I’m not taking career advice from old white dudes anymore.

Recently, a senior emeritus professor called me out because he hadn’t seen me at a talk in a different department (let’s say it’s Astronomy). “I’ve never seen you at a single Astronomy talk,” he admonished. “You really need to go to those.” I patiently explained that I typically have a teaching conflict, which he brushed off, and repeated his imperative that I really needed “to go to those talks.” He was angry at my laziness in failing to attend these critical seminars in a tangentially related field, and didn’t respect my explanations that 1) I couldn’t, and 2) even if I could, I have to make hard choices and don’t always have the luxury of doing everything I’d like to.

Now, I’m an interdisciplinary scientist– in fact, my position is split between a departmental home and an interdisciplinary institute, which means I go to twice as many faculty meetings and probably four times as many seminars as most of my colleagues do. But the advice of this retiree was that I needed to add yet another seminar to the list, and he wasn’t afraid to scold me about this front of my colleagues. This particular professor is of the opinion that I need to be just like him — or, rather, like his retired incarnation, which has a lot of free time to leisurely enjoy talks — in order to succeed. It’s just a small example of a phenomenon I’m starting to grow tired of, which is this paternalistic attitude some of my senior colleagues — all older, white men — have. They give advice liberally, these silverbacks, from the comfortable position of retirement or full professorship.

And you know what? It’s really, really shitty advice.

When the Old White Dudes were getting tenure, they had wives to take care of the housework, the cooking, and the child-rearing. They could call up NSF program officers and chat about an idea, and get a grant by the end of the conversation if there was leftover money sitting around. They could get hired without having glamour pubs (or any pubs!), and get tenure on a handful of articles in small journals. They were often expected to phone it in on in teaching, and weren’t expected to do (or care about) outreach. They worked in departments full of people who looked just like them, and didn’t think twice about whether that even mattered.

This is, fundamentally, a different world than the one I work and live in. Today, the funding situation is different, the demand for public engagement is higher, the work-life-balance demands are lightyears away from what these guys worked with. I have grant writing demands, publishing demands, and expectations that are much higher than they ever did, and journal and grant rejection rates are higher, too.

It’s not just that these guys are out of touch with the realities of my work load; it’s that they have a totally different mindset, and it influences how they think. It should be obvious from this post that I’m talking about a very specific kind of person here. Yes, I am using “dude” as a pejorative in this context. No, that is not a blanket indictment of all men everywhere. Every single one of my advisors have been men, and I have tremendous respect for each of them. I have had some fantastic advice throughout my career from men at all career stages. I’m not talking about “men” here. I’m talking about Old White Dudes. They may be senior scholars, silverbacks, emeritus professors, or at the peak of their careers, but they are surprisingly similar. Every department has them.

These are the guys who touch me inappropriately, squeezing my knee or the soft side of my arm, massaging a shoulder to emphasize a point. They call me “honey,” or “good girl.” They railroaded the young women scholar who gave a seminar in my department last week, and dominated the Q&A. They don’t see any problems with having 7am faculty meetings or scheduling committee meetings during dinner time. They tell me that Twitter and blogging are a bad use of my time.

These are the guys who tell me that, instead of pursuing my own research ideas and developing collaborations with other young faculty, I really need to just find an established researcher and offer my services for a spot on their grant. These are the guys who introduce a successful young woman speaker by saying, “Instead of getting her MRS degree, she got a PhD in marine biology!” These are the guys who, while giving my elbow a possessive squeeze, tell me that I did such a great job in my talk that I should really just teach the section on the topic to their class for them– just three or four guest lectures, no big deal!

These are the guys who, when I do collaborate with them, never respond to emails, and getting them to send in grant text is like pulling teeth — and when they do send it in, it’s so poorly written and sloppily argued that I wonder how they ever get funded or published at all. These are the guys who blink confusedly when we bring up the lack of diversity (gender or otherwise) in our department. These are the guys who are a decade behind in keeping up with the science but still have the gall to tell me that I need to be going to seminars in Astronomy (or whatever).

