From Non-TT to TT In This Academic Job Market??!!

A reader of the blog recently wrote me the following question:

I noticed in your bio you list your past experience as including a stint as a non-TT faculty member, and I was hoping you could detail a bit more about what that position entailed (rights and responsibilities, degree of independence) and offer some advice on how to make the transition from that to TT.

So, I’ll oblige.

Indeed, my first faculty position was a non-tenure track position. In my case this was a faculty position in title only (i.e. I was not was not yet independent), and was awarded to me basically so that I could submit my own grants. I had no service responsibilities, neither did I have any rights. In my institution truly ‘independent’ non-TT positions (where you are not reliant on another PI for space, salary etc) are incredibly rare. More usually- those on the non-TT faculty track remain employed in their postdoc lab… and are simply elevated to grant submission status. Continue reading

Dr. Ben Barres Presentation at Harvard…

A colleague sent me a link to (the webcast can be found if you scroll down to 3/17 to find the presentation/ you need realplayer to view this) this presentation given at Harvard last month by Ben Barres, a professor at Stanford University who is transgender and underwent a sex change from female to male 14 years ago. He has lived and worked first as a female scientist, and also as a male scientist. Following the irresponsible remarks of Harvard President Lawrence Summers in 2006 that there may be less women in science because women are innately less good at science, and Dr. Barres wrote a commentary in the journal Nature (‘Does Gender Matter?’), while the scientific establishment sat quietly on its hands. Dr. Barres has continued to work to open the eyes of the establishment to the depth of gender bias against women in science and propose innovative ways to counter discriminatory practices against women.

Last week there was a rather lengthy discussion over at Drug Monkey about biases against women in science, and about being ‘that guy’ who stands up and actually does something about this. Dr. Barres is ‘that guy’, I hope that the scientific establishment will be forced honestly look at the data- and make some serious adjustments- this can’t happen fast enough. But Dr. Barres also has a message for us women scientists too- we need to ASK for what we want and keep asking (child care support for example), we need to organize if necessary (and it is necessary), and we need to educate and enlist the help of our male colleagues in changing the culture of science. We need to provide the best example to our students, mentor and encourage to build self-confidence of our young scientists- this is especially important for young women. Doing this takes active effort- it doesn’t just ‘happen’ because we wish it to be so…

Negotiating a Tenure Track Job Offer

I realize I’m getting out of order with the subjects… since I haven’t even covered the interview yet… but oh well- #$%! happens. I found this excellent post today (with lots of great comments) about this topic over at Drug Monkey. I left a rather lengthy comment-which I will reprint here- just so I don’t have to write it out again in some future post.

From #3 comment Juniorprof said:

this brings me to the practical advice. How do you know what is “reasonable” for salary. Well, first of all, those salary surveys put out by national organizations are next to useless because the categories are so broad. What you should do is start snooping the public Universities similar to where you are seeking a job. Oftimes the salary scales are public info and posted on websites (with some digging).

To which I answer:

As for negotiating salary (specifically in reference to comment #3), you should negotiate salary, but juniorprof- you are quite right about being reasonable and doing your homework. The most compelling reason for this is that there is VAST variability in starting salaries between individuals in the same institution (and even within departments)- so there is very little fairness in the process- those that ask for more usually get more- its as simple as that- but you won’t get a higher salary if you don’t ask for one. Even a small difference in starting salary can make a huge difference in $$ over a lifetime of work- because EVERY raise that you will get is a percentage of your salary…this adds up over a career to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.. And I know- I do science because I love it- not because its a high paying job, but nevertheless- I have student loans myself and two kids I would like to send to college someday… so this all really matters.

Just a note, for public institutions the operating budget is public record, and in some institutions can be had as easily as walking into the library and asking for it. These operating budgets are quite detailed and list the salaries for each individual in the department- and you can go back and figure out what year they were hired, and what their training is -so how well you match up with a particular individual… or you can just look at the last several hires made in a department then figure out based on your training where you fit into these.

Comment #20 Neurowoman said:

‘Can anybody offer any commentary on how negotiating for a spousal accommodation might fit in? I would expect that another reason women’s salaries and startups tend to be lower is that they more often are trying to swing a second appointment, and thus have limited leverage on $$ issues..’

To which I answer:

In reference to comment #20 – about spousal accommodations- this is SO tricky. You should not mention your spouse in your application (even if that person will need an academic appointment)- get your foot in the door first. You should mention your spouse who needs an academic appointment at some time during the first interview, AFTER you have gotten a feeling for the department, and perhaps during a private meeting with the chair- the chair is not allowed (nor is anyone in the department) to ask you about this- but once you mention your spouse- questions by the faculty are fair game. It’s my experience that both the department and the candidate know when the interview is going really well-and because spousal faculty appointments are complicated take TIME to set up, you should give the department as much warning as you can (after they have fallen in love with you, of course). If the department is serious about hiring you, and they know about your spouse in the first interview (and what kind of academic job must be forthcoming)- the second interview is the time that your spouse should be visiting the appropriate departments on campus and giving talks… Some institutions have special monies set aside for spousal hiring- especially those institutions that are actively trying to recruit women – so you need to find out about those kinds of things.

There are probably a lot of reasons for why women’s salary and startups are lower- starting with the fact that women tend to take what is offered, instead of starting a negotiation, the types of institutions women tend to find themselves in etc. I wish I had a good idea how spousal hiring plays into how startup $$ get distributed, but its part of such a complicated equation that its hard to ferret this out…