Shake Off The Dust…

It’s been a migrainey sort of week here at Chez Zuska, so in lieu of something new at the moment, I’m giving you a “best of Zuska” from the old blog site. By coincidence, it’s also trash and recycling night here in my hometown. Read and decide for yourself.

Shake Off The Dust Under Your Feet

And as a follow-up to my last post, take a gander at what Female Science Professor has to say:

At my university, there has never been a woman department chair in science, engineering, or math in the entire history of the university. A dean recently told me that it will probably be another decade or so before this even has a chance of happening. I have female colleagues with outstanding organizational and leadership skills, but when it comes right down to it, the men can’t see having a woman for a boss. During a recent conversation about this topic, one (male) professor here told me that he thinks successful women science professors are ‘scary’. My unspoken response was BOO! My actual response was to stare at him incredulously.

That’s just one of the good parts. I really wish she had actually said BOO! That would have been so cool. I urge all of you, if you find yourself in a similar situation, to say BOO! Actually, that’s probably not a good idea. It would just confirm the fear in their tiny little brains.
So, I urge any sympathetic male readers, if you find yourself in on a conversation where a man says this to a woman professor, you should respond by doing the following: raise your hands in the air and wave/wiggle them while saying “You mean like this?” and make ghost noises, the way you did when you were a kid and wanted to scare your younger brother or sister. Then laugh. At the other man. And say, “You have GOT to be kidding. You are SCARED of successful women professors? Have you got ovary envy or something? Hah hah hah hah” Exit while continuing to laugh. (Only do this if you have tenure.) (last sentence optional, only for advanced advocates who know their adversary well.)
Now, I am not a fan of men policing each others’ masculinity and trying to make each other feel like “pussies” if they aren’t all “hard” and tough (must I even draw your attention to the multiple connotations of this language and how it explicitly devalues women? so that when you are insulting your buddies, it’s at the expense of your wife, mom, daughter, or girlfriend, dudes). But since you are going to continue to do it anyway even though you SHOULD NOT, why not use it here in support of your female colleague. Make fun of your colleague for being afraid of women professors. What is he, a fucking wimp?
I am encouraging you to be complicit in misogyny and homophobia in order to combat misogyny and homophobia. But, if you are AWARE of the misogyny and homophobia involved, I think it is okay. It’s sort of like that martial art whose name I really cannot summon up (damn you, Topamax) where you turn your enemy’s strength or attack back against him. Or, like Wonder Woman with those nifty gold bracelets; you just hold up one arm and deflect that bullet and it ricochets around and goes right into the shooter’s head.
Now, back to that dean who confidingly told Female Science Professor that, sadly, even though here we are in 2006, it will be at least another decade before there is even “a chance” of there being a female department head in science, math or engineering at Resistant University. Different tactics are called for here.

  1. Inform the dean that this is the most sorry-ass excuse for leadership you have ever seen in your life.
  2. Or is this university really so crappy that no woman in her right mind will come here as department chair?
  3. In either case, you are getting the hell out of Dodge.
  4. You open the door, and in strides Xena, Warrior Princess, ululating as she raises her sword. She head-butts the dean, kicks him in the gut, then runs him through…

Wouldn’t that be beautiful? But this is the 21st century, not ancient Greece, even if the dean and the rest of his henchmen desperately clinging to the vestiges of patriarchal power afforded them via their status as Engineers In the Academy Who Defend the Standards are mentally living in some distant era. So your best revenge is to live well, which I say means:

Go not into the way of the misogynists, and into any city of the Resistants enter ye not. But go rather to the Welcoming Universities and the High Salaried Industries. And as ye go, preach, saying equitable treatment is at hand. Provide maternity leave for the graduate students, recruit women who took a few years off to have children, bestir the emeritus and senior professors to share their experience with junior faculty, fire the harassers; freely ye have received from NSF and NIH, freely give grant-writing tips to junior faculty…And whatsoever university or company offers you a job, enquire among your network who in it is worthy; make them your colleagues and mentors. If the workplace is good, praise it; if it is good, may your peace be upon it along with tenure and promotion; but if it turns out to be a hellhole, do whatever it takes to keep/regain your peace and execute your exit strategy (always have an exit strategy). And whosoever backstabs you and blocks your tenure, rejects your proposals or your papers, when you blow out of Dodge for greener pastures, shake off the dust under your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that university when the Title IX bandwagon rolls into their hometown and cuts off their funding. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

  1. Scott Belyea
    November 15, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Well, I’m not familiar enough with the Groves of Academe to comment based on personal knowledge. But I was curious, and I took a quick look at the University of Toronto (no reason other than the fact that it’s closest large university to where I live. On checking 4 faculties/schools, I found the following representation of women at the top level …
    * Dean in Applied Science & Engineering
    * 2 Vice-Deans & 3 Directors in Arts & Science
    * Dean of Graduate Studies
    … as well as this:

    Top scholars to head Canada’s leading medical and law schools
    Dec 8/05
    by Nicolle Wahl
    Professors Mayo Moran and Catharine Whiteside have been named the new deans of the University of Toronto’s Faculties of Law and Medicine, respectively.