I’m not taking your advice anymore, Old White Dudes.

I’ll be looking to my peers, to my mentors, to the strong women and compassionate men, to the people of color and the first-generation college students and the young parents struggling with a 2-body problem, and the diversity lunch attendees, and the allies, and all the folks looking at the challenges we face now, and will face tomorrow. I’m not interested in learning how to be successful in the old, white past, because that past is gone — in fact, it never really even existed except in the minds of a privileged few.

ETA: Young [white] guys, lest you think that you are immune from this kind of behavior, let me remind you all of the Rosetta shirtstorm going on. Don’t be that dude.

58 thoughts on “I’m not taking career advice from old white dudes anymore.

    • If someone who had no business touching me touched me, they would only do it once. Because really, you have to draw the line somewhere. My self-respect is more important than me getting tenure.

      • I don’t think it’s helpful to frame responding to unwelcome touching as a matter of self-respect. We all have different circumstances, needs, and concerns; some of us are concerned about our physical safety, or our long-term ability to support our families, and not just getting tenure. We all weigh the risks and benefits of calling out inappropriate behavior, and the math will work out differently every time.

        It’s also very easy to say you’ll do something in hindsight, or without ever having been in that position. In the moment, convictions can go out the window; that doesn’t mean I don’t have self respect, or that I’m asking for it, or that I deserve inappropriate behavior. I don’t think that’s what you meant by your comment, but it can be read that way, and I wanted to make the distinction. The same applies to people who choose not to report rape– given how we treat women who DO report it, I don’t blame people at all for not.

        • First, I don’t think that doing something about unwanted touching can even begin to compare to reporting a rape (or not). And I say this as someone who, while in college, reported a very senior and well-liked tenured professor for sexually harassing me. I’m very glad that I felt a responsibility to do that — I did it for those that came after me, but it ended up benefiting me as well. I don’t know if I would have gone through with it had someone been whispering in my ear that I didn’t owe it to anyone to speak up. So I will continue to encourage people to report these things unless they are in a truly precarious position where that is just simply not an option. If that is your situation, I am surprised and I feel sorry for you.

          Second, what people post — your statements included — can always be read in a variety of ways by other people. I feel that I have a reasonably good command of the English language, so I don’t need anyone to rephrase my message for me. That strikes me as patronizing, and since you are all about being respectful, I would ask that you kindly refrain from doing that again.

          • There’s a continuum of unwanted touching, and I don’t think it’s especially helpful to try to parse that out. I think it’s worth bringing up because people do shame or pressure others for not speaking out– you talk about responsibility, which implies someone who doesn’t report is shirking theirs. That’s not ok. I’ll support people who report, but I’m not going to shame people who don’t. Implying that reporting is about self respect implies that by not reporting, I don’t have any– and you basically said that I was putting career advancement above my own integrity. That was patronizing, and so is your unasked-for pity.

            It’s not about my rephrasing your message; you are responsible for the effect your words have, and your follow-up comment has just reiterated my original interpretation. So how about you kindly refrain from guilting me for making a different choice than you did (which, frankly, was an assumption on your part; you don’t actually know that I didn’t report). I’m not the problem: the OWD’s are. I applaud you for reporting your incident, but I don’t fault anyone– or doubt their self-respect– for making a different choice.

  1. Reblogged this on travelingeneticist and commented:
    This post resonated with me. I know these Old White Dudes. They called me Little Girl, would not listen to my scientific expertise (even though I was way more up to date on the literature), only accepted my expertise when another Old White Dude look alike finally backed me up (with no references, just an opinion), statements addressing my appearance that implied I was hired because of my looks. These Old White Dudes have a way of picking at you, little by little that undermines your confidence, but there is not much that the Deans will see as out of line. Thank you for this great post! I hear you Acclimatrix.

