Thursday, August 11, 2016

One little thing

Okay yeah. But this came up at the post-meeting lunch (and yeah, I probably blew my sodium budget for the week on an indifferent cafeteria hamburger but I needed some human interaction and the only way to get that was to eat lunch with my colleagues).

One of my colleagues was talking about Computer Sciences, and how someone he knows claims the way to really enhance a Computer Sciences program was to hire a woman professor so it wasn't just a boy's club. (I guess Computer Sciences still leans heavily male? In my department we are 5 men to 4 women, so we're pretty evenly balanced in biology)

Anyway, he said, "I asked the guy why, whether it was for diversity of viewpoint or what, and he said, 'I don't know if it's the mystique of the hot female geek or the total-bad@ss woman but I think maybe it's the idea of a total bad@ss woman who has fought her way up and therefore is a lot BETTER than the guys...'"

And I admit, that raised some issues for me. (My colleague wasn't saying those things; he was reporting someone else's having said them.) I observed that I had a question - this being the colleague I complained to several times about getting a distinct air of disrespect from a few of the men students in our program, and he commiserated with me and also reminded me that it's their problem and not mine if they can't work for a woman; that they would probably have women as bosses. My question being, "What if the male students don't take the woman seriously?"

So yes, my experience is, as a woman professor, I don't think I'm a particular attractant in the department. Oh, maybe I have my appeals: I suspect there's a subset of shy, geeky students, both men and women, who seem to feel more welcome in my classes. But I think part of it is that I'm much too soft and polite to be taken as bad@ss, and I'm definitely not the hot geeky type (not that I'd necessarily want to be; being "hot" as a professor is a very dangerous thing to be). Geeky, maybe. But "hot" is a ship that sailed at least 15 years ago if it ever was.

But yeah. I also think hiring a woman just to have a woman on staff isn't necessarily the bestest idea ever. If she's the best fit for the skills you need, heck yes. If the EEOC is breathing down your neck then probably. But the idea of hanging the expansion of a program's appeal on the back of a "diversity hire" is really uncomfortable to contemplate. It puts an undue burden on the person even if it's not communicated to them that that's really why they're there.

I will also observe I wish I were more bad@ss than I am but I'm nearly 50 and haven't made it there yet so it's probably not going to happen. (And I don't believe we get another shot at this, in the sense of reincarnation, so I don't think I'll be coming back as the take-no-prisoners type).

(Honestly, in the conservation end of biology like I do? What we'd really need if we hired a new prof would be someone with lots of connections to the agencies and groups one of the existing profs doesn't have connections to. I admit I have almost no connections in terms of doing things like getting students internships and that's a weakness I will probably be dinged on on my post-tenure review this year.)

Edited to add: I think one of the very specific ways my self-doubt manifests itself is through either wondering what I would be like if I were different from who I am, or wishing I were different in some specific way. I dunno. A lot of what I am, and a lot of the things that are important to me (e.g., being on time for stuff) are things that seem to be largely ignored or sometimes not-valued "out in the world." How many times, for example, have meetings started late because some Important Person showed up late....and there were no consequences for them for that. (I'm not talking about emergencies; I'm talking about That Guy (or That Woman) who is chronically late because they know they can be. And being a responsible person who gets stuff done, or being that attention-to-detail person who fact-checks stuff, generally that's not something very "exciting" so you don't hear anything about it. But that outrageous person who says crazy things or does crazy things, they get attention.....and sometimes I feel a little attention-deficit, in the sense that I don't get paid attention when I would like a little attention....

1 comment:

CGHill said...

"Hot" women, it seems to me, aren't taken seriously, no matter what they may be doing for a living.