are very good politically but not always outstanding technically. In my field, they do very well at the higher levels because it's even easier to get other people to do their work for them.

Then again, as I've said here before, I've never really met any of these fabled people with golden hands. I've heard they exist, but I think they must be pretty rare.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home