It Doesn't Hurt a Bit to Be "That Guy"

Apr 08 2008 Published by under Diversity in Science, Tribe of Science

The irrepressible PhysioProf had a recent post pointing out, among other things, that women had motivation to blog pseudonymously in part because of a certain species of stalker-commenter. In the discussion I arrived back at a more traditional topic for women in science careers:

when Abel says:

I have learned so much from people like FSP, MsPhD, Zuska, et al., that we have a long way to go in rehabilitating or eliminating fascist, racist, sexist men.

and Dr. Jekyll says:

Bravo for standing up for women,

I'm starting to get a little WTF myself. Is it really so rare for men to vocally stand up for women? rare for them to ask "wtf? where are the women on this symposium slate? why aren't we interviewing any women?". really so rare for them to say "um, colleague-dude, that comment really wasn't cool."
is it really so rare?

Many women chimed in with "yes" in the comments, for the most part kindly leaving unspoken "you irredeemable doofus! although one did question my terrestrial attachment. Dr. Jekyll and/or Mrs. Hyde went so far as to take in up in a post.

I work with pretty good guys (most of them, in this lab, are guys). Nonetheless, things I have heard lately:
* Referring to a grad student, "She's a real ball-buster."
* Referring to a grad student who got drunk at a party and ended up making out with another grad student, "She was gagging for it."
* To a female rotation student, "You just don't seem to have an affinity for This Lab's Biological Technique." (not, say, "You need more experience with Technique.")
* Referring to his girlfriend in NeighborLab, and to me, who was irritated about his lack of helpfulness regarding a problem, "All the women in my life seem really tired right now."
* After making a salacious comment to several men, and then suddenly realizing I was present, "Oh sorry Dr Jekyll, I didn't know you were standing there."

I'm going to slightly force the link here to the level of more professonal interactions, stay with me because the principles are similar. The observation that women are underrepresented in peer-selected "pools" comes up frequently in discussions of the prospects and status of women in science. Overlooked for invited seminar slots. Left off the list for convened meeting symposia. Ignored for Advisory Boards.
The answers to the question that I raised at PhysioProf's blog bring me to today's thought.

Guys? It is Perfectly OK to Be "That Guy"!!!

"That Guy" is the one who always says "Hey, how come we don't have any women on this seminar list? Can we do a little better? What about Professor Smith, she's got some really interesting stuff". I have a colleague who has a reputation for this sort of thing (I try to emulate him to the degree that I can manage it) which makes him "that guy". The one where after awhile the GrayBearded types kinda roll their eyes in his direction, or even make the pre-emptive comments anticipating his observation. One important point is that this is all done relatively non-confrontationally. The eye-rolling is usually in fairly good humor. Talking with this colleague, he fully admits that he is far less than "successful" in the sense of always having an impact, of getting the seminar slate up to 50% or something like that. What I note is that there is some impact. Three more names considered and one more woman selected. Glass-half-full stuff.
Still, it is important that we men do this sort of thing as often as we can.
First, it provides needed cover to our female colleagues. Let's face it, for the same degree of making this sort of comment into a "reputation", the man is going to be viewed in relatively good humor, the woman is going to be "that feminist", "agenda driven" or worse. Women know this and have to stress over whether they should just sit there and take it (yet again) or speak up. You (men) speaking up makes one less time your female colleague has to do it. It spreads the reputation around a little bit.
Second, there is just seems to be an innate set that we humans have that discounts self-advocacy. It just ends up more convincing when men are fighting for women's rights, whites for minority's rights, hetero for LGBT rights, etc. So there is that little extra bonus that you might actually be more effective at changing the minds of the OldGuard than would be someone who is a member of the suspect class, so to speak.
Third, strength in numbers. It is important to create an overt impression that you are on-board with diversity stuff. Even when you do have "that feminist type" speaking up, go ahead and chime in with "Yeah, how come we're light on women in this proposed panel?".
One final note, motivated by Dr. Jekyll's comment about overhearing "she's a real ball-buster". Generalizing to the "too aggressive" critique leveled at your female colleague who is trying to make it in this career, there is an approach to take. Even if you happen to agree that Dr. FemaleColleague does behave a little aggressively and non-collegially. (Yes, my XX readers, it sometimes is the case that that jerk colleague is a woman). You can acknowledge that even if she is less-than-pleasant, you "can certainly understand the discriminatory factors affecting women in science that made her have to act this way to get the resources she needed". What could it possibly cost you to make that observation?

