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 )
    At, 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

    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. Scott Belyea
    November 15, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    …that record number of female engineering deans is 26 out of over 300 engineering programs in the U.S. and Canada

    Yes, I’m aware of that, Peggy. (One note – it wasn’t categorized as a “record number” … just that they said they “have record of,” which is not quite the same thing.)
    As I said, I don’t deny that the issues exist; my comment was directed at what struck me as an unjustified, unremittingly bleak tone to the append.

  4. Scott Belyea
    November 15, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    36 out of over 300 is freaking bleak.

    In absolute terms, perhaps. What % of female professors are there? You have to be in the game before you can try for the “top job.” My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that a significant part of the root cause of “only 26” is the gender composition of the eligible base.
    On the other hand, I have seen stats (which I cannot quote offhand or give citations for) that suggest that the % of female university students in traditionally “male” studies has risen quite rapidly in recent years. If my memory is accurate, I’d call that encouraging at the very least. And my guess is that the stat of 26 out of over 300 was a whole lot worse 10 or 20 years ago.

    None of us here are going to collapse in a fit of the vapors over an accurate depiction of reality.

    Fair enough. That’s what I was trying to do by bringing a few more facts into it.

  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. November 15, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    While I am repairing to my chambers, should we consider nominating U. Toronto as a candidate for Welcoming University?

  7. Helen
    November 15, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    I can’t stop giggling over the use of the word “unjustifiable”. This is a blog for heaven’s sake, who exactly does the author need to “justify” the tone of the post to?
    Evidently Scott thinks it should be “justified” to him personally. That’s where I start giggling — flaming egomania tends to crack me up. Zuzka, didn’t you knonw that your blog has no value without Scott’s approval?
    I am loving the ignorant and hole-filled arguements though. “The pool of talent is probably small.” Sure, and what are studies showing is one of the most effective ways to fix that? –Women in positions of power, of course. But as Scott keeps trying to explain, the maunderings of some random commenter are of much greater value than the statements of the well-informed author that we all come here to read, so long as that commenter is, of course, Scott.

  8. November 16, 2006 at 4:23 am

    oo, zuska, watch out! Better not get angry. That would be so unfeminine.
    Two other fine ranty blogs I read have the subtitles “Because it’s shit being a postdoc” and “how shocking being a postdoc is”. For some reason, though, they don’t have helpful male commenters popping up every two days with a “cheer up, love!” The guys who write them must feel so jealous of you and Ms. PhD.

  9. November 16, 2006 at 10:41 am

    Scott – My comment about anecdotes are not just towards you, but a general “folks” comment to lots of other people who see fit to comment on Zuska’s blog, oftentimes giving anecdotal evidence (or, as you say, 10 mins of Google search). There’s plenty of dire data to look at, also a vast literature.
    That being said, your (Scott’s) comment is weird. Why would you allow 10 minutes of Google search to make you question Zuska’s pruportedly angry tone?
    And to the general readership: This kind of reminds me of the reaction to the recent NA report titled “Beyond Bias” ( where all kinds of pundits (including people like Frank Rich of the New York Times) said, although I admit I paraphrase, “how can a bunch of women do good science on discrimination and bias? It sounds like they’re just angry, with chips on their shoulders. Let’s question the scientific validity of their conclusions.” Also, again, “hey, I know a woman who doesn’t like to fix dishwashers, so maybe NO women like to fix dishwashers.”
    No, women shouldn’t be angry because their anger cannot be justified, because my (male) anecdotal evidence (or – sorry, Scott – a quick google search) has convinced me otherwise (or convinced me at least to question it). Common anti-feminist complaint.
    Back to you, Scott – I’m new to reading Zuska’s new comments (as prompted by Absinthe’s series of posts – so I don’t know if you’re a new or old commenter. But if you’re going to doubt that Zuska’s anger has any foundation, you might want to back up your doubts with a bit more substantive data than 10 min of google, and then claim you’re trying to “bring a few more facts into it.”
    The follow-up comment about the % of women faculty can be answered by Donna Nelson’s data. The memory of an increase in the number of women faculty in the sciences is true; however, recent data on women’s participation in *undergraduate* science and engineering suggests that women’s representation in science and engineering education is actually *decreasing*, suggesting (if one subscribes to the pipeline model) we’re still in for some representation problems down the pike. See the Oct 2006 edition of Prism Magazine ( for the stats on women in engineering.
    Okay. I’m done with the individual responding. Sorry to everyone, including Scott. It’s probably bad blog ettiquette to do this. And Zuska is quite capable of defending herself (as her comment has already demonstrated). It’s just I don’t get these “I’m doubting there’s a problem or that your anger is justified” comments. And folks, there *is* good data out there. Another source is the NSF surveys on women, minorities and people with disabilities in S&E: Happy data hunting.

  10. Helen
    November 16, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    For some reason this thread reminds me of this:
    though I can’t put my finger on exactly why. I might just be sleep deprivation.

  11. Frumious B
    November 17, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I *heart* Zuska. She makes me wish I were a man with tenure so I could waggle my fingers and make scary ghost noises and snarky comments about ovary envy.

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