Reader science newbie poses a great question to me and asks for the collective wisdom of our readers:
I have been reading & loving you blog for some time now. Thanks! You rock!
Ok, I have a question….
I have interviewed for, and been given a verbal offer for my first assistant professor position. We are negotiating startup funds, salary, etc right now. Due to state budgetary constraints, I have been informed that all of my startup funds (excluding salary) will have to originate from the department’s funds, not university or state money. I have found some information that additional partial funding is available through the state’s “diversity initiative.” My area of research is exceptionally male-dominated, and I will be the only woman in the department when I accept the job. However, my gender alone is not enough of a “diversity difference” to make me eligible for the state funding help. However, if they were aware of my sexual orientation, I would more than qualify. I am not realy “out” to many people, but if asked would answer truthfully. Should I inform the hiring comittee that I’m a lesbian, since it would alleviate a fair portion of their financial challenges and potentially increase my startup funding, or should I keep my mouth closed?
Please, if you address this question in your blog, do not use my name. 🙂
My thoughts below the fold, but please weigh in if you have any ideas or experience to share!
Hi Dr. Newbie,
First, congrats on the job offer! In this economic climate, it’s a reason to celebrate and a testament to your excellence in getting this far! But, you’ve posed a really tough question and one that I don’t have much experience to draw on in trying to give you an answer. My own experience has only been that of being a mother and its been hard to hide at the interview stage, so I’ve never had to make these sorts of calculations at your stage of the game. Plus, they don’t give mothers diversity packages. 🙂
I guess it depends on your personal calculation of what you will gain versus lose if you reveal that information. I’d do that calculation for you and not think about what is good for your department. Some things to consider are: Will you really get more start-up money or will it just help the department’s finances? You’ll probably get some official good will from the chair. Are you OK with your whole department and certain university officials knowing your sexual orientation? Did you get a sense of how woman/family/LGBT friendly your colleagues are? Are you likely to come out to your colleagues in the next couple of years anyways? How will you handle departmental social events (i.e., the ones where spouses are typically invited)? Are you comfortable with being an even more important diversity role model as a lesbian woman versus just a woman in your male-dominated field?
If you are comfortable with your department knowing your sexual orientation from the get-go and there is a reasonable chance of getting more money or less restricted start-up money, then you should tell the chair. But realize that you are potentially putting yourself in a spot-light position with the administration, and they may turn to you for service related to diversity issues.
If it is mainly to ease your department’s woes or you feel trepidation at the thought of being out at work, then don’t do it. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your personal comfort and confidences just to help out the university. After all, you’ll be giving them 50+ hours per week, your intelligence, and your enthusiasm for the next several decades, they don’t deserve to have everything else if you don’t want them to.
Can I share your question and my answer on-blog? My readers usually have much more wisdom than I do.