Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Responses to Tierney

Since my last post on Tierney's NY Times Op Ed piece, he's published part 2 of the series, which continues the argument that the only obstacles that women in science face are themselves. A number of bloggers have taken on the task of debunking the articles, including astronomer Ed Bertschinger. He notes,
As Head of the MIT Physics Department, I categorically reject his conclusion that stereotype threat and implicit bias play no significant role in holding back women in the hard sciences. They do; I have seen them at work.
I recommend you go read the whole article, it's quite a good read.

Our very own CSWA has taken on the issue of implicit bias and stereotype threat at recent meetings, including plenty of data on the subjects. But, as Isis notes, Tierney does enough cherry-picking to make a pie. After all, Tierney himself demonstrates the bias that women face, by blaming our lack of advancement on our soft maternal natures, rather than realizing that the assumption that we care more about work-family balance than our careers is an example of the kind of bias we face.

Finally, I just wanted to note that I was a little surprised that I didn't see more of an uproar on the blogosphere on Tierney's articles than I did. After all, he did "dare" us to confront him. But I think many of us are suffering from outrage fatigue. After all, it's the same tired arguments over and over again. So I think it's worth taking Zuska's point to heart: Tierney's audience is not us, women in science and our supporters. Rather, he is lobbying against a specific piece of legislation that would help us. And right there is the reason that we should continue to fight, no matter how tired we become of the battle.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Daring to Discuss

Someday I would like to talk about the gender dynamics I see playing out in my own department. But that is never going to happen, because it would get me in trouble and I like having a career in astronomy. Chalk it up to the troubles of blogging under my real name.

Instead, I'm finding myself forced to discuss this NY Times op-ed by John Tierney, which I had tried to avoid reading, knowing it would just make me angry, until a friend of mine forwarded me the link and I finally succumbed. Other bloggers have already covered this pretty well, saving me the trouble, so I recommend reading their thoughts on the article.

One thing I would like to address is FemaleScienceProfessor's comment:
On one point I reluctantly sort of agree with him: i.e., workshops to "enhance gender equality", mandated if certain legislation becomes law, could be kind of grim. In all likelihood, these would be yet another sounds-good-in-theory administrative requirement that PIs and others would have to sit through to be allowed to run our research groups.
While I do understand this fear, how else are we going to convince the scientific establishment, many of whom likely share Tierney's views, that gender bias is real and actually does keep women from succeeding in science careers? Clearly, just waiting for the old guard to pass on isn't working, because I've met plenty of young male scientists who are just as biased as the old ones: they just hide it better. A lot of them hide it so well that they aren't even aware that they are biased, and these are exactly the people that the workshops would need to get to.

Granted, there are right ways and wrong ways to run such workshops, and I'm not clear yet on which way things would go. On the other hand, the NSF's ADVANCE program has produced a lot of terrific resources and toolkits for increasing the participation of women in science, so it's not like they'd be starting from scratch. I remain cautiously optimistic.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Negotiating for a Job

[The following is a contribution from a reader. I hope you find this as interesting and useful as I did! -Hannah]

I just read your list of things to negotiate for in a job offer in the AASWomen Newsletter for 11/13. There were things I hadn't thought of on that list (great!), but since you also solicited for personal experiences I wanted to let you know about mine.

A few years ago I was offered the job I have been attempting to groom myself for over the last decade. Fortunately, I was expecting this offer and had mentioned it to a few friends before it came. I don't know exactly who put it into my head, but some combination of internet research and discussion with friends led me to realize that if this was truly the job I planned to stay in as a career, and that this was my best (and possibly only) chance at negotiation. When the job offer came I didn't accept immediately (which took great restraint) but took some time to think about it.

I followed some advice from a savvy friend who had just negotiated his way from a short-term contractor position into a full-time position at the base salary he was aiming for at a nearby company. I listened to him: clamped my mouth shut and tried not to tip my hand to my employers. I swear this was one of the hardest things I ever did, and I was shaking inside as I walked into that meeting. Everything I read about negotiating said it was harder for women because we don't hold the line as hard, so I hung on tight and felt lucky I was negotiating with other women.

I did my research: what would a job like this pay in another institution? What would my fairly high level of education gain me in other institutions? How much did that education that prepped me to be the perfect person for this job cost me? I also laid out my own budget and long-term goals. With all of this I calculated out the salary I thought I deserved, the salary that was warranted by the industry, a salary I would be happy to settle for, and the minimum salary I would accept. I had an ace in my pocket: I knew they wanted me. I'd been with the company for almost 5 years, and they had been preparing me to take this position. They also had an ace: they knew I wouldn't leave, I loved it too much.

Then I wrote this all down on a cheat sheet. I'm embarrassed by that sheet of paper - it lists a bunch of brag-worthy things about me, and "what I think I'm worth" to that institution. I went into the meeting with this, and tried my hardest. I gave them my reasons and my top couple numbers. It took them many more words and was put much more eloquently, but they told me I was dreaming. Well, I knew that part, but you start high, right? They said they'd get back to me with another offer. We went around about this a couple more times over the next few days, and at the end I asked for an extra week of vacation (actually, to accrue vacation at the rate of someone who had been with the company for 5 years longer than I had been), and settled for a start salary 2% below my minimum. I'm still proud I got them to up their offer 15-20% and give me that extra week.

I'm not regretting being what felt like a hard-nosed negotiator now. I'm feeling like I'm in a better position, and a more committed position than most of my coworkers.