Helping Women Achieve in Academic Science

Archive for April, 2017

Awards: It’s an Honor…

1160px-Eleanor_Roosevelt_receiving_the_Mary_McLeod_Bethune_Human_Rights_Award_from_Dorothy_Height,_president_of_the_National..._-_NARA_-_196283Hey Ya’ll, It’s Awards Season! As I do every year at this time (post, post, post, post), I am going to remind you to nominate women and minorities for awards at your favorite society. This year, I am writing to remind you that

It’s an Honor to be Nominated!

What am I sending you this public service announcement? Because in my discussions with women and awards committees, a number of women who are thinking of nominating other women or being nominated have asked me, “Are others applying? Maybe I shouldn’t…” To that I say, “Pshaw!”

I know what they are thinking. They think, “Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I shouldn’t compete against other women. What if my nomination keeps another awesome woman from winning?” But taking yourself out of the running does not help yourself or the other women. Here is my justification:

  1. Just being nominated is an honor. Whether you ask to be nominated and someone agrees or they decide to nominate you out of the blue, if they are taking the time and energy to get a set of letters together for you, it is an honor.
  2. There is no downside to being nominated. When you are nominated, you get to put together a packet where nice people agree to write nice letters about you. That packet is read by a fancy committee of fancy people. Even if they think you don’t have the strongest packet, just being nominated means they will learn your name, learn what you do, and recognize you later. Sounds like a win-win situation.
  3. Who cares what the odds are? Let’s think about probability. If you don’t apply, your odds of winning are a big fat ZERO. Even if 100 people apply (which isn’t likely for most awards), you still have at least a 1 in 100 chance of winning, which is better than zero. If you have a nice packet written by nice people, maybe the odds are even better. Finally, the odds of your packet being read is 100% (see #2 above).
  4. Women can support other women in a pool. I am a firm believer that when multiple women and minorities are present in a pool of applicants, that can subconsciously make women more appealing. In fact, there was a non-scientific initial study in Harvard Business Review that says just this for hiring. So, don’t worry that you might be competing with other women for an award! In fact, your application might be the tipping point that normalizes women being in the pool. Your contribution may be to enable another women to win… Or, their contribution might be to help you to win.

So, what do you think? Are you convinced? You’ve got 5 days until May 1 (if that is the due date for your awards). Get on it! Nominate someone for an award! Comment or post. Push the +Follow button to get an email every time I post.

In Bathroom News!

2016-10-18-15-55-27In bathroom news this week, the crazy potties (see picture) have been replaced by regular potties in my building! See my previous post about these crazy potties.

Actually it happened a few weeks ago, and the women in my lab are overjoyed. I was so excited about the change, I made an announcement in my department faculty meeting. I was actually curious as to how the change came about. My department business manager and space manager knew nothing about the change. My chair had no idea. Was it my dean, who reads this blog? If so, thank you!!

At faculty meeting, many of the men were surprised that there were urinals in the women’s rooms. At which point, I tried to explain that they were urinals for women. We even found an advertisement from the sixties trying to say that they were hygienic and women loved them! so they should be installed in all bathrooms for women. This is a great example of why you need women’s voices at all stages and levels: engineers, architects, administrators who make decisions. No woman would even have bought these for other women!

My colleagues then disclosed that some of the men’s restrooms also have them, and they thought they were weird… It turns out that in the other building (my department is split into two buildings – soon to be three), the men’s rooms and women’s rooms are on every other floor. Sometimes they are flipped due disability accommodations or other issues, and so it seems that many of the men’s rooms also have women’s urinals in them.

As funny, fascinating, and weird as this conversation was, my bringing this up allowed another faculty to broach the subject of gender-neutral bathrooms in our buildings. With the number of openly transgender students who feel comfortable enough to make the transition in college and grad school, having gender-neutral bathrooms is very important for inclusion and diversity that students have a place to go to the bathroom where they feel safe and comfortable. We were asked about where they were in my building. Thank goodness someone (not me, but one of my white-male allies) knew where they were. I was just happy we had them! Thanks to this faculty member, we were all made aware of the location.

