"As I seem to do at least once a week, I would like to point my readers over to a great discussion occurring at DrugMonkey."
That sentence was actually written for a post in Sept, but I've decided to just start using it as a heading to let people know this will be a DrugMonkey inspired post. So, once again, ladies and gentlemen, a DrugMonkey inspired post.
In Problem? What Gender Problem?, DrugMonkey noticed at a scientific meeting that the representation of women was low. When I read his post this morning, I nodded my head sagely, thought "yep" and then spent the day working on a proposal and revising a manuscript. I had no idea that such a statement of truth could engender such a wild, interesting, and sometimes slightly bizarre discussion. Truly. I can't summarize it for you, you have to go check it out for yourself.
The truth of the matter is that the loss of women and minorities from the pipeline is a complex issue and I think the discussion over at DrugMonkey also shows that it is an emotional one for many of us. Many of us have heard, either leveled at us or at other women/minorities, "yeah, insert-name-of-speaker-who-does-not-look-like-everyone-else-here only got invited because....". Even when it's not explicitly stated, (shockingly many people do realize a statement that someone was only invited because they were female, black, hispanic, etc makes them sound like an ass), there are often enough undertones to make one seriously suspect foul play. I once had a reviewer spend the review explaining I wasn't as great as one might think from my CV....seriously, dude? The problem is, perhaps that asswipe does that crap to everyone, not just women, but there's no way to know so the recipient of such an interaction is left with the strong suspicion that this was motivated by other issues, which makes someone, like me, feel angry, betrayed, unsettled, suspicious, and worried this happens to everyone but I've become overly sensitive and unjustifiably paranoid. No wonder when those statements of "you're just an affirmative action placation invite" come out clearly, we tend to go a little ape-shit.
But the emotional part for me is that the entire discussion made me a little sad. No doubts we've made some great strides in some areas, but as kiwi gal pointed out in her comment (#41) over at DrugMonkey:
In my field, ecology, we have a very large number of world class women scientists. At our national meeting in 2007, at an invited symposium reviewing progress in ecology over the last decade (to be published in a special issue of the journal etc etc), there was one woman speaker and 19 men.
Ouch. So much for my beloved ecology. The demoralizing thing is that this type of feedback (whether it is the review arguing why your record shows you are a hack despite how hard you worked to get those high profile papers or the lack of invites to give high profile talks when people of lesser records are praised like gods) reinforces the idea that you have to work twice as hard for half the credit.
I have to admit that after reading the discussion over at DrugMonkey, I was a little demoralized. I also have to admit, I always get demoralized when I get hung up on how I am perceived in my field, but - like always - I remember three things that make me feel better: 1) my science kicks ass. I didn't participate in the Scientiae this month because every time I came up with something good it gave away my science (and thus me), but damn it my science is hot. I routinely get it published in kick ass journals - despite some bizarre, occasionally angry reviews - and it is well cited for someone at my career stage. 2) I love what I do and I am a position where my gender might keep me from becoming a superstar, but it won't keep me from doing what I love. 3) I am deeply aware that I can say 1 and 2 because I was fortunate enough to have threaded some narrow, scary sections in the academia pipeline to be here today. Seriously, there was some major luck involved in my tango from undergrad to assistant professor.
So, I'm shaking off my malaise and tomorrow I'm going back to work to bust my ass on my proposal and my manuscripts that need to be resubmitted. Why? Because screw all those asses who want to come up with some reason why I'm not as good as I seem, who dismiss my speaking invites because I'm the "token woman", and my papers because its actually my co-authors carrying me, or whatever other excuse makes them feel better at night when they look at their own CVs. Besides, I have found that nothing pisses those people off more than a truly successful woman. And nothing would make me happier than to really piss them off.