  2. As a middle-aged White Dude, I can’t stand that species of OWD. Their advice is inapplicable to me as a guy from another generation – I take care of my kids, work hard on my teaching, etc. I can’t imagine that it’s that useful for even younger folks (I’m 41), or women, or minorities of any type. Of course, in too many places, the OWDs still have power, but I don’t want to play their game.

    • You bring up a point my husband does, which is that the behavior of these OWD’s reflects poorly on all the dudes. Patriarchy hurts everyone, including men.

  3. Wow! I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced anything like this. Perhaps I’ve just been exceedingly lucky with the departments I’ve been in, but I’ve never been treated or witnessed this. I’m a female assistant professor in a STEM field, with two young-kids, and a non-academic spouse; so if anyone was going to experience this treatment it would be me. Maybe I’m oblivious rather than lucky?

    • You know, I almost didn’t let this comment through moderation, but I’d like to make a point:

      1. I’m not villifying anyone except for their behavior. That these guys are, to a man, old, white, and male, reflects a particular set of privileges afforded by age, race, and gender. It also reflects an historic lack of diversity in STEM.

      So, your comment was pretty pointless, but it reminds me to bring up the fact that it’s not the maleness, whiteness, or oldness of these guys that makes them assholes, but it’s their privilege-blindness (for the most part). It’s why not all white, senior male colleagues are Old White Dudes.

      Pointing out privilege or calling out bad behavior is not vilification, though that’s a common argument. There is nothing inherently biological that drives this behavior, and so the only thing that is going to prevent young white men from becoming Old White Dudes is raising awareness of problematic behavior and its negative impacts.

      • You know, I’m in academia and teach about class, ethnicity and inequality. I recognize white privilege, and know that it describes my experience of the world. I think it is terrible, and see myself as working to overcome it, and the legacies of injustice that it is part of. I am entirely sympathetic to and agree with most of your assessment of the situation in the sciences. I hear people say “Mrs. Degree” and similar crap and it makes me cringe. And I don’t hear women saying it.
        But something about your post really struck a nerve with me, as I sit here in my cramped little workspace, grading papers and thinking about how the hell my wife and I are going to put our kids through college. I just wonder, as a white dude, who is over forty, should I just stop giving advice to all female students? Should I just point out that since most racists are old white dudes, then of course most old white dudes are racist, and therefore their advice should not be heeded? If the voices of “old white dudes” should be ignored simply because they come from the mouths of men who are white and not young, perhaps my words really aren’t needed? Perhaps I should silence myself? Perhaps you want to silence me on the basis of who I am?
        I’m not a troll, and I’m not a white supremacist, an age supremacist, or a dude supremacist, even though I recognize that our system is all of those things. But, shit, I have been hearing about how old white dudes are the cause of the ills of the world for so long, I just can’t keep nodding my head and saying “Respect” and pretending that posts like “I’m taking career advice from old white dudes anymore” are not, in some small way, about vilifying a category of people that are identified by their race, gender and age.

        • It sounds like you’re taking this very personally when it’s not about you. I was pretty explicit that I was talking about a very particular subset of folks that display a particular behavior. Your comments are a great illustration of how the bad behavior of one demographic affects everyone — it’s why I like to so that patriarchy hurts men, too.

          My husband is a white man, and he hears this from me a lot — he gets equally frustrated! But instead of directing that frustration at me for venting, or processing, or blowing off steam, he directs his frustration at the OWD’s (or, YWD’s, or whoever) who are making things hard for everyone (him included).

        • I agree with your point. As an older white dude I get a bit tired of it as well. Ironically, in my experience it the OWW that are the most destructive to young people;s careers and give the shittiest advice. Anyway, that’s a battle I’m not willing to take on.

  4. Here here. I recently wrote a post about and OWD and was admonished for pointing out that he was old, male, and white. Womanofscience.com Unfortunately, that is the reality. I’m surprised you ever took their advice!

