Monday, September 15, 2008

Disappearing women - Pt 2

(I tried initially to do this is a comment, but as you will see, my commenters gave me so much to think about that it quickly ballooned - I strongly recommend that anyone reading this entry, read the comments to "The Case of the Disappearing Women" first.)

First, I want to say thank you to all of you for your comments. I've been disturbed by the conversation I had last week about the disappearing women for days and hearing what you had to say meant  lot to me. I've spent all weekend reading and thinking about all your feedback. I found great comfort in the fact that the younger scientists aren't going through training with a sense of dread and hopelessness. I honestly believe that things are turning in ecology for women and turning for the better. The ranks of the young female assistant professors are increasing by the year and many of us are not okay with waiting to have a "tenure baby".

Having said that, just because things are improving does NOT mean that we don't still have a lot of work to do. I think the anonymous commenters highlight that very clearly. Before I go further I want to specifically tell anon #1 that your story breaks my heart. I wish I could say that your story was unique, but I would be lying. It is easy for those of us who make it through the system to get complacent ("well, I'm doing well, the system must be working), and I really appreciate you sharing your story. It reminded me that things are not "fixed" by any stretch of the imagination and that I and others who make it through the gauntlet still have work to do. I still feel optimistic about my ecology sub-field, but I have collaborated widely enough to know that this is not the case in many other ecology sub-disciplines.

I also think that anon #1 and anon #2 both have hit upon something important. One of the big battles now is for the "souls" of women who want both work and families. I don't think that the current "fix" of being able to pause the tenure clock is really working, at least psychologically. So, the question remains, what will?

Fia and anon #1 hit upon something I've been thinking a lot about this weekend - the importance of having a supportive significant other. Female Science Professor also hit upon this theme a few times in her blog (can't figure out which entries those were, but they're all a good read) and I couldn't agree more. If you have a supportive spouse who values you having a successful career and who splits domestic responsibilities equally, this is a much easier path to walk. If you have one that values your career, but doesn't split domestic duties, this is a harder but not impossible path. If you have a spouse that doesn't value you having a successful career, I think you're pretty much fucked. It was clear from my conversation last week, that many of those women had husbands who did not value them having a career - or thought it was okay as long as they didn't have to sacrifice anything for it. I feel very fortunate to have married someone who wanted a truly equal partnership as much as I did. If I had married some of my other (less equal partnership minded) boyfriends, I am very certain I would be divorced by now.

And finally, Fia - unfortunately the blogs are not here to motivate the next generation of female scientists but to openly share issues we're all dealing with. I can totally understand that sometimes this is less than motivational and is sometimes downright scary. But take heart that we (female assistant professors) exist, that we're struggling to make things better for ourselves and those who follow, and I, for one, would still not choose any other career path.


Fia said...

we (female assistant professors) exist, that we're struggling to make things better for ourselves and those who follow, and I, for one, would still not choose any other career path.
Thank you so much! :-)

And, let me note that I also find it helpful to read about negative, unmotivational things in blogs of female scientists, because I can learn and get an idea of how it (maybe) will be later for me. So, actually also the venting posts (and i mean here not you specifically) can be helpful, even if its not intentended.

Anonymous said...

anon #1 commenting again -

I wish I had blogs to read years ago - they definitely help with the lack of role models we women have. I really does help to know that I am not alone, because talking about this stuff with advisors (all guys), co-workers (uh, yup, all guys), friends (not crazy enough to be scientists!), family (let's not even go there), etc...just really doesn't cut it. Thanks for blogging Tam and thanks for the commenters too.

PhysioProf said...

The most important thing is for institutions to put their money where their mouths are. It is easy for Deans to browbeat chairs with "Hire more women!! Have more women earn tenure!!!!" But guess whose fault it is when there is a five-year fucking waiting list to get on-campus daycare? The institution's for not spending some motherfucking money to expand the motherfucking program!

Procrastinating Postgrad said...

Ehh! I'm a female social scientist (married w kids) and things are a little better my field, and also different over here in The Arse End of The World.

But I keep thinking of Chris Rock's comment on race- that the outstanding non White Males have always been rewarded, but true equality comes when we can be mediocre and still get the job. That is, the women need to do far more work, paid and unpaid, so that neither fall in the toilet. For most great jobs, you need a wife. God knows, I need one.

And, physioprof, I think the motherfucking is what got us into this trouble in the first place.....