Sciencewomen

A ton of feathers (3 of n)

Picking up where we left off a week ago…Caplan outlines 11 myths about women that she argues are pertinent to the case of women in academia. I’m going to skip over the first batch of myths, and focus on the ones specifically about women and working.

20. Full-time men work full-time, but part-time women only work part-time – and both full-time and part-time male employees work harder than females.

I think this myth encompasses the perception that if your office is occupied you are working, and if it is not you are not. Never mind that in your office you might be checking the sports scores (or blogging) just as well as working, and if you are not in your office you might be in the field or with your laptop in a coffeeshop rather than out shopping for clothes. This office occupancy business is one that has received quite a bit of attention in my department this year, with some of the senior faculty complaining that people are never around and “it’s just not the same as it used to be.” The junior faculty retort that we are busy doing research – and that some times it can be more effective, or even necessary, to work away from the office. In this case, I don’t think the issue is men vs. women, but it has made me very conscientious about showing up even on days I don’t teach and making sure to leave my office door open. In fact, today we have no classes, yet my department chair just stopped by to talk with me. I’m glad I was here and looking busy. This business of “face-time” is also one of the reasons that I take care to check my email in the evening and reply to any from colleagues/administrators before the next morning. But, at the same time, it feels kind of sick to have to do this, and I don’t think it promotes a culture of having a life outside the job.

21. Married women and mothers do less work in their place of employment than do single women.

22. Single women academics have all the time in the world and thus should carry more teaching and service responsibilities.

Based on myths 21 and 22, no woman wins. Either you are shirking your duties, or you are pack mule, so keep loading it on. But what’s worse is that these myths make assumptions about women based on their marital (or motherhood) status, *on top* of all the other mistaken assumptions that we have to deal with. And these are myths that women may have about each other. (I’ll admit, sometimes I’m insanely jealous of single women academics and their lesser time constraints, but then again, I don’t think they should carry a heavier workload because of it.)

Obviously, I am no where near done with the book in the promised 3 posts. Hell, I’m not even done with the myths. But I have made a committment to myself to see this book-blogging-business through, and I’m going to keep posting bits and pieces as I have time. I’ve renewed the book from the library, so it’s mine for another few months. I’m only sad that there is a waiting list for the book here at Mystery U.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott Belyea
    March 21, 2008

    and both full-time and part-time male employees work harder than females.

    Very poor wording. “Working hard” is (or at least should be) irrelevant. What matters is what you get done … what you accomplish.

    I take care to check my email in the evening and reply to any from colleagues/administrators before the next morning. But, at the same time, it feels kind of sick to have to do this, and I don’t think it promotes a culture of having a life outside the job.

    I’d be harsher than that – it can be the slippery slope to hell. Before you know it, working an occasional evening to get caught up isn’t seen as commendable; it becomes expected.

    The next step is people getting annoyed when don’t reply by Sunday at the latest to mail sent on the weekend. Then people expect you to check mail/phone messages during vacation.

    In my experience, once you start sliding partway down the slope, it becomes increasingly difficult to claw your way back up again. My experience is in the business world, not academia, but your comments certainly sound familiar.

    One general comment, which I make with some trepidation – in my view, there some truth to the supposition/observation/prejudice that women are often harder on other women than men are. I recall discussing this over a beer a few times with fellow workers (both female and male). Most of us agreed on this, but there was nothing close to consensus on why this might be.

  2. #2 Scott Belyea
    March 21, 2008

    One further point that I forgot –

    20. Full-time men work full-time, but part-time women only work part-time – and both full-time and part-time male employees work harder than females.

    I understand that this is worded as a myth, but I wonder how it was investigated – working harder or accomplishing more? The two are often badly muddled.

  3. #3 ecogeofemme
    March 21, 2008

    The grass is always greener — some women are probably jealous of you for having a kid. :)

    The technology we have now is definitely a mixed blessing. While it’s great to be able to work at home and communicate so easily, it sucks to have to be accessible all the time.

  4. #4 Mad Hatter
    March 21, 2008

    I find the myths about married versus single women to be very interesting. Being married, I worry about discrimination based on the perception that I’m less serious about my career and less hardworking than single women because of my personal life commitments and obligations. But a female scientist I know who is single says she worries about discrimination based on the perception that she’s less talented and successful than women who have demonstrated the ability to juggle both a career and a family life. So I really think you’re right that no woman wins.

  5. #5 Propter Doc
    March 23, 2008

    I don’t think men do particularly well in that system either. It is implied that they must be monomaniacal in pursuit of their careers, working all hours and the like. A young male academic approaches this system with just as much trepidation as you. They are just as likely to be overwhelmed with work as both of you, meet as high expectations from peers and superiors and struggle as much. The academic system doesn’t suck because you’re female w/wo children or w/wo husbands, it sucks because it is a flawed system based on a historical precedent that only the most obsessed and committed researchers became academics. Net result is everyone that has entered the system in the last 15 years suffers. Caplan’s book is outdated at best, misandristic at worse.

  6. #6 Mike
    March 24, 2008

    Some of the things you talk about are generational as opposed to gender based. As a new, young, male assistant professor, I was told that it was important that I get to work before most of the tenured professors so that they would see my vehicle in the parking lot and that I keep my door ajar so that when they walked by they would see that I was at least here.