  5. Wow. This makes me feel very lucky that I don’t have any of these in my department & that I have largely been shielded from this behavior.

    Good for you for not letting these guys dictate what you do.

  6. I have a tangential, but somewhat related question: what if you have an OWM colleague who you think is having cognitive issues? What can be done? I have an OWM colleague who I routinely ignore, as you suggest. He is not yet emeritus, so he is around with a running research group. He likes to play dumb, but lately it seems a lot more like reality and a lot less like playing. In a recent meeting, he asked me the same question about 4 times, and I gave him the same answer 4 times. Was he doing it to make a point? I don’t know. Given that this blog has also discussed mental health issues, what do you do when the mental health issues aren’t yours, aren’t your students? What if they are a senior person. How do you approach it? How do you get them help? What if their lab explodes because of this? It is a safety issue in science research. What if they react badly? What if you don’t have a great relationship because you ignored all their advice, and now you want to give them advice? I would love to see a post on this, because I just don’t know what to do.

  7. I’m a full professor (female) in a STEM field at a major university in the Southeast. I understand your frustration – since my career has spanned a few decades I’ve witnessed, experienced, and commiserated with others about the behaviors you described. I can tell you with all honesty that the situation is improving, albeit so slowly at some institutions that you really need a good timeline to be certain! Within the last year I was asked to join a committee, supported by administration at the highest level, which is focused on improving faculty diversity at my institution. The idea is peer to peer education of faculty search committee members with evidence-based research on such issues as implicit bias, stereotype threat, etc., and learning to recognize one’s own implicit biases. We do this with 2-hr workshops. It’s been eye-opening to say the least. The good news is that some (not all) of the OWD are not “bad” guys, they have just never really examined the issue from any other viewpoint. The leader of our group is a converted silverback and he has come to firmly believe in what we are trying to do. There is hope. Dialogue will help. Thank you for writing this blog and initiating these conversations.

  8. I wonder if you would like to take the advice I have given to grad students who are about to go on the market. When asked some weird and irrelevant question during a job talk, it is often best to nod and reply “that’s interesting. I’ll have to think further about that.” Then totally ignore the comment for the crap that it is. It seems to me that one way to handle OMDs (especially the retired kind who don’t get a vote on your future) is to say something like “Thanks for that advice. I’ll have to see if I can make time for that,” all the while intending to do no
    such thing.

  9. While we on it, can we also get rid of the women who play up to these dudes? The grad students who sleep with their advisors, marry their advisors, flirt with their advisors. Women who get hired and the whine that the requirements for tenure are too hard, not sure they can do that, ask, “Isn’t there another way? How about service?”

    I want to tell these women about the high, hard road. About making it on your own steam. I want to shake them and tell them they are just making it worse for everyone else (men and women). I understand why they’re using the methods they use. I know the OWDs are the root cause, but these women do have choices.

  10. I can relate all too well…I look to my left…and I look to my right…all I see are a bunch of Old White Dudes in amongst me peppered with budding Old White Dude wannabes…I shake my head…

  11. I think that the lack of work/life balance that many academics take on is ridiculous. Many work like dogs, ignore their home life, divorce is high, and job satisfaction can be low. It seems like there are many academics out there that live to (lets be honest) serve their egos. Why? So you can have 1000+ twitter followers? Have one more pub in a journal with a 0.1 higher impact factor than the person down the hall? I guess I just don’t understand the point.

    I don’t hold academics in any sort of reverence. It’s just a job. You’re no better than the McDonalds assistant to the district manager in the grand scheme of things. You’re probably not curing cancer (although kudos if you are). Yay, species richness of weeds on an Appalachian confers resilience during drought! Wonderful stuff. I mean that, it’s interesting but was it REALLY worth it? Only the person who did that research can decide if the opportunity cost was worth it.

