Helping Women Achieve in Academic Science

Archive for April, 2014

Fashion of Conferences

Attending a conference for the first time? Wondering what to wear? This is a common issue for women, especially young women, because women have a lot of options. Men have very few options, and thus, their world is clearer and easier to navigate. Women have many many options. Dress, skirt, suit with skirt, pants suit, jeans, boots, heels, flats, sneakers, sweater, button-up shirt, blazer, make-up, no make-up? And don’t even get me started on hair!

So, I am going to do what other women’s blogs have done and do a conference fashion show. Of course, different conferences have different styles, so I will be specific that these shots were taken from the world’s largest PHYSICS conference. I have poorly concealed the identities of our terrific models. I will add more in future from other disciplines in future posts. Until then, enjoy!

Our first selection is the suit look.

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Several women, especially on the day of giving their invited talks, will wear pants suits. Many are black, but gray was also spotted, although I don’t have pictures of those. You can also use separates – different color blazer and pants.   The shirt under the blazer is typically a nice color, but not low-cut. Physicists don’t really show cleavage, as you will see. I think when there are so few women, you don’t want to flaunt your boobs. The shoes are quite sensible. Typically physics-types favor flats. Also, though you cannot see it due to the censor bars, the make-up is very light or non-existent.

 

Our second selection is a very nice look that I really like – a nice dress.

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The dresses are well-fitting and again – no cleavage. Opaque tights under knee-high boots can be dark, or just a flash of color if the dress and boots are too dark. A nice jacket or blazer over the top can finish the look to give a flare of color or make it look a little more professional. You can also add a nice scarf.

 

 

Finally, the most casual look is jeans and a sweater.

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Physicists can be wonderfully casual, but you still want to look decent. Again – no cleavage. You want your jeans to fit fairly well. Both these models are wearing dark jeans, although I have seen colored jeans, and medium wash. Acid wash and other more flamboyant washes were not observed. When someone says that a conference is “casual” this is what they mean. They do not mean you can wear shorts or ratty clothes.

So, I hope this fashion show was helpful. I think the biggest thing I noticed, as I mentioned several times above, is that the clothing are not at all revealing. This should be considered since some “professional” shirts can be quite low-cut or skirts can be a bit too short. Scientists are basically conservative when it comes to sexualization due to clothing, so that should be kept in mind. In a field, like physics, where women are really under-represented, over-sexualizing yourself with your clothes is a risky idea, since men and more often other women will think you are a ditzy bimbo and think you are not competent due to your clothing. Is that fair?? No! But, it is life. You often have to the look the part you are trying to play.

Thanks again to all my models!

Equal Pay Day

Y12_Calutron_OperatorsToday, as you might have noticed, is “Equal Pay Day” where we women point out that women are still not being paid equal to men. If you haven’t seen some of these articles and statistics, I thought this one was nice. I was surprised by the wage gap as a function of race. Since we are all aware that these wage gaps are based on perceived “competence,” it is interesting to realize that your race convolved with being a woman can lead to you make HALF what a white dude makes!

The wage-gap definitely exists in academia – even at StateSchools where the wages are often public knowledge. For instance,  I was the lowest paid person in my department several semesters, and I brought it to the attention of my department chair who gave me a raise to raise me to the level of the next person. Interestingly, this correction to my salary still left me as the lowest paid person in the department. The only difference was that I was tied for last place with several other people after the correction.

Previously, I negotiated a small retention package at UState after going to an interview at another school. I made three requests for retention given in the order of (what I thought would be) least to most difficult to implement: 1. Teaching release for 1 course per year for 2 years. 2. A $5000 raise. 3. $25,000 per year for two years for research expenses. Surprisingly, I was given items 1. and 3., but not the raise! I was pretty shocked that the salary increase was off the table.

