Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Story

A female Ph.d. I know held a research post in a respected company – a position that was arguably comparable to a faculty position. She had good writing and management skills in addition to research skills.

Slowly she started getting all the writing tasks - proposals, marketing reports, and what not. To cut a long story short, when she objected she was fired (well not exactly fired, but told put up or get out). Her self-esteem thoroughly thrashed, she ended up in a position where all she does is writing and a smattering of management. This is where I met her. I found the whole thing quite puzzling.

How is it that men don’t end up like this, or do they?

I’d like to put forth a view point here. Men carefully screw up tasks they don’t like. Carefully of course, because it is a risk – a risk they are willing to take – to ensure career success. Writing tasks are minimally acceptable. Accents get thicker when doing tedious tasks. On top of that male supervisors, feeling a sort of kinship, aren't too surprised. Female supervisors might find it more annoying, but in the end brush it off as men aren't the best communicators anyway. So any risk is mitigated to an extent. This is a more risky tactic for women.

What's the thinking on this?


The Mad Chemist said...

I think it is a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don't. There is often a double standard applied to women in the workplace.

If you speak up for yourself/are not a pushover/aggressive, well, then you are a bit$h. If a man is the same way, he is considered strong.

I have seen the same behavior as you describe--lived it in fact. If a woman pulled that, she is seen as difficult. There are no easy answers in such situations.

One can certainly document those things but then what? If one works in a career where everyone seems to know everyone else, it is detrimental to one's career to sue for wrongful termination.

Anonymous said...


Silas said...

Men carefully screw up tasks they don’t like. Carefully of course, because it is a risk – a risk they are willing to take – to ensure career success...What's the thinking on this?

I'd gently suggest that this line of discussion is more than adequately dealt with on other blogs.

Mad Hatter said...

I second Silas' opinion. This is a blog about alternative careers in science, and while this is an interesting issue, I think it is off-topic for this blog and more suitable for posting in other forums or on your personal blog.

Science Cog said...

Okay, no problem. I thought it would be appropriate because this blog is on alternative positions and more women have these alternative positions than men.

Many alternative scientists tend to do work "supportive" of research, instead of actual research.

Think about it folks - how do you end up in a temporary alternative position when you are fully qualified and capable of a tenure-track position or research position in industry? Could this be one (of many) reasons?

Anyway, useful to get this feed-back anonymously ;) Will tailor accordingly.

science cog said...

BTW, hope this post & my comment does not come across as putting down alternative positions.

I was an alternative scientist this past year and spent a good deal of time thinking about these things. I'm just checking for reactions - which of my observations resonate and such. Even the "crap" comment is appreciated.