    I just find it tremendously sad for people who are working white knuckled proclaiming they are so happy being academic scientists while their partners are picking up the extra life load (kids, emotional support etc) while these overworked academics slave away to, as I said before, primarily feed their egos. Anyway, I find it sad that they fell for the con. I’m sure your egos are very happy.

    • I agree that work-life balance is important and many academics are motivated by ego (we are humans, after all). But I do what I do because I love it; I think my research is important, and I try to communicate that to the public, but ultimately this is the job for me. That doesn’t make me better than a McDonalds employee (I’ve been one!) but it does mean I have a lot of expertise and training. I also do t think curing cancer is the only important research going on. If we only supported cancer research, you wouldn’t have a computer or internet connection to comment on this post.

    • Work-life balance is important, but are you sure you aren’t overgeneralizing from your own experience? Academics mostly don’t work insane hours. Many certainly *feel* like they do, but they don’t. Nor do they need to:


      I’m sure you’ll provide links to data showing that the divorce rate in academia is high and job satisfaction low?

      At the risk of overgeneralizing from my own experience, I’ve never met an academic who expects reverence from others. Nor one who went into academia as an ego trip, or who seems like they’ve fallen for a con.

      Re: research topics, it’s certainly true that not all research is equally worthwhile. But I respectfully disagree that the only research worth doing is applied research directed at solving problems we’ve already decided we want solved. Just because you personally don’t see the point of research on topic X doesn’t mean it’s pointless:


      • “At the risk of overgeneralizing from my own experience, I’ve never met an academic who expects reverence from others.”

        Oh dear lord, I guess it’s been a loooong time since you were a grad student, eh? I went back to grad school after a long time in industry, and I never saw egos as large as the ones I was (unfortunately) in almost daily contact with at school. My experience is that profs most certainly do expect “reverence” from their students. And the more they claim they don’t, the more the secretly want it. So let’s not overgeneralize in the other direction, OK?

        • No, it hasn’t been a loooong time since I was a grad student, at least not so long that I can’t recall it well. Nobody expected “reverence” from me even as a student. With respect, please stop assuming that you know things about me that don’t actually know. Just because my own experiences have been different than yours doesn’t make me out of touch, or forgetful, or in on the con, or even incredibly lucky in whom I’ve met.

          As for overgeneralizing from one’s own experiences, you’re the only one doing that. I’m happy to accept that you’ve met many egotistical academics, and I’m sincerely sorry to hear that. *You’re* the one who’s questioning *my* memory just because my own experiences have been different than yours.

          It doesn’t think further exchanges between us would be productive, so I won’t comment further. I hope that your future experiences with academics are better than your past ones.

        • Please take a moment to read our comments policy. We appreciate respectful comments that stay on topic, and avoid personal attacks.

          I will say that you experience has not been my own, at all. I have worked in about four or five different departments in the earth and natural sciences, at four different universities, from liberal arts to state schools to Ivy League. Perhaps it varies by field, region, or university, but my experience us that the egoes in academia mirror those in other areas; most are pretty good, but there are a handful of (mostly OWD) bad apples here and there.

        • Jeremy Fox appears to think that prefacing his comment with “at the risk of overgeneralizing from my own experience” means that he is not, in fact, overgeneralizing. This is incorrect.

          I think that in order to properly appreciate the magnitude of the egos in Academia, one needs to have spent a number of years as an adult working in another environment. This is the reason why a number of academics look around themselves and see nothing wrong — they have never worked anywhere else and can’t imagine how things could be different.

          • Last warning. Keep your comments on-topic and respectful. This is a blog for women in academia. It’s not a place to air your personal grievances. For the record, by the way, I spent years working in various industries before going to grad school. And I encountered far worse in retail, food service, and nonprofits than I ever have here.

