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


Academic Lab Space

Lab space. This seems to be one of the most contentious topics out there in academia these days, both among current faculty and in negotiations for faculty positions. It’s also described as one of the hidden sources of inequality in academia, with women potentially having less square footage than men. Space is the issue that led MIT to perform a study on the status of women faculty in science, after a female tenured faculty member started questioning the amount of space she was allocated relative to her tenured and untenured male colleagues. It’s also one of the hardest to evaluate, since the need for physical space varies tremendously among and within disciplines, depending on the type of research.

A few weeks, we asked readers to respond to some questions about lab space and many of you did. We were less focused on square footage and more interested in the process of obtaining space and whether respondents were relatively happy with their allocated lab space. Continue reading

Academic Space

Space. This seems to be one of the most contentious topics out there in academia these days.  OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, since space appears to be one of those issues that has been a thorn in the side of academics (and probably non-academics as well) since time immemorial. Many (all?) of us here at TSW have our own space challenges and we also hear about space issues from friends and colleagues year after year. In an attempt to move from anecdotes to anecdata (as much as we can with an informal poll disseminated via blog and twitter), we are interested in hearing your stories about lab space- the good, the bad, the ugly. So please fill out the following poll within the next two weeks (by Friday, February 20th) and we’ll report back in a future blog post.

Get Started on the Academic Space Survey

Guest Post: Academic Negotiations

In my first month in graduate school the new faculty in our department did a “How to get a job” seminar. They talked about their experiences, and one thing really stuck with me. Two of the new faculty said that many things were negotiable at our R1 university but salary was not. Our university took the average of three faculty salary surveys, added 10%, and that was the starting salary. I thought that was a cool system to keep things fair and equal between the new faculty. In fact, I thought it was so cool that I mentioned it to my advisor (who was not junior, and had been at two different institutions). He got a funny look on his face and just shook his head. “No, that’s not true.”

No, it wasn’t true. It was what the administration told new hires to keep them from asking for higher salaries. Some were more savvy, pushed back and made more money than the others who took the administration at face value. Those initial differences added up over time through raises which were all calculated as a percentage of starting salary. My advisor stressed one thing to me: Do everything you can to raise that number. Continue reading

Guest Post: Braggy Sister Bear

At the risk of triggering your gag reflex at the kind of domestic picture this presents, I will tell you that my spouse and I love reading out loud to each other. We are currently partway through “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, one of my childhood favorites. Last night we read Chapter 7, where youngest sister Amy is disgraced over an incident at school regarding pickled limes, an inexplicable tween trend of the 19th century. The chapter concludes, as many do, with a moral message delivered by the girls’ mother Marmee:

“You are getting to be rather conceited, my dear, and it is quite time you set about correcting it. You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long; even if it is, the consciousness of possessing and using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm of all power is modesty.”

When my spouse read this in his “Marmee voice,” I snorted. For although it is true that Amy is a bit of a conceited twit, I strongly object to the core messages in this little speech: don’t show off, even if that means no-one notices how awesome you are. It’s better to be overlooked than to be conceited.

Continue reading