Helping the Minoritized Achieve in Academic Science

Posts tagged ‘Two Body Problem’

Work Life Balance – Other Stuff

HairdoneThe age-old woman’s issue: work-life balance. First, this is clearly not a “woman’s issue,” yet it is still labeled as such. Men make these choices, too. BUT, it feels different. I feel like, when I say I am leaving early to do a family-related activity, it is frowned upon, and I often do not reveal why I am leaving early. But, my male colleagues often use personal excuses for leaving early or not showing up to work and they seem fine with using these explanations.

Second, we have discussed many of the big work-life issues on this blog. For example: When should you have kids (see these blog posts: flexibility, grad school, pre/post tenure, postdoc)?  Should you take a job when you don’t have one for your spouse (see our posts on two-body problems: problems, surprisenegotiations)?

This weekend, I was thinking about the little work-life issues. Many of these issues are not about kids or family at all. Many times they concern myself – my personal well-being and how I don’t do things for myself because I am prioritizing work and other life choices first. I was thinking about it because I have been trying to dye my hair for about 2 weeks. The process takes about an hour, and I did not seem be be able to find that hour until today.  Here are some of the other things I prioritized over my personal activity: hanging out with my kids, making a figure for a paper, working on a grant report, writing this blog… You get the idea. And these other things are more important than dying my hair, so I was making the right choices, but I also want and need to dye my hair, too.

I always find the personal stuff hard to schedule and hard to prioritize such as hair, eye, dentist, and doctor appointments, or going to HR to fill out non-essential, but helpful, paperwork. Unless I am actually sick, I never go get regular check-ups. I should, but it seems like a waste of time. I go to the eye doctor once every 2-3 years and only because my glasses have broken and are hanging off my face.  I try to schedule a lot of this stuff in the summer, but that is also when I am busting my butt to get my papers out and get research done and traveling to conferences, so it still isn’t ideal. Are others like this? Am I a weirdo because I don’t keep my life on track?

I would think that it was just me except I have also been thinking back to my advisors, and I remember weird stuff coming out of their mouths. For instance, I had a graduate advisor who once told me that it was annoying when students (me, I was the only student) went to conferences because they not only missed 4-5 days from the lab for the conference, but they always had to leave early to do laundry and pack. My advisor also used to not go to the bathroom and do a sort of pee-pee dance. Maybe my advisor also didn’t want to waste time evacuating her bladder. I also had a postdoc advisor who told lab members that they should schedule dentist appointments on the weekends. I don’t even know any dentists who are open on the weekends.

So, maybe I was “raised” to be this way. I do try to be careful around my students so that I do not affect them the way I have been. I don’t want them to not go to the doctor or dentist. I don’t want them to not urinate because they feel they are wasting time. And I want to stop feeling that way, so I continue to fake it in the hopes that some day I will not feel weird about taking the time I need to clean my clothes and pack before a conference. (I am sure my fellow conference attendees also prefer I wash my clothes before the conference).

So, what about you? Do you have weird tendencies to be self-depriving spurned by an internal feeling that you are not working hard enough and still need to prove yourself? I do, clearly. I should say this is better after getting tenure. The removal of the feeling that you are going to lose your job if you don’t work hard enough hasn’t stopped me from working hard on science, but it has allowed me the freedom to go to the dentist. But, these feelings are clearly ridiculous. I try to stop them and “act normal.”

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NegotiationsA former student of a colleague was coming back to visit and brought some great news. He had landed a big fancy-named fellowship and a job offer. He started asking me questions that one has when put into a new situation – a rare situation – negotiations. He was at the negotiations stage. This is something that you don’t get to do very often, and thus, none of us are all that practiced at it. I have had a couple older posts about negotiating (Everything and Practice and StartUp).

One of the interesting things I noticed was that this student had not received much help from his advisors about how to go about the job search nor about negotiations. As I kept giving him advice on this and that, much of which was covered in the previous posts, he was very enthusiastically eating it up. It felt good to mentor this student to whom I thought I could have offered nothing.

As I was recently traveling, I had many conversations with other WomenOfScience that I do not usually get to interact with. One was a woman who did a particularly spectacular job at negotiating her first position, so we discussed some tactics and of negotiation. Although she negotiated everything from salary to office furniture, she warned against looking greedy and being too picky. She suggested that one strategy is to prioritize your request list. For instance, equipment for your experiments is likely to be crucial. Money for people is probably essential.

As I think back on my own original negotiations, I know I did things wrong the first time. I was very bad at negotiating my salary. I knew it was important, but I felt like I was negotiating my husband’s salary and his whole job, and I shouldn’t look too greedy (see previous post on solving the Two-Body Problem). I think not negotiating my salary at all was a mistake. Even starting a few $1000 ahead would have been better. I think this is very typical for women. Further, society tells us that women who ask for more money (even equal pay) are greedy and that is somehow less tolerable in women than in men. Men who ask for more money are not as likely to be thought of as greedy. There is some advice I have heard recently that I think is good to help overcome this: When you need to negotiate for more money – don’t think you are negotiating it for yourself, but rather for your family. You need more money so that your family has a better life. I think that would have helped me. Your salary is for your family to make sure they can live comfortably while you are busting your hump getting tenure – make sure you frame it that way in your mind.

I didn’t have any trouble negotiating for what I needed for my lab, because it was, in effect, not just for me, but also for the department and the lab, which is bigger than just me. If I could have framed some of the other aspects – salary and other personal needs – in a bigger context, I think I would have been more successful negotiating for those things.

What do you think? Any advice or suggestions to help others negotiate better? Post or comment. To get emails whenever I post, push the +Follow button.

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