In addition to this, I have gone 2 summers with NO summer salary at all because I wanted to pay my students. I have a friend who basically just laid herself off so that she could pay for a postdoc for an extra year. Do men ever do this? I have male colleagues who say that they “don’t take summer salary,” but when I probed further, it turned out that they meant that they didn’t take the full summer salary – they only took 1 month instead of 2. This is not exactly the same thing. I suppose you could say that we do it to ourselves, but really, it is just that we are committed and used to not getting much for it. We are so used to being undervalued for our work by society, we even ourselves. We undervalue ourselves. Think about that. By not paying yourself, we are not even valuing ourselves or our work at the absurdly low level that society tells us.

So, on Equal Pay Day, let’s pledge to value ourselves. I am going to endeavor to value myself more from now on. I am going to endeavor to pull a white male and OVER-Value myself. I will not ask for the $5k raise next time. I am going to ask for $20k. How will that fly? I got zero when I asked for $5k, but I can’t get less than that, right? There is no such thing as a negative raise, right? So, since I now have tenure, and I am kicking *ss at my job, I am taking my one month of summer salary – damn it!

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Women’s Leadership Backlash

Woman_standing_next_to_a_wide_range_of_tire_sizes_required_by_military_aircraft._-_NARA_-_196199A wonderful post from a WomanOfScience friend on women’s leadership. In particular, women in academic administration. Choosing to go the administrator route may be an exit from the research track.

Enjoy!

I’ve always recognized the advantages of being a female faculty member in a male dominated field and try not to dwell on the instances of overt or subtle discrimination. For example, when I entered grad school (15-20 years ago), there were few women in my field that my gender alone made me memorable. Certainly I did good work, but also it was likely that a member of a faculty search committee was likely to remember me which no doubt helped my job search in a subtle way. When I was an assistant professor and gave birth to our first child, there were obviously some disapproving glares from some colleagues, but still I brought the 7 day old child into my office (in a cradle) and proved to my colleagues that this wasn’t disturbing to them and allowed me to maintain my productivity. Then the slippery slope began…

Some time ago, university administrators decided that one way to relatively painlessly reduce implicit bias was to have female faculty present on key committees (most importantly search committees, graduate admissions, and many policy setting committees). The result was that every female faculty member I knew was doing far more service than her male peers. The optimistic view, however, was that we made contacts and networks both within our home institutions and nationally that were far more expansive. Down the road a decade, we had far more administrative exposure and experience and were therefore ideal targets for administrative/leadership roles (at a time when many institutions would like to showcase their strong female leaders)… except that we were/are too young (many of us in our late 30s and early 40s). It is flattering to be asked to take over a high profile chair or deanship at a young age. And I wasn’t unique in this respect. Looking nationally, female chairs and deans are trendy.

This is where the glass is half full perspective ends… Our male peers are hitting their strides as full professors and racking up the high profile awards and kudos that will allow them to build their scientific reputations. While I was able to maintain this level of creativity and productivity through the births of my three children, there is no way to do the same in the face of the unrelenting distraction of running a large organization well. The inevitable result is to take the research hit in favor of building an administrative career. I am fully aware that I am complaining about an opportunity that women just 5-10 years older than me were denied simply for their genders. On the other hand, I worry that we’re complicit in self-imposing a glass ceiling. In my experience, great scientists look down on administrators that do not have scientific stature (I would contend that young female full professors have credibility, but not yet stature). Worst yet, one of my most creative, deeply thinking graduate students informed me she was leaving my group to join that of a male colleague. She said she joined my group because she loved the atmosphere of teamwork and close mentorship that I had a reputation for, but in the last couple of years (since she joined the group) she’s watched that decay exponentially as my administrative duties increased. I am deeply ashamed that I allowed the day to day fires of running this organization get in my way of educating my students! Worst yet, she cited my case as a reason to _not_ go into academia. That talented women get duties loaded on them until they drop the ball (she described it almost as a form of titration). I’ve sadly become the anti-role model.

This summer, my family and group will be uprooting to move to a new university. Everyone (my extended family included) keeps asking what job I will have there and I have been glorying in telling them that I will be “just” a professor again!

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