Monday, May 13, 2013

Not The End of Men Quite Yet

Not long ago, a colleague discussed with me the recently-concluded faculty search in his department. His department decided to hire a male candidate, and my colleague told me he was relieved. In fact, he said to me, "It's so good to know that men can still get hired. I thought we could only hire women, so it's nice to know that men can still get hired." This statement seemed a bit bizarre to me for several reasons, including the fact that the department in question had no female assistant professors at the time of this statement. 

It is strange enough that someone would say this to me (but somehow they do anyway), but what does it mean, if anything? Of course, I hope it does not mean that when a woman is hired, some will think that she was hired mostly/entirely because she is a woman and the department finally had to hire one of those. And if anyone does think that, I hope it does not affect how they treat their new colleague and how they view her work as a professor. (I know enough of the context of this particular situation to know that there are unlikely to be problems in that particular case.)

Nevertheless, as long as there are people who believe that an unbroken streak of hiring men somehow means that men can no longer get faculty positions (in STEM fields), the eventual hiring of a female professor is a situation that calls for vigilance -- by administrators and by faculty -- to make sure any woman hired under such circumstances is not at a disadvantage from the very beginning.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Some Of Them Are Very Bright

As happens from time to time, a science-man having a conversation with me about science, or whatever, will feel the need to establish his I-can-work-with-women creds, even though this is apropos of nothing other than that he is having a conversation with a female scientist (me) at the time, and so he will mention his sincere opinion that a woman or women he worked with is/are actually quite smart. Some of them are even very bright (I heard that one today in an otherwise apparently normal conversation).

Also in a recent conversation of this sort, a science-man told me that he once had to work with a woman who had -- according to what many people told him -- a reputation for being very difficult. He felt that this was a common trait in successful women, and although many successful women realize this and therefore keep a low profile and choose to work behind the scenes (can we call that leaning back?), especially after they get into their late 30s, for some reason this woman chose to stay visible and to work openly with the big male guns even though she was clearly in her 40s (I am not making this up). He did not use the b-word, but he did use the word "shrew" a few times, but -- guess what?!! -- he got along with her just fine. Every once in a while she would start to go shrew on him (I just made up that phrase, it is not a direct quote), but he stayed calm and patient and she would calm down too and they ended up working well together. Yay. 

I do not think less of these men for their misguided attempts to impress me with their progressive opinions of the Female Intellect and/or bizarre hypotheses about the Female Personality in Early Middle Age, but neither am I impressed, just so you know.