Friday, July 25, 2008


When I took this position, I was concerned about how I would be viewed in the eyes of my peers. Would they ask for my opinion on things, would they ask me to be on committees, etc?

Apparently, that is not a problem. I'm not sure if it is the whole "we need a female on this committee and you are the only one" issue or if they actually want my opinion, but I have barely stepped foot in the department (let alone on campus as a whole), and I've been asked to be on far too many committees. Even non-department committees - like faculty board committees - where they have a much larger pool of female profs to pull from.

I'm not sure if my fellow faculty members quite realize what they are getting into. I'm not exactly the demure female that my stature would imply.

To point: I gave a talk last winter, and a member of the audience actually came up to me afterwards and said something like "I saw you take the podium and I almost left the room because I assumed that your talk was going to be inaudible and monotone. (Here he mumbled something about how this was because I was small and female and requested to be miked.) However, you genuinely surprised me with the enthusiasm you projected about your research. I really enjoyed your talk."

At the time, I wasn't sure how to take this - it was both an insult and a compliment. But, at least, in the end I changed his opinion about me, and maybe next time he won't be so fast to judge (not likely, but maybe). And I always request to be miked in large rooms (200+ people). It is just safer and that way I don't need to worry if my voice is reaching the back of the room. To be judged because I care that my audience can hear me seems a little bizarre. But whatever.

In any case, getting back to the point, I think I'm going to have to start turning down committees pretty soon. I'm not sure what the tenure service requirement is, but I'm pretty sure I've hit it. I heard that a 40/40/20 balance was suggested (or something similar) where it was research/teaching/service. I thought this was interesting as it puts teaching and research equal with each other. I heard another story where it was 50/40/10, which I might believe more. Another version was 50/35/15.

I think the more important thing about these ratios is that the teaching/service portion was never less than 50% of the total sum. As has been brought up many times, teaching is becoming more important. Not that research isn't important, but teaching is also important. Which then begs the question - what about service? Where does that factor in? And how is one to balance all of these? Time isn't limitless. (And I'm not even going to get into how one is supposed to fit in a family while achieving these metrics).

I would like to spend more time on service - not committees. But things like outreach: going to middle schools and high schools. There was a report in Science about how even though ~48% math majors are women, only ~10% of engineering majors are women. I'm in that category, and I really think my time could be better spent on outreach than on a committee deciding if the undergraduate curriculum should include 2 semesters of PE or 3.

No comments: