Wimminz in STEM

A lot of brilliant and smart people have been speaking their minds lately about "women science bloggers" post Science Online 2011 and some other traffic. There's too many to hit all the great responses, but here's a list anyways:
It brings up a lot of things Cherish the Scientist and I have been thinking about as we go forward with our new blogging collective EngineerBlogs (am I plugging this enough? GO THERE AND READ! ADD OUR FEED!). How do you make sure you are achieving diversity and looking beyond the people like you tendency we all have. I mean, it's easier for me, I'm a female blogger so naturally I'll gravitate towards other female bloggers. So how do you convince other people that intentionally recruiting for diversity is a good thing? I like Tenured Radical's post on affirmative action and the idea that merit is actually a system, or even better, the myth of merit. The idea that certain groups don't have distinct advantages from an early age or that our tendency to befriend, to recruit, and to reward people who are more like ourselves doesn't come into play with a historically white/male dominated world. This might be less obvious on the blogosphere, but it's certainly no less obvious in my life. Zuska also wrote a great and succinct post as well on the whole I want to earn this on my own when none of us really accomplish anything purely on our own merit.
It looks like they'll be hiring another female engineer here. The holdup now is she is supposedly "asking for too much" and negotations are occurring. I applaud her for asking for too much. And I wonder if a guy with similar education and experience who had asked for that much would have been categorized in the same way. No way of knowing really, I'm not that involved with the hiring process. Hiring her will bring the department representation of female engineers from 2.7% to 3.3%.
She's replacing a woman who left a while ago to teach. Sometimes I think because the last woman was so successful the people in charge thought let's hire someone like her and that's the only reason we're getting another woman. That if the last person had been a man, and good at his job, it would have been a man like him we'd be bringing in. Due to the other woman's leaving to pursue an alternate career (leaky pipeline? too limited sample size) she was asked somewhere in the offer stage whether there was anything she wanted to disclose, anything that might take her away from here. She mentioned then that she had just had a kid.
One of the people that interviewed her balked that she hadn't told him that, that throughout the multiple interviews she had failed to mention that. Clearly she should have said nothing. Sure, mentioning a pregnancy or future birth of a child might be appropriate by the presence of already born children certainly shouldn't be. She was already holding down a job, clearly she had it worked out. Not to mention the person who balked at it has a grown kid and presumably worked at some point in his career with a child just born. Or not to mention other higher level people in the group have little kids at home. We are reminded it is only a factor for women.
Some of my colleagues are dreading her being brought on and worrying whether she will be demanding or a tyrant of those she works with. But I'm not worried. I'm not one of those women who thinks it's hard to work with other women. I can't say every woman I've ever worked with has been my ally but many have and I've had fantastic peers and mentors that were both men and women. All the women I've worked for and with have had the same spectrum of the men I've worked for. I've yet to work under a real tyrant of a boss, but the ones I know about are all men. I suspect though that's an institutional thing and that the men in charge just wouldn't tolerate a dictator in the form of a woman, they'd make sure to encourage her out of the organization.
I look forward to meeting the new engineer. I hope we will get along and secretly I will try to help her and encourage her, even as the underling I am, as I have tried to do so for other women, minorities, and talented employees who I feel don't get the support they should for whatever category management thinks they don't fit into. Sometimes the things I hear or when I am called a bitch or labelled or put into a box makes it feel like death by a thousand cuts and I feel like giving up. But sometimes I feel like I'm a secret agent and my mission is to seek out these people and help them in whatever little ways I can. Maybe my little contributions will make up for the thousand cuts.


  1. Anonymous21:09

    I overheard a secretary complaining that a woman who was offered a faculty position was "demanding too much" and that her current salary in Really Expensive Location should not be considered. The woman had family in the area and research interests nearby, so she would have taken the job, but she got so fed up with the negotiations that she declined. One month later, I heard she accepted a fac position at Leafy School. I then told the secretary that a much better school got the woman. She's since published *more* GlamMag papers, and became a rockstar. And the dude without GlamMag pubs that the dept ultimately hired was at the SAME SALARY that was "too demanding" for the woman. He's still a nobody.

    Insecure depts have no problem replacing a woman with another woman whoisnotabitch. But it takes some serious shit for them to replace a man with a woman. She must be MegawattStarWhoIsNotABitch.

  2. That's what I'm afraid of, that equally qualified men are not looked at the same way. But then I think, the women are maybe lucky if they can avoid that and work somewhere better.