Even better, the location is catalogued on the website of one of our diversity websites on campus, so students can look them up in each building and find them. I used one this week, because I teach on the same hall, and they are the only bathrooms in that part of the building. They are nice – one stall, single sink, outer door that locks.

Next steps: putting up signs to let people know where they are. But, where to put them? On the gender separated bathrooms? Around the building? On my office door? Any comments or suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Post here.

And that is all for the Bathroom News this week! Push the +Follow button to get an email every time I post.

Body Language: Act Big

BodyLanguageAt the recent big physics conference this year, there was a really great pre-conference tutorial on how to give good talks. I have had a couple posts about giving good talks (here, here). One thing that was stressed at the tutorial was body language. One of the presenters (really, I should say workshop-runners) was an actor who thinks a lot about body language. Her advice included things such as keeping your feet firmly planted about shoulder width apart, opening up your shoulders (not hunched), and holding your head up. Also, you should use your hands effectively to help elaborate points, but do not put them behind your back or crossed over your chest.

This is all excellent advice! I definitely do all this stuff when I give a talk or in class. But, this is good advice for all the time – not just when giving a talk. In fact, I walk with such confidence and purpose, that I have been stopped on campus more than once by someone who commented “You look like you are going to kick someone’s ass.” And that is exactly how I want to look. In fact, I am there to kick ass, everyday. Walking and holding myself confidently actually helps give me the confidence to do my job. I started doing this as part of my mantra of “fake it until you make it.” I practiced, and I don’t have to fake it anymore. I especially like walking briskly down the hall with my tall boots under a flowy skirt and making a lot of click-clack noise. People know I am there. I walk with purpose. I feel and look large and in charge.

If you are a woman or under-represented minority, thinking about and using your body language and appearance effectively are essential to your success. I have written about this previously here in the context of the classroom. Your body language can communicate to the class how competent (confident) you are, how serious to take you, and that you care about the students and their learning. When paired with your words, body language can be powerful to help you make your points and connect with them.

When your body language is at odds with your words, people feel uncomfortable. Because people’s perception of body language is subconscious, they may not understand where their discomfort comes from. That discomfort and uncertainty mix to make them even more uncomfortable and distrustful. This is a bad combination, especially because women have a harder time engendering trust, in general due to sexism (see article).

Outside of classes, I also use the same tactics. At the conference, I stood with my feet apart. I noticed other women of approximately my stage and success level were also standing feet apart, heads up, shoulders back, and arms either animated or crossed. I find that, as a woman, crossing your arms doesn’t look closed off if you stand with your head up and expression open. Instead, crossed arms gives you an air of competence and healthy skepticism – a good stance for a scientist. It was cool to notice that we were all standing in basically the same stance. Most importantly, you do not want to shrink back. You want to take up space. If you are thin or short, this is even more important.

In faculty meetings or other committee meetings, I often purposely take up a bit more space than is strictly necessary. I cross my legs with my ankle on my knee. I put my arm on the neighboring chair. I make myself larger because I am often physically smaller than my colleagues (although I am by no means a “small girl”). Whatever I do, I do not shrink in or try to take up less space than I need. Taking up more space sends a sub-conscious notice that I deserve the space, and I deserve to be heard.

Why is body language effective? Most body language and facial expressions are important forms of non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication allows you to communicate silently and subconsciously about yourself. Because it is subconscious, you can use it to communicate your assertiveness without actually acting overtly aggressive.  Talking over men, interrupting, or speaking loudly can get you labeled as pushy, bossy, and aggressive. Using body language to communicate your place at the table is physically assertive, but it is not perceived consciously.

So, what do you think? Comment or send your own article to post. As always, push the +Follow button to get an email every time I post.

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