39 responses so far

  • PhysioProf says:

    It's more than "OK" to be that guy. It is ethically demanded that those of us who have benefited in myriad ways from unearned privilege do what we can to try to level the playing field.
    BTW, PhysioProf has been called many things, but "irrepressible" is definitely a new one! Is that some kind of euphemism for "hyperkinetic demented fucking wackaloon"?

  • PhysioProf says:

    And just to be clear, a corollary to this ethical demand is that men do this even if it does entail them some personal or professional cost. Sometimes doing the right thing ain't free or painless.

  • Anon says:

    It should be noted that one thing that prevents men from being "that guy" is simple pluralistic ignorance; that is, there may be several potential "that guys"s at a meeting, each thinking he is the only one, and the departmental silverbacks are actually a vocal and established minority. The only way to find this out, though, is to speak up and be that guy.

  • TreeFish says:

    I trained a few female undergrads and grads, and they blossomed into ass-kickin' scientists that don't take no smack. I fancy myself as a subscriber to the 'coach' model of mentoring (without the whistle and polyester stretchy shorts). One trainee came into lab loving the techniques and ideas, but thinking that animal work was, as described by the one who referred her to me, "icky and gross."
    What did TreeFish do? I poked fun at myself, openly admitting that it IS icky and gross, but that it's necessary for our techniques. I helped her with the "icky and gross" stuff, told her that she'd eventually need to get over it enough to train someone else to do the gross parts in her own lab, and now she has a paper under review at C/N/S! The fact of the matter is that she openly admitted feeling green during a lot of the process, and had to leave during it in the beginning...but I figgered why not embrace that opinion, make fun of it, mollify it's untoward effects on one's viscera, and then help her get over it? I do the same thing regardless of the person is XX or XY, but the stomach-churning take on the technique seems a bit more prevalent in the XX trainees.
    One thing I've always found difficult is advertising to the female trainees the opportunities that exist for funding/support for women. I tell them that it's a hard job for anyone, let alone a female who might carry a baby someday. I also tell them that there are a lot of ass-kickin' female scientists out there, who have children and spouses, and that there is NOTHING wrong with wanting (or not wanting) to have a personal life. Finally, I tell them that a lot of women scientists (and enlightended supportive male ones) have colluded to increase support for women scientists, like Women in Engineering, Women in Physics, and Women in Neuroscience. There is nothing wrong with accepting an award that is designed to support women. I also tell them that the most important job in the world is being a parent; and that they should embrace it if they so desire. I stress, however, that they can balance a career and parenthood; and that they can do anything they damn-well please if they just put their mind/soul into it.
    The hard part for TreeFish is to advertise those opportunities without sounding like they are some subsidy that is somehow below a truly genderless mechanism of support. I try to tell myself, "TreeFish, who gives a shit?!" But it's hard to discuss these opportunities, the difficulty of being a pregnant grad student/postdoc/Asst Prof with them openly, and not come off as some kind of misogynistic hairy bastard. I try, but there is always that look in their eyes that seems like some of the words are cutting like daggers. Perhaps my delivery is too over the top; or perhaps it would just be easier hearing those words from a woman who's been through it/done it. Perhaps it's my coffee/cigarette breath...or the fact that I spit when I talk...or my drunken sailor's mouth. I dunno.
    Perhaps it's endemic, a product of the don't ask/don't tell policy on life outside of lab (e.g., monomania). I hate talking turkey about kids and spouses and mortgages and linked-hires with any trainee, but I think it's important to discuss life AND science with a trainee. It seems a bit easier to discuss this stuff with the male trainees, if only because I'm XY.
    Hell's bells, I like to think I'm as much of a fanatical meritocrat anyone out there. And at the same time, I think it's important to direct trainees to the support for people in their situation, regardless of whether it's minority fellowships, mother-with-child support (like Harvard's post doc awards), or whatever.
    Now, I'm more confused...

