How Age Can Pave the Road to Tenure

There are lots of articles about how older women feel invisible and how ageism affects women in the workplace.

My story is about how age and experience has helped me in my road to Full professor.

I entered graduate school more than a decade after I finished undergraduate school. I found a graduate program that was willing to take a chance on me, even though my undergraduate grades were only reasonable and I had not taken some of the standard courses or exams you might expect for my field. The program had a good number of women in it, and the department was actively recruiting women graduate students and faculty. They told me that they often prefer “older students” because they tend to be more focused and mature.

Once I arrived, I did see some of my graduate student friends struggling with the question of “why am I here?” and “did I just come to grad school because it was the next/obvious/easy step after undergrad?” I never really struggled with these issues.  I was very focused and worked as hard as I could to get out in a reasonable amount of time.  In the end, I finished my MS and PhD in about half the (tremendous amount of) time I had allotted myself.

Recently I have been promoted to full professor relatively few years. Continue reading

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In Negotiations, The Pen Can be Mightier than the Mouth

A long time ago I heard that women are not so good at negotiating. You can’t blame this all on women, since part of the problem is how our attempts to negotiate are received.

Recently I was told that young women are “getting *$%^ed” because they are told that the staring salaries at various companies are fixed, which they interpret as “no need to negotiate.” This is far from the truth, because there are moving costs, bonuses, and other possible perks that can be negotiated. If you look at the data and compare what male and female students are getting when they graduate it is not equitable. We need to do a better job mentoring our students how to negotiate.

My own experience has led me to conclude that when I negotiate with my pen (through email) I can be far more successful than when I negotiate with my mouth (by talking either in person or on the phone/telecon). Here’s what I have learned in my own negotiations: Continue reading

Is Tenure Worth All the Trouble?

A few months ago, I became a full professor! Much like when I earned tenure (I just changed that word from received to earned), for a while I was in a haze of disbelief. Was the quest really over? Was anything different?

In both cases the resounding answer for me was yes. I’m really happy at the new opportunities, freedom and empowerment the promotions have provided.

Our blog focus on real difficulties, impediments and challenges the road to tenure can contain for women.  In a later post, I’ll talk about why entering grad school significantly later than most people may have made the road a bit smoother for me than some. Meanwhile here are my top 3 reasons each promotion has been awesome.

Three reasons becoming a Tenured Associate Professor was Awesome

  1. I could explore research, writing and outreach projects that may not lead to grants or publications, while continuing existing productive projects in order to continue to advance in scholarship.
  2. I could take on a position in the upper administration and develop new initiatives for my institution, which was viewed favorably in my review for Full Professor. In this position I regularly interacted with the Dean and Associate Deans and work with faculty of all stages. It gave me a new appreciation and a more holistic view of my institution.
  3. I could say no to “being a new shiny happy prof face” for visitors and parents because there were new people to do that, while saying yes to some important all-campus committees.

Three reasons being a Full Professor is Awesome

  1. Interacting with other professors feels different.   At a recent conference I had more confidence to approach other full professors as a peer. I still have less experience, but many of them are my age (or younger) and it feels nice to (at least in my own mind feel like I) belong at the table. After I served on a career panel, many untenured professors came to me to ask advice. It was great to be able to share my experience and be generous with my time.
  2. I can serve in roles that are important to my institution, such as member of the tenure and reappointment committee or Dean.
  3. I have been freed from the looming promotion-centered hoops that must be identified, understood and jumped through. That is so liberating. I can take greater risks in my teaching and research without fear. Teaching evaluations will inform my practice but not threaten my job status. I can devote time to professional service at a national level.

What to do before a reporter calls…

So you have a snazzy new result and you want to share it with the world? There are plenty of reporters out there looking for a good story.

Interactions with the press can lead to good things – recognition by your institution, your department and even funding agencies. But there is risk involved — interactions with reporters can be problematic if the story they tell isn’t one you like.

In the best cases, stories are a collaboration between scientist and reporter. Here are 10 tips on how to foster productive press interactions.

BEFORE THE PRESS CALLS (OR YOU CALL THEM): Continue reading

Crowdsourcing solutions to tenure-track concerns

The tenure process is probably unsettling for everyone on some level.

Even if everything goes well, the process of being judged by your peers and others, with the possible outcome of losing your career can pretty much give anyone a stomachache. Sometimes we can channel worry into productivity and use it to keep from coasting or becoming complacent. Sometimes it is just discouraging or paralyzing.

Maybe some level of worry is unavoidable, and we just need to push through.  But what about when a concern calls for action?

The following concerns are based on real situations that have occurred at a variety of institutions.  What would you suggest? Continue reading

Double Jeopardy: Women of Color and Gender Bias

We are probably aware of reports such as “Why So Few?: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” by the American Association of University Women
and studies such as these:

  • Even when math skills were identical, both men and women were twice a likely to hire a man for a job that required math (Reuben, Sapienza, & Zingales, 2014) .
  • In academic laboratories in elite universities, male (but not female) scientists employed fewer female than male graduate students and post docs (Sheltzer & Smith, 2014) .
  • A double-blind randomized study gave science faculty at research-intensive universities application materials of a fictitious student randomly assigned a male or female name, and found that both male and female faculty rated themale applicant as significantly more competent and hirable than the femalewith identical application materials (Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham & Handelsman, 2012) .

What has been less studied is the way issues of bias impact women of color. Continue reading

Do you cuss at work?

I have been thinking lately about workplace behavior.

For example, is it OK to cuss at work? I have heard colleagues use all kinds of language, but I have noticed that with a few notable exceptions, I mainly hear the men doing the cussing. When they do, it seems like (they and) the students think it is cool.   So I wonder to myself, could I get away with that? Should I? Would it make the students uncomfortable? Is that OK?

In general I am pretty conservative on the matter. I tend to censor myself, even in conversations with colleagues when students are not around. I regard this as a choice, and not necessarily something imposed by my institution. I also have had experiences that lead me to believe at times a more permissive attitude might serve me well.

Here’s an example: Continue reading