Where are my sisters? Isolation and achievement in Academia

It may come as a surprise to some that, despite my fierce attitudes about feminism, I’ve actually had a comparatively easy time when it comes to overt sexism. While I grew up working class, I’ve always had people around who told me I could do anything I wanted to. Despite some major setbacks (a topic for another day), I made it to a really excellent graduate program, and I had a fantastic, supportive (male) mentor. Graduate school was difficult, and I struggled with my share of anxiety and depression, but I can honestly say that I never felt dehumanized, belittled, or objectified by my colleagues, students, or superiors. The worst I’ve had to deal with are the occasional arm squeeze, people who call me “Mrs.” instead of “Dr.,” or a meeting organizer who asked me to take notes and get coffee. In other words, micro-aggressions. I’ve had colleagues and close friends who have experienced much worse.

Setting aside how messed up it is that I’m considering myself fortunate that I’ve “only” experienced institutional sexism, for the most part (at least, in a professional setting), I wanted to focus on what, for me, has been the hardest part of being a woman academic. I want to preface this by saying that I love my job — even when it’s hard. I didn’t want to sit down this morning and write another post about how it’s difficult being a woman in science, because there are already too many of those these days (not because people shouldn’t write them, but because people shouldn’t have to write them).

So, what’s the hardest part, for me? Isolation. Continue reading


Be Not Afraid: Why I left a tenure-track position at an R1 Research University.

How do you understand your academic responsibilities? Your professional duties? What do you say when people ask you what you do? Are you a scientist? A historian or biologist? Or are you a professor? Are you both or does this change depending on the context? As I sat there trying to make the exceedingly difficult decision to leave my academic home of four years for the great unknown of a small liberal arts college (LAC), these questions disrupted my sleep. Like a good researcher, I decided that I needed to collect data – a representative sample. I called everyone I knew who had been trained at a well-funded and large R1 research university (RU) and had gained employment at a LAC. These trusted friends had experienced the wonders of being educated amidst a top-notch library system, while having access to premium laboratory and study space, and they moved on to a completely different institutional settings. How did they feel about working in a smaller more intimate, and teaching-centered environment? To my surprise, the reviews were generally positive. In fact, not a single friend discouraged me from taking the job. They were all relatively happy (as happy as tenure-track and adjunct faculty can be) chugging away at their respective LACs. Through these conversations, I learned that my understanding of life at a LAC was outdated and limited. I was in for another kind of education.

Continue reading