  • anonymous says:

    I worked in a lab where I was the only male. I don't even want to recount the stories I had to listen to (and the way they talked about men, students, husbands, new rotating students etc.) I guess all I can say is that they did the same thing as the males seem to do in mostly male situations.

  • Schlupp says:

    anonymous, and that tells us what?

  • Cherish says:

    Woot!
    It's such a huge relief to work with people who are willing to stick up for you. It doesn't happen very often, but the effect is great when it does. Very often, in my experience, it takes the form of "that guy" merely being able to second something you've said...but the shift in perception of the other people around you is quite noticeable. (I also have to admit that it's frustrating when people don't take *your* word for it and instead need the validation of another guy...but in the long run, the more validation one gets, the easier it will be to take the person's word for it without the validation.)

  • anonymous says:

    anonymous, and that tells us what?

    it tells us that most of these stories about "that guy" can be equally applies to "that gal"

  • drdrA says:

    First in response to #8 above- the stories about 'that guy' can not be EQUALLY applied to 'that gal'.. until women are not an overall, overwhelming minority in science. You can make an example of ANY anecdote of people behaving badly, but that doesn't negate the fact that the advancement of women in science has been and continues to be painfully slow due to an ingrained culture and discrimination on many levels.
    Second, I've been watching this post/comments and thinking about how to respond. This post crosses many issues including women as a minority, overt and unconscious discrimination, and work life balance, and the broken pipeline. As women scientists we work in an environment dominated by men, and men with seniority to us (generally)- and that has it's own culture. We are on the margin from the word go, at every level that involves authority.
    Yes, of course there is the overt discrimination in terms of not being invited to meetings or not being on committees etc- which can be fixed and I think has improved a lot since I was a graduate student. I am concerned though about subtle, unconscious biases that men have toward women- and how women should behave and how we are treated on a day to day basis (and for that matter women have their own biases and unconscious models of how women should behave)- these little disadvantages add up big time over the course of a career. (For insight I have been reading 'Why So Slow?' by Virginia Valian, which I recommend to anyone who is interested in this issue, there were so many situations in just the first chapter that I could identify with it was scary).
    I just have the sense that we won't have an honest conversation about the advancement of women in science until we can really address both- the overt discrimination and the hidden biases about gender that we all have picked up since childhood.

  • anonymous says:

    sorry drdrA, but in my area, the women out number the men in general, and I currently teach at one of those schools where women outnumber men 2:1 (faculty and students)
    I too am concerned by the subtle (and not so subtle) discrimination against women, but many of these type of complaints don't cut the mustard because I have seen that it is a pretty busy two way street (except for the technique one, although I have heard this applied quite often to men when given an excuse for why they shouldn't join a lab)

    I work with pretty good guys (most of them, in this lab, are guys). Nonetheless, things I have heard lately:
    * Referring to a grad student, "She's a real ball-buster."
    * Referring to a grad student who got drunk at a party and ended up making out with another grad student, "She was gagging for it."
    * To a female rotation student, "You just don't seem to have an affinity for This Lab's Biological Technique." (not, say, "You need more experience with Technique.")
    * Referring to his girlfriend in NeighborLab, and to me, who was irritated about his lack of helpfulness regarding a problem, "All the women in my life seem really tired right now."
    * After making a salacious comment to several men, and then suddenly realizing I was present, "Oh sorry Dr Jekyll, I didn't know you were standing there."

  • whimple says:

    I'm going to disagree with the general idea that it is correct to "stand up for" women. I think it's patronizing. If women are being disadvantaged in science, I don't see it. We have more women than men admitted to our grad school. We interview at least as many women as men for faculty positions. Our faculty is reasonably balanced with regard to gender, especially regarding newer faculty. I don't notice that I grade coursework, or review papers, or score grants, or opine about seminars given by women (or anybody else) other than on the basis of the content of the work. If some other people elsewhere (either geographically or temporally) are/have disadvantaged women, that's bad and should be corrected, however, it's not my role to have different standards for women to try to make up for these perceived injustices elsewhere.
    I advocate local fairness. I'm against local preferential treatment to "make up for" global injustice, no matter how well-intentioned it might be.

