Collaborations, Slurs, and Being Heard

TW: Discussion of homophobic slurs

There have been plenty of times in life when I’ve had men assume that I don’t know what I’m doing or saying, and treat me accordingly. I’m mostly used to it when I go to a car shop to pick up oil, but have recently had it happen in one of the most egregious manners I’ve ever experienced within academia. Continue reading

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Creating a Healthier Academia

This past week I was lucky to be able to attend the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which is one of the (if not the) largest gatherings of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the world. With over 3,000 attendees, it’s one of very few spaces where trans people are in the majority.

In its thirteenth year of providing space for trans people and health care providers.

In its thirteenth year of providing space for trans people and health care providers.

It’s a strange feeling, suddenly being surrounded by others like you. One that I seem to share with many other trans people in STEM, based on how few trans people raised their hands when a session chair asked, “How many of you have met another trans person in your field before this workshop?” The session was hosted by an organization called oSTEM, or Out in STEM. During the workshop, we brainstormed ways to make the fields better for trans people: ways of calling out inappropriate behavior, how academic curricula fail trans students, role models and lack of overlapping social circles, and how to create a healthier environment. I want to focus on that last one a little, because there were a lot of important points that came out of it.

Continue reading

Harassment as a crossroads

As a woman in a STEM field I generally feel pretty lucky.  I was never told I couldn’t do well in math or science and I’ve never felt unsafe in an academic setting.  Sexism and harassment isn’t something I have thought that much about because I never thought of it as happening to me.  However, looking back on my life with a more jaded outlook I realize that one event that seemed relatively insignificant at the time has percolated through the years, subtly affecting many decisions throughout my life.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college started off great… I was off to a summer study program associated with my undergraduate university, considering it a trial run for a semester abroad I hoped to take the following winter.  It was the first time I’d been away from everyone I knew, and I was nervous but optimistic.  Continue reading

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

An open letter to Nature editor Philip Campbell

Philip Campbell
Editor-in-Chief
Nature Magazine
cc: Nature editors & Executive Board

Dear Dr. Campbell,

On January 18th, one of your senior editors, Henry Gee, deliberately revealed the identity of female scientist-blogger Dr. Isis without her consent. By Gee’s own admission, this was in retaliation for Dr. Isis’ comments about problematic behavior that Gee has exhibited over the years.

As the members of a collaborative, pseudononymous blog about women in academia, we were appalled and alarmed by such behavior from an editor at an important scientific journal (and one with which some of us have professional relationships). There are many reasons why a scientific or academic blogger might want to write under a pseudonym instead of their name; it is no coincidence that a majority of such writers are women and others from groups that are disproportionately underrepresented in science and the Academy. Continue reading

Upsides of Being a Woman in Science?

We talk a lot about the problems of bias against women in science, sexism of both the dramatic and the everyday varieties, the difficulty getting girls into science to start with, the very leaky pipeline along the way, the problem of having a family while keeping up with a profession that can demand so much of our time and attention. We should be (and will continue) shouting and screaming about these – they are all important and difficult questions that we are not close to solving.

But what about the flip side? Are there positives to being a woman in science? Continue reading