Friday, November 30, 2012

Negotiating Dual Careers

83% of women scientists and 54% of men scientists are partnered with other scientists link.  Those figures didn't look at other academic or professional partners, so a huge number of current and potential faculty are up against the "two-body problem."   

SU Wise invited SU and ESF doctoral students (women AND men), and other students and faculty who are now, or may be in relationship where both will have professional careers, to join their panelists for a conversation about:
-Can we both be equally successful?
-Who moves for whose career?
-Living apart?
- How/when do you ask about institutional dual career hiring practices?
-What do you negotiate for once position is offered? What are effective strategies?

The two most novel parts of this discussion:  that so many men attended!  And that SU now has a Dual Career counselor (via SU ADVANCE) that meets confidentially with every interviewee, at the time of their on campus interview,  to discuss what options might be available for a partner.  By bypassing the search committee in this discussion, they have a chance to look at other openings that might be a good match for the partner, so that when an offer is made, this office can provide better advice.  This service came to be after the realization that they were losing great candidates because they were unable to even make suggestions before the candidate found a workable solution somewhere else. 

All three couples agreed that SU's developing model would have been better than the situations they encountered.  They wondered:  where in the process do we mention the partner?  For one, early disclosure seemed the right way to go, for another, they noted that they'd received 4 workable offers, but only one from an institution where they had disclosed (there happened to be advertised positions in each of their fields, so they had each been fully vetted along with all the other applicants).  The panelists also discussed the value of applying lots of places, so that when an offer was received, they could say "my partner is also on the market, and received offers at x,y,z."  This was especially important if the department partner hoped to join hadn't been searching, so had no means to compare partner to other candidates.  Knowing that partner fared well when other institutions had made that comparison helped their cases.  There was also the impression that private institutions were "more nimble" in their ability to arrange a dual hire.

All three of these couples had made the decision not to live apart if it was at all possible, so dual residences and what to do if there are already children in the mix may be addressed at future panels.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

May Goldie build, happily ever after

I just found the gift that I wish I could send back in time to my tween self.  Although legos are inherently gender neutral spatial development toys (prior to the special sets with space and dinosaur warriors that my son now covets), in the 70s,  they remained solidly in the "boy" aisle of the toy store.  Maybe boys used them to embrace their inner weapon designer?  Anyway, although she is nearly a generation younger, the creative force behind GoldieBlox suffered the same absence of spatial acuity toys. She never considered engineering as a field for herself until a high school calculus teacher suggested it to her--I'm glad she had that teacher, rather than Mr. "girls don't do math" at my school!   She has now applied her engineering and product design background to observe how girls play, and develop a 'toy' that combines the reading that girls love with a spatial design toolbox that allows them to explore and build solutions along with the heroine.   Reminds me of those choose-your-own-adventure books that I adored, but with a really great twist.

Debbie Sterling built only one set.  She showcased it in a promotional video to gain support on Kickstarter.  Support has been so strong that she had the startup capital she needed in only two weeks.  Goldiblox are now in their "production run" and are taking pre-orders with an anticipated delivery date of this spring.

Lily O'Donnell of policymic suggests that this toy might help close the gender pay gap, by bringing more women into such a male dominated and high paying field.  Maybe--for the women that head into this field, who also have supportive husbands and partners on their homefronts.  I'm really excited by the prospect that this toy can help many girls see engineering as way they can solve the problems that are important to them, and to make things better for other girls around the world.  What could a fleet of feminine embracing engineers bring to the table?  Maybe instead of bigger and stronger weapons, and bigger and stronger humvees, they'll find a way to stretch resources whose shortages led to political tension in the first place.

Is this the right place to ponder that maybe if Lego had included pastel bricks with their primary cousins in the first place (rather than making separate and inferior pink and lavender sets so many years after the fact), that the parents of girls might have been receptive to them all along?  Was the risk really too great that boys wouldn't have been able to see past the pastels?  Maybe, now that preschool boys are secure enough in their masculinity to assemble pink bunny machine guns (I witnessed this firsthand in my child's daycare), that worry is moot.


Friday, November 9, 2012

economies of life

David Frum, CNN recently pondered the idea that you don't reduce the number of women seeking abortions by banning them, but rather making them accessible BUT improving economic conditions for unexpected moms so that they can consider that maybe they can provide a good life for their little surprises.   His discussion begins with the financial toll of carrying to term (and to college graduation) children conceived in rape.   He describes the correlation between better care and economic conditions in other nations with their low abortion rates.  Its a well argued position, and at the time I initially viewed the piece, the respondents were surprisingly well mannered in their contributions as well.

He could have continued:  Better economic conditions could also lead to better pre- and post -natal care for both planned and serendipitous children.  Such care should be associated with reduced need for sick days, so isn't a system that encourages either or both more business friendly?    Family planning and childcare are societal concerns, not just women's issues.  And policies that support work-life balance should support all workers, not just parents, and certainly not just Moms.  Requiring salaried workers to burn both ends of their candles in perpetuity can't really be good for the bottom line.  Everyone should be able to help Dad get to the doctor, pick up groceries for a recuperating neighbor, weed the community garden, contribute time to the local firehouse or ambulance crew, or just enjoy a few minutes of rare sunny Syracuse weather.  Better mental health supports better physical health--again fewer sick days.  And perhaps higher worker satisfaction and energy levels--so when you do have a legitimate emergency, they do have some reserves to draw upon.  Higher employee satisfaction leads to less turnover, lower training costs, no lost productivity while you try to fill a position and bring up to speed.  


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cowgirls vs the G-men

I don't follow football.  At all.  Nope, not even a teensy, little bit.  But even I can easily tell that this Facebook poster (ca Oct 2012) 
counting down the hrs till the game 4 the Cowgirls and the G-Men
prefers that the NY Giants win over the Dallas Cowboys in their fourth match-up this season.  I figured it out even prior to reading:
My response
Really? must you insult girls this way?
was not intended (as might be interpreted, with a hearty guffaw) to say that Dallas really is awful, a bunch of pansies or sissies  (Remember, I don't follow football, so cannot assess anything about their teamwork or prospects.)  I was questioning why being a girl (or a sissy, which many children may endearingly call older siblings, before they can fully articulate her name or the word 'sister') is an insult.  Research has shown that girls do well, even better than their male classmates, in math and science--until they realize that girls aren't 'supposed to be good at math and science.'  Girls have taken the opportunities granted by Title IX to show they can be smart, funny, strong, creative, athletic. Separately, boys can be sweet, nurturing, kind, articulate.  And every child can whine or cry -- regardless of gender (or sexual orientation).

In my college field experience (ca 1990) the biggest insults were:  take the skirt off.  got your panties in a bunch? Accusations of PMS.  These were all uttered by hulking behemoths at other men, by the way, not to the handful of women that generally slogged on with 'our big girl panties' beneath our jeans and flannel.   I ascertained, therefore, that then, just as now, that the emasculating slights implied that being a girl is demeaning, less than, inferior.   Some might say: you are taking this out of context. Its not offensive to call a girl a girl, just to do so to a manly man.  You are taking it too personally.  Pardon me--you said that its not ok to be a girl.  Man up, buddy--how can that possibly not be personal?