  • drdrA says:

    Ok Anonymous- I would be interested in knowing the actual #s of senior faculty that are women in your area, not just in your institution but nationwide. Would you mind telling me what area you are in (its ok if you don't want to divulge this information, I completely understand).

  • anonymous says:

    drdra, yes I need to admit if you focus on SENIOR faculty in my area, the discrepancy is there, hopefully the pipeline isn't too leaky. I have focused more on who were my colleagues along the path, and who are my students. i agree tremendously that there is much to be improved in male behavior (there is an interesting paper by Peter Lawrence on this), esp. in regards as to what gets rewarded (grants, hiring, promotion etc). this impacts not only individuals but limits differential approaches to problems.

  • acmegirl says:

    DM-
    Oh, yes! Awesome post!
    anonymous-
    I'm sorry, but experiencing a 2:1 ratio in your particular department does not "cut the mustard" for you to pass judgement on anyone else's experiences. I know women who were the only female in a graduating class of 80, and never had a female professor in their entire education. Stop whining about the fact that women are just as capable of being assholes as men, as if that's some kind of big surprise. The whole point is that it's not enough to be "concerned by the subtle (and not so subtle) discrimination against women", rise to the challenge to DO something about it.

  • drdrA says:

    Anonymous- I don't know about your field, but in my field the pipeline isn't leaky- it's got a hole the size of the state of Alaska between the postdoc and first academic position, that increases in size as you move up the ranks. If equal ##s of women are entering at the bottom and not making it in equal ## to the top, we have to ask ourselves why that is. I obviously have a lot of ideas... too lengthy to display here.
    And Whimple- sorry but I prefer to see it less in terms of 'standing up for' women or advocating preferential treatment... and more in terms of leveling a playing field which has long been tilted in one direction- and still in the ranks of advancement of women to senior faculty.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    whimple and anonymous,
    I get the feeling that you are each falling into the trap of arguing from a limited anecdote (one lab or one very narrowly defined subfield). It is really very hard to argue with the overall statistics. It is very hard to argue with the near-universal perspective of women in science that their gender has made things difficult at one time or another.
    you might want to start by reading this book (free to read page by page online):
    http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11275.html
    whimple, you in particular need to be taken to the woodshed on this one. I do it for your own good. It hurts me more than it hurts you. etc.
    I'm going to disagree with the general idea that it is correct to "stand up for" women. I think it's patronizing.
    What is patronizing is assuming that your opinion, half-baked or otherwise, is a substitute for the average experience of women in science. I will note that the comment exchange on PP's blog that I referenced at the top did not feature a lot of comments to the effect of "well why should men speak up, we find it patronizing!".
    If women are being disadvantaged in science, I don't see it.
    Part of the problem is that even otherwise-well-intentioned members of the establishment have a certain blindness, simply out of ignorance. Oftimes however this is a "convenient" blindness, i.e., it is convenient to their own career prospects and goals to believe certain things. Such as "science is an unbiased meritocracy and so therefore those who are 'in' deserve it and those who are 'out' must be unworthy". Ignorance or personal-interest-bias are not a very high-minded positions from which to argue.
    We have more women than men admitted to our grad school. We interview at least as many women as men for faculty positions.
    Great. So what? How about all up through the tenure and administrative ranks at your insitution? How about seniority levels and grant funding within your fields?
    Our faculty is reasonably balanced with regard to gender, especially regarding newer faculty.
    What is "reasonably" and how do you know the tenure bottleneck isn't going to maintain the imbalance of the tenured faculty forever?
    I don't notice that I grade coursework, or review papers, or score grants, or opine about seminars given by women (or anybody else) other than on the basis of the content of the work.
    Good for you. Subject to the usual caveats that we are not really all that insightful about our own sources of covert bias. But you know that...
    If some other people elsewhere (either geographically or temporally) are/have disadvantaged women, that's bad and should be corrected, however, it's not my role to have different standards for women to try to make up for these perceived injustices elsewhere.
    Yes, it is your role. Sometimes, my friends, you have to do the right thing just because it is the right thing. And the purpose of these exercises is not to "make up for" injustices elsewhere. It is to work to prevent such injustices from happening everywhere.
    Look, you either agree with the goal of equality and diversity and access in science or you do not. Assuming one does agree with this (we have two apparently unreconstructed trilobites in the house so I'm trying to be inclusive here- we love you guys just like wacky Uncle Joe at Thanksgiving, I swear!) premise then one should kick into scientist mode. What do the data suggest? What hypotheses might we advance? How can we test those? How do we assess whether it is working?
    I shouldn't have to re-state, but I will. Our personal anecdotes (particularly if we are white males hooked up on the gravy train*) are not as good as the available data!
    I advocate local fairness. I'm against local preferential treatment to "make up for" global injustice, no matter how well-intentioned it might be.
    And here I'm asking you whimple. Why? Why? What on earth is the cost in saying "Gee, here's a couple of women professors that you may not have thought of that would give really good seminars of interest to our whole department"? Why would this be "preferential" treatment? Any more than the fact that the GrayBeard who overlooks women to invite "preferentially" treats men?
    *regarding the white male gravy train. I think what pisses off white males who are on the gravy train (You might search the Galactic Interactions site for Rob's big ol' fight with Zuska on the nature of white male privilege) is that fact that this career is hard and fraught with uncertainty and stress for everyone. I get this. Really, I do. So the white male hetero scientist is immediately insulted because "Dude, nobody handed me my grant or job on a silver platter, I earned it, waaah!" Cry. Me. A. River. Said white male hetero scientist still has it easier than if said scientist were female, black and/or gay.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I realized my comment about Galactic Interactions was a bit cryptic for those readers recently arrived at the Borg, if any. Start here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/interactions/2007/06/if_you_arent_a_part_of_the_wit.php#more
    and with the comments here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2007/06/i_support_gender_equity_in_pri_1.php#comments

