Yesterday I wrote a rather lengthy post about a women’s faculty group that I have started at my institution. While I strongly believe that this is a very important support and mentoring group to have in place for mentoring, retaining, and promoting women faculty, who as a minority have some unique issues in academia, I have come to realize that having such groups may be more controversial than you might at first imagine. After all, in my observations and conversations with various faculty- here on the blog and in real life- it seems like organized junior faculty mentoring in general is: A. very passive, and B. pretty pathetic across the board (I’m protected from this in my department through some active efforts, thankfully). And hey- in general- men in academia might benefit from some mentoring as well- so, why should women faculty be singled out for special treatment???
I realize that I am throwing something of a bomb by talking about this, but if people are whispering it up then I think it is time to deal with it straight up. You should know that in real life several people have come up to me and mentioned that the exclusion of junior faculty men, and men in general, from such mentoring groups is unfair. When the announcement was made that I had taken the initiative to start such a group, a male faculty members first words to me in front of a larger group were ‘Can we have a men’s faculty lunch as well???” To my description of support by the Dean for my efforts at starting a women’s faculty group, commenter Whimple wrote…
Must be nice. I hope your Dean is as supportive of the younger academic career men with 2 kids … pre-tenure.
Whimple- I love ya- and thanks for voicing this so I get to talk about it on this blog. These thoughts and resentments are out there, sweeping them under the rug is not going to help things.
But here is how it is…. and there is gonna be some ass-kicking. Men have been the majority party in science… well, since the beginning of science. It is tough for me to imagine men in science needing a support group because they might feel isolated- no actually, that’s just absurd. If you guys can’t walk next door and talk to each other about your issues- I say that’s your own fault- get your booty out of the chair and make it happen. Otherwise you have only yourself to blame for not getting what you need when there is an endless supply of people to ask for help. Many of us women don’t have a female science next door neighbor, or even another female TT department-mate, who might understand our unique issues and teach us how to function effectively in a male-dominated environment. If we did, having a group where we could get the support and mentoring we need from people with like experiences to help us climb the academic ladder successfully, wouldn’t be such a pressing issue. What’s my point? Feeling isolated is a terrible thing- but you have to take an active role to find mentoring (regardless of your gender)- it is my opinion that this is easier for the majority to find mentors within it’s ranks than it is for a minority that is small in numbers and is physically isolated from one another.
Secondly- about the junior faculty- I quite agree, but this is a different issue than the leaky pipeline for women in academia. There SHOULD be great active junior faculty mentoring with a formalized structure at every institution that puts out huge startup $$ to recruit and groom up junior faculty. If part of how you want to get there involves junior faculty meetings- I’m all for that, 100%. But, to all you people who think junior faculty mentoring is a good idea- DO NOT sit around on your backsides and just talk the talk. I am sick to death of people talking like they want a real solution, complaining that other people take the initiative to improve their own situation- and then doing absolutely nothing but complaining about their own. If you want inclusive, creative, improved junior faculty mentoring- then by all means- GO TO YOUR DEAN AND ASK FOR WHATEVER YOU NEED TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. This is NOT a zero sum game, where the mentoring of women faculty is competed off against the needs of all junior faculty regardless of gender- and making it so is, well- just silly.
And, just so you know. The momentum of the women’s faculty group getting started prompted a junior faculty member (a woman FYI), to go to the dean and ask for support for a junior faculty mentoring meeting to meet on a regular basis as well. I can promise you that no one is more pleased about that than me.