    And just from memory, the President of York University (also in Toronto) is female.
    Also …

    We currently have record of 26 female engineering deans in the United States and Canada

    (From http://www.weli.eng.iastate.edu/Resources/female_deans.htm )
    At http://www.usask.ca/crc/policy/crcreportsep2006.php, there’s a table showing (among other things) 30% of the Canada Research Chairholders at the University of Saskatchewan being women.
    From personal experience in the business world during the last 15 years at a large multinational, I’ve reported to a female director and 2 female VP’s. I honestly can’t recall any snarly comments from my fellow Middle-aged White Males aimed at women who were moving up the ladder, or any discomfort at the notion of reporting to a woman.
    Look, I’m not suggesting that things are as they should be for women or that there aren’t still real issues. However, based only on the tiny slice of the real world that I’ve seen and the 10 minutes of Google research mentioned above, I can’t help but wonder how broadly what seems to me to be the unremittingly bleak and angry tone of your append applies.

  2. Peggy Layne
    November 15, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Scott,
    Just to put things in context, that record number of female engineering deans is 26 out of over 300 engineering programs in the U.S. and Canada, so percentage-wise it is in the single digits.

  3. November 15, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Scott – there are outliers all over, and perhaps York and U of T count as some. However, in the national picture, women deans in engineering are rare. RARE. So rare as to merit special mention whenever they are appointed – hence the presence of news articles about them. This is a risk women leaders regularly face – they’re rare, so they get press, so people think they’re not as rare as they actually are.
    If people really want to understand women’s underrepresentation in science and engineering faculties, check out Donna Nelson’s NATIONAL study – which are at http://cheminfo.chem.ou.edu/~djn/diversity/top50.html – for actual *population* data on women faculty in science and engineering in the top 50 departments in the country. These aren’t samples, folks – they’re real numbers. And there are a lot of zeros. Yes, she doesn’t pull out leadership positions, but imagine how small they are, considering how few full women – let alone women of colour – faculty there in STEM?
    Population data, folks. Don’t try to use anecdotal data to disprove this – i.e. “But I know a woman who is a science or engineering dean!”

  4. Helen
    November 15, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    36 out of over 300 is freaking bleak. Why play around with false delicacy? None of us here are going to collapse in a fit of the vapors over an accurate depiction of reality.

  5. November 15, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    So let me get this straight.
    I am a PhD woman scientist and engineer with over 20 years’ experience in academia, private research labs, and industry, in the U.S. and Europe. I have a graduate certificate in women’s studies, and have successfully founded and directed a program for women in engineering and science. I write a blog on gender and science for which I do a fair amount of research, including attending conferences in the field regularly.
    Scott poked around on the internet for a few minutes and found a few bits of info.
    Well, I am sure Scott must be right then, I am unjustifiably bleak. What was I thinking? How could I possibly hope to offer any sort of relevant analysis or informed opinion on the state of affairs that obtains for women in science and engineering?
    Pardon me while I repair to my chambers in shame. I won’t come out until I have written a thousand times, “Things are looking bright all over for women in science and engineering, if we only believe it to be so.”

  6. Scott Belyea
    November 15, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    skookumchick … I agree with most of what you say.

    … for actual *population* data on women faculty in science and engineering in the top 50 departments in the country. These aren’t samples, folks – they’re real numbers. And there are a lot of zeros.

    I would only point out that the append on which I was commenting was not addressing this issue; it was very specific about the issue of the lack of women as department heads/chairs.

    Population data, folks. Don’t try to use anecdotal data to disprove this – i.e. “But I know a woman who is a science or engineering dean!”

    Since your append was addressed to me, would I be justified in thinking that this comment was aimed at me? If so, I would respond that I did nothing of the sort, and I quoted more facts and stats than there were in the append I commented on.
    I’m not trying to pitch this in absolute terms as being all peachy. I’m not sure I can do better than to quote the end of my original comment …

    Look, I’m not suggesting that things are as they should be for women or that there aren’t still real issues. However, based only on the tiny slice of the real world that I’ve seen and the 10 minutes of Google research mentioned above, I can’t help but wonder how broadly what seems to me to be the unremittingly bleak and angry tone of your append applies.

  7. Helen
    November 15, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    Whee, and giggling evidently destroys my spelling too.

  8. Roger
    November 16, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Well, as a gay man I meet people who say something along the lines of ‘only a few people are still discriminating agasinst gays.’ and I wonder what world they’re living in. Discrimination may not be as overt as when I was growing up, but it exists. And the stuff that is covert is harder to deal with than the overt stuff.

  9. Helen
    November 16, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    “Well, as a gay man I meet people who say something along the lines of ‘only a few people are still discriminating agasinst gays.’ and I wonder what world they’re living in.”
    Well speaking as a heterosexual who has the happy luxury of being mostly blind to discrimination of that sort since it doesn’t affect me directly, allow me to take 5 minutes to google gay people who are in positions of fame or power and then announce that you obviously are fussing over nothing and need to be more “positive”. Oh, and I need to work something in there about how though we’ve never met, my personal approval for your utterances must be something you long for with such passion you’ll nip right back here and re-write your comment to agree.

  10. November 16, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    Ooops, it was John Tierney (Sept 26 column), not Frank Rich. I should have known. Sorry, Frank!

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