Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Being a Role Model

I recently hosted a get-together of the women in my department. Because it is a small department, this meant myself plus a bunch of students. The gathering made me realize that while there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve gender parity at higher levels, students these days are reaping the successes of previous generations to get rid of outright discrimination. All the students felt that they were treated no differently than their male counterparts and none had any complaints to report.

But if you consider where the active fronts in the battle to achieve gender partity are, like maternity/paternity leave, fighting unconscious bias in hiring, and achieving equity in prizes and awards, students are generally too young to have faced these issues.

I am trying to strike a balance between giving advice to prepare these women students for the challenges they might face head versus coming across as too cynical about those challenges. Then again, the work that the CSWA does is to try to eliminate those challenges all together -- not that I think our work will be done any time soon.

For now, I'll simply work to be a role model and be available to turn to for advice. Then again, if things are good enough that they never feel the need to ask me for advice, then the CSWA is doing its job.