  • I'm glad you and PP are blogging here, DM.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I'm glad you and PP are blogging here, DM.
    Hey, so am I!!!
    I have to say that something Peter Sagal wrote on his blog is applicable here:

    Third, many of you approvingly called me a

  • "Is it really so rare?"
    It's a fair question. I can think of several instances when male colleagues have acted, rather than spoke, their support. E.g., I'm mini-chair at an upcoming mini-conference....because the guy in charge specifically asked me to do it (and then took the time to reassure me that I could do it when I initially squawked about not being sufficiently well versed in the conference topic). And he asked another woman to be a stand-in in case I couldn't do it. The pool of people he was picking from was 2:1 M:F, so it wouldn't have been surprising if he'd tapped two men. I've never heard him *speak* about the issues confronting women, though--he just acted. Which is at least as good, and probably better. So for you shy men out there, feel free to "just" recommend us for cool jobs etc. That'll work fine.
    To the anon who points out this is a two-way street--that's true. I did my grad work in a female-heavy lab, and the environment may not have been easy for men at times, (especially the point when two techs were both pregnant and the talk revolved ~nonstop around their uteri and contents thereof). But you know what? The women who emerged from that environment are ALL smart, take-no-shit, get-my-work-done, be-a-good-citizen, STAY-IN-SCIENCE types. We ask questions at lectures. We gossip about science. We introduce ourselves to ImportantProfessorTypes whenever we think it could be helpful. In short, we display the confidence of, um, men. As soon as the workforce is adequately seeded with these women, I'll be happy to decree that we have to be as sweetly supportive to men as they've been to us.
    'Course, that'll be easy, because being sweetly supportive is in our nature (see also: last 4000 years).