  12. I agree. I think it’s a worthy life pursuit I have found many academics (because it seems we’re all about generalizing people) perceive themselves as chasing such a noble pursuit that they feel they are better than other people and can therefore treat others poorly. Of course, we’re all human (as you say) and there will be jerks out there regardless of gender.

    Personally I have found that the women who have benefitted most greatly from this shift in culture (the shift is a good thing of course) are also the ones to post the most and complain about it the most. I’m not saying you are one of those as I don’t know you personally nor professionally but I just can’t help but eye-roll sometimes. There are many powerful academic women who act like their 1950s counterparts and because of the shift in culture (i.e. old white men are bad) they do extraordinarily well because of it and are effectively rewarded for acting like those that they vilify. Anyway, it’s weird but expected really b/c as you say, we’re only human.

  13. maybe someone commented on this, but in the Arts, there is a parallel situation with Old White Women. I, too, am talking about a set of behaviours here, but these women further a kind of second wave feminism that is exclusionary to the extreme. They meet all the criteria you list, even the belittling comments, but on a different trajectory.

  14. Pingback: Links 11/15/14 | Mike the Mad Biologist

  15. Agree 100% with your post. On a related point, the best people to get career advice from are the ones who have just recently successfully navigated the stage you are at. This is for two reasons: (1) what they successfully navigated is more likely to be similar to what you are navigating than someone who did so in the more distant past and (2) they are more likely to remember what they did than someone who did so in the more distant past.

    • Agree with both your reasons. I would only add that, for analogous reasons, people rather more senior than you also can have good career advice. For instance, if you’re applying for your first tenure-track job, it can be very helpful to have advice from people who’ve recently sat on search committees. In many cases, that will mean taking advice from people who last applied for jobs themselves some time ago. But I think this actually reinforces your point–you want advice from people with up-to-date knowledge of whatever it is you’ve asked advice on.

  16. “They railroaded the young women scholar who gave a seminar in my department last week, and dominated the Q&A”
    Witnessing such event (among others)-in a talk for less than 20 people, where the two senoir male scientists doing so to one of their close (non-senoir female) colleagues, face palms and all- was my main reason to stop attending talks at one department.

  17. The major problem I’ve observed in academia on this topic is with young women manipulating older men (n=1), trying to and getting into or causing problems when rejected (n=2) or falling in love with them to the couple’s mutual long term benefit (n=3), along with the senior male academics you talk about who have exactly the kinds of attitude you discuss (n=?5). About a draw, in my experience. In gender politics, I blame the powerful, which is usually the OWDs, and I’ll continue to give the benefit of the doubt to the under-represented, despite quite a lot of experience which suggests this just just one more unfair system. I just hope this doesn’t end up like class politics did.

  18. I’m a young white dude in the biological sciences at a reasonably high ranking UK university.

    To address the comment made by RandallJ. Across the three large buildings I work in I can only think of one principle investigator who isn’t white and a handful of ‘old white women’. These old white women are generally in lower positions than the old white dudes. I think the term old white dude is surprisingly accurate at describing the upper echelons of the academic hierarchy.

    As a young white dude I have suffered at the hands of these old white dudes and I see no reason to argue if this is to a lesser or greater extent than my female equivalent would have suffered.

    Spent two years outside of academia before returning to start a PhD I can’t help but notice the absence of human resources, health and safety, information assurance and quality control in academia. I must confess that when I was in industry I found their presence rather annoying as in many respects it was the polar opposite to academia with some slightly overzealous individuals in these roles. For example I was told off for not wearing safety goggles while handling some very pure water. However, having experienced the absence of these roles in academia I would much prefer to be working for the overzealous industry staff than to continue in this environment.

    As a department we are only just starting to take an interest in chemical safety (some 12 years after the COSHH regulations came into force in the UK) with my OWD supervisor becoming annoyed at the fact I didn’t like working with a well known carcinogen when safer equivalents were available. I was pilloried for suggesting that our methods were not meeting some of the basic requirements to have any form of scientific integrity. Similar to Acclimatrix, any of my attempts to take part in public engagement/equality programmes/policy work or to prepare for my teaching commitments inside of work time were met with criticisms. I was openly condemned for going away at weekends despite working long hours during the week and when I said I felt unable to work for the next 14 months without weekends or holiday I was told to ‘grow up’.

