I got an email from a reader a few days ago posing a doozy of a problem: she’s heading to an interview this week at an institution, and part of her interview involves having “beer with the guys”.
With her permission, I share with you an edited version of her email:
I am a job candidate for a tenure track position in my field interviewing at a university in the south in 2 weeks. These are huntin’ fishin’ PhD folks (of course 95% white dude phenotype). There’s 2 women of around 30 faculty in the department (grad students are 50% female). I have some colleagues (three relatively new white male hires) in another department at the university and we would definitely work together – we run in the same circles. And considering what I specialize in, the location and being a land-grant sea-grant university are great for what I am looking for, on paper.
These hiring geniuses scheduled a reception to (and I quote) “have a few beers, shoot the breeze, throw a few back” in the tailgate area behind the building that houses the department. Of course, it’s weather permitting (and I’ll be praying to the rain goddess like a crazed lunatic).
I don’t know if I want the job… that’s what I’ll be there to determine. But there’s no way I am comfortable “throwing a few back” for a job interview. First, I don’t drink. I come from alcoholic family – I don’t touch the stuff. So if I throw a few back, this will mean “throwing back” in the bushes or dumping them out behind cars. I will also be giving the women who show up the impression that drinking must be done to fit in the boys’ club. Drinking might make me “cool” to the guys, but it certainly doesn’t convey competence and authority, which men seem to have trouble seeing in women anyway. If I say “no thanks” for every of the umpteen times I get asked if I want a beer, they will see me as “hoity toity” and not “one of the guys”…. well, no crap, I’m not a guy.
I have been in this position before and scampered away a very wounded woman. So, I’m asking for some solutions to some of what I am anticipating. I’m not naive anymore – I already know how to handle the “are you married/have kids?” question that everyone still asks. This is my 3rd year going on the market – I turned previous lousy offers down.
I can definitely control most things in the confines of the seminar and lecture, during the meetings, and walking around…. but it’s the “lettin’ it all hang out + alcohol” entertainment stuff that just blows my mind for an INTERVIEW. I’m not the “hang with the dudes, drink a few” good-time guy or gal. So how do I manage this event to avoid the most damage and keep some semblance of professionalism and friendliness? I want to leave a good impression for the women, for myself, and learn from this without having scars to show for it.
Any advice for this specific interview situation is GREATLY appreciated. And I’m curious to know if any other sciencewomen have been through “Beer Adventures in Interviewing” before and walked away un-defeated and not drunk. Thank you in advance.
All the best,
Geez, Are, it sounds like you’ve got quite a pickle. I do think you’re stuck going at the very least, as the interview is next week. My first idea was to get a beer and hold on to it, and not drink it or anything. If people keep offering you beers, you’ve already got one, thanks. Or you could get one, put it down somewhere, and then when you’re asked again, say vaguely, “Oh, no thanks, I have one somewhere, just have to go find it.” I’d also ask some info questions, like “do you have these gatherings often in your department? Does everyone come?” to help you judge whether you want to continue to pursue this job.
I know, this sounds like lame advice even to me.
How about the rest of you, what do you recommend for Are? And do you have any survival stories you can share with her to send her well on her way for her interview? Are, will you give us an update after the interview?