  • whimple says:

    DM:
    And here I'm asking you whimple. Why? Why? What on earth is the cost in saying "Gee, here's a couple of women professors that you may not have thought of that would give really good seminars of interest to our whole department"? Why would this be "preferential" treatment? Any more than the fact that the GrayBeard who overlooks women to invite "preferentially" treats men?
    Being invited to give a seminar is useful to one's academic career goals. The sex of the speaker should be irrelevant. I guess I'm against affirmative action. I don't see the logic of:
    We can make up for the unfairly poor treatment of individual X from group A with unfairly good treatment of individual Y from group A.
    Is that really what you believe DM?

  • drdrA says:

    Whimple-
    Generally speaking minority groups don't have the same advantages as the majority group and therefore do not have as long a list of ACCOMPLISHMENTS as majority groups (or high status in a group dominated by a majority group), which we all recognize as the criteria we are judged on for advancement.
    Members of the minority group are therefore less able to realize their 'potential' all the way up the ladder because they are judged on their accomplishments which will always be fewer than the members of the majority group have, because they had less opportunities to begin with.
    This in no way means that members of the minority group have less 'potential' for doing great things- but if we go by your thinking they will always be judged inferior based on accomplishment. It's a vicious cycle.
    I prefer to think of affirmative action as recognizing the potential of people who haven't had as many opportunities- (and in many cases this is ingrained and goes on over decades) as opposed to your way of putting it.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    We can make up for the unfairly poor treatment of individual X from group A with unfairly good treatment of individual Y from group A.
    You are not making any sense whimple. If we focus on the choice of seminar speakers, the point is that individual X from group A has been unfairly treated if the group considering the slate of speakers unfairly discounts or overlooks contributions from group A. Overtly putting his or her name into consideration partially (and only partially) counters this unfairness. Countering existing unfairness to the individual in question is indeed one of the several goals of "affirmative action".
    Your problem here is apparently that you simply can't seem to recognize what bias really is and/or admit that it exists.
    You also seem to be laboring under the delusion that decisions about scientific quality and interest are universal, fixed and objectively determined. Clearly you have not sat around the table trying to determine which third (or tenth) of nominated speakers the seminar committee will choose for the slate. There is nothing "objective" in this process. It is the best guesses of the seminar committee as to who will be a successful invitee. Some people present really cool seminars of interest to most of the department. Some fall flat or only present old data or whatnot. The seminar committee also has to consider subfield coverage. Is it "affirmative action" to invite speakers in subfields X and Y instead of two from subfield Y? Again, the idea that there is only one obvious candidate for each available slot is flawed.

  • acmegirl says:

    Okay, let's get real here. Affirmative action is really all about forcing people who, if left to their own devices, would not even manage to be FAIR. You can set it up as quotas, which, I agree, can become problematic, or, you can ask people to PROVE that they have indeed been fair. You can ask for transparency in search committees to make sure that women/minority candidates have actually been considered. You can remove identifying information from applications so that everyone actually IS held to the same standards. And, when you hear someone saying something that is disparaging about a person BECAUSE of their gender or other distinguishing characteristic, you can SAY SOMETHING.
    It has been shown that when you ask people to show that they have considered minority applicants, the variety that gets hired/funded/etc. increases. It has been shown that when you don't allow people to have information about someone that may bias their decision, you suddenly get parity among those selected. Since you can't blind people in their daily interactions, you have to, instead, train them to become aware of the times they are acting on their biases. That is the real function of being "that guy". Not somehow forcing everyone to hand gold stars to one group of people at the expense of another.

  • juniorprof says:

    I really would be interested...have any of you all ever heard one of "those guys" speak up first?
    I have... Dr Postdoc Mentor did just that at a seminar speaker committee meeting that I was part of. He was the chair and pointed out that it was disgraceful that in x (a large number) years we had not had a female speaker for y big time seminar for our Dept. When he said this, the reaction was immediate and unanimous, we needed to bring in a female speaker. Honestly, I got the impression that most people on the panel had not really realized that we had been having males year after year (including the females on the committee). We invited a woman to give the seminar both years I was on the committee.
    This little event had a huge impact on me (it was before you existed in the blogosphere DM and PP). We all have our biases and I think it is our duty to actively fight against them. Being "that guy" helps others recognize their biases and gives them an opportunity to fight against them. I can't think of a time where I have had to be "that guy" professionally, largely because Dr. PostDoc Mentor consistently beat me to it. When the time comes at the current locale (and it will) I would like to think that I will speak up (and having that previous example will help).