    Trying to address these issues with other old white dudes (or women) in the department was pointless. I was told “that is not what your supervisor meant” or similar (despite it being very clear what they meant).

    Having said all this I don’t necessarily believe that it is completely the fault of the old white dude. They have made it to this privileged position without experiencing any other working environment and the academic environment has been largely devoid of HR/equality training/health and safety training. I generally like to accept Hanlon’s razor “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. I like to believe that the inappropriate touching Acclimatrix was subjected to was not for the sexual gratification of the old white dude but because they thought that it was the most supportive thing they could do (although my opinion is certainly open to change). I feel slightly sorry for shirtgate white dude, he has probably never received any equality training or been given a dress code and has worn that shirt to work for months and no one said anything to him. In most other work environments I believe that someone would have pointed out his error very early on.

    There has been a long standing absence of support from human resources, health and safety, information assurance and quality control in UK academia. As such the principle investigators have done what they wanted and used the arrogance that they required to move up the slippery academic pole to explain away any of their shortcomings for example “it wasn’t my fault I released all that personal data, it was the fault of the person who reidentified the data”.

    I believe that we need to address this HR void, along with the health and safety, information assurance and quality control voids while we are at it. Removing some of the power from the OWD and placing this power in the hands of someone who is competent and provides training to the OWD.

    As for your final statement:

    “Young [white] guys, lest you think that you are immune from this kind of behavior, let me remind you all of the Rosetta shirtstorm going on. Don’t be that dude.”

    I will not become that old white dude! Although I think that this is because I am jumping ship and giving up on academia. Sadly this means that academia is left to the young white dudes that aspire to be old white dudes. Sorry!

  19. Perhaps we need to be selective about whomever we take advice from, whatever they look like.

    I have certainly witnessed all of the above situations or their equivalents – from OWD who have never worked with anyone, nor employed anyone who didn’t act and look like themselves – but also from women and younger men who were “wannabes” – presumably because they saw that was the only way to be. I would maybe listen to these people and nod, and ignore them. However, the most valuable piece of career advice i ever got, at a critical time in my studies, was from an OWD. Now this person had ideas way ahead of his time, and experience with people and differente institutions and students and raising kids who were (at that time) students too. I marvel, even today, that some of the things he told me 45 years ago turned out to be right, and that many people today still don’t understand those situations. He was just amazing in his knowledge and perception of peoples’ abilities, and I’m glad I listened to him. I made many very “iffy” decisions about my career options later, but that one he advised me to do, at that time, was definitely a good move. But he had already proven himself (to me) to be wise before that conversation about my career.

    So let’s not put people in boxes before we assess what they are really like, down underneath, whatever their age or colour or gender. Let’s be confident in our own ability to sort the wheat from the chaff (or the sheep from the goats, maybe, in this case).

    But that is what Acclimatrix said … she did not say this applied to everyone (despite the implications of the headline).

  20. Speaking as a young, male, pre-tenure white dude in a scientific field, I can tell you that the OWDs (old white dudes) also squeeze my shoulder uncomfortably, and spew all kinds of advice at me.

    You should know that OWDs never listen to younger anybodys. They always want you to be just like them. (I am always wary of anyone who gives advice to do as they did. Much better to hear advice about something they did that they would have done differently.) And if I did as they did, for example conduct experiments with only 2 replications, I would never get published, and I would never make tenure. But explaining to them the fact that the field of statistics has more rigorous standards than those of 30 years ago will only be met with blank stares because, well, you are young, and they are not.

    That said, developing collaborations with other young faculty is probably good advice, and one that I intend to follow.

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