  • I'm a little late to the game but figured I should weigh in - my point in the comment that DM quoted to launch the post was that while I was in a dept where I didn't perceive gender/minority inequities (as perhaps even whimple originally state), the experiences of my fellow bloggers opened my eyes to the inequities that continue to exist on a broader scale. I'm not so naive as to think that biases still didn't play out in my dept, but it was far more equitable than the situations I have seen since (of have learned of through other bloggers). Great if things seem great locally, but we are each part of and responsible for a national and international scientific community.
    Hence, female and minority students in my group were going to have to go off one day and compete in a much more hostile environment where their abilities and competence wouldn't be enough. So, I thought it of value to encourage them to participate in the women in [discipline] subsections of our societies and otherwise point them toward role models other than white male-privileged me. In the ideal world whimple describes, we shouldn't need to judge our colleagues on anything other than their scientific and personal excellence. However, just 10 min with the National Academies report (DM mentioned in #16) tells me that we are consciously or subconsciously doing a shitty job.
    This was a really terrific post, DM. When I ask my female colleagues what a guy can do to support their professional lives and career advancement, I now have one really good answer.
    Slightly OT, does TreeFish have a blog? Is she the sister of PhysioProf?

  • Oops, I didn't see that TreeFish is a self-described XY at the end. Are they the brother of PhysioProf, then?

  • Lisa says:

    "I really would be interested...have any of you all ever heard one of "those guys" speak up first?"
    Once that I remember. In undergrad, a professor defended me against some very crude gendered jokes in lab (they weren't specifically directed at me), even though I hadn't complained. I was really glad he did--he is a great guy.

  • Jane Doh says:

    A little late to the discussion, but no I have never heard one of "those guys". Until my postdoc supervisor, I never had a woman as a professor for any science, engineering, or math class from freshman year to PhD I am in a very male dominated field. When people chose to act as sexist jerks, no one called them on it in any way, and some even joined the fun.
    Interestingly, at my postdoc institution, there are several women in positions of power (including my postdoc advisor) along with the man who initially hired them. This has resulted in a much more gender balanced department (probably close to 60:40 M:F), though this is an interdisciplinary institution and not an academic department, so fields that are less male dominated than my PhD field are also represented here. We also have a significant number of other underrepresented minority groups. It is amazing how having some women involved in hiring changes the gender distribution of interview candidates. Inputs on encouraging diversity of all types from well-placed individuals can make a real difference. So I hope more of "those guys" will speak up!

  • BikeMonkey says:

    TreeFish @#4, is what you are trying to ask here is whether women or minorities should be applying for fellowships or grants dedicated to their "group"? And this is confusing you?
    Hell YES, take the money. Getting support for your career (and eventually your research) is hard enough. Why would you shy away from any possible advantage?

  • drdrA says:

    I ran across this today at the 'Mike the Mad Biologist' and 'Adventures in Science and Ethics' blogs... a particularly egregious example of a woman scientist in a male dominated profession... and we are all paying for this...
    http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/2008/04/help_kay_weber_continue_to_pur.php

  • Kaerion says:

    As a straight white male, working in a discriminatory environment I'm frankly ashamed of, I support everything you said 100%. Those of us who actually realize these problems are, IMHO, morally obligated to be "that guy" as much, and as often, as we possibly can.
    And to whoever called it patronizing to stand up for women; while my experiences are also nothing more than anecdotes, the feedback I've gotten from the women I work with, says that you couldn't be more wrong. I've been aware of the issue since long before I joined the workforce, but I can promise you that having a multiple-PhD (one of the finest minds, and most strong-willed people I've ever met, someone you'd assume would get more than their fair share of respect) surprise me with flowers as a thank-you for taking a stand and being "that guy", was a mind-opening experience to how serious a problem this can be.

  • Standing up for your fellow human being is not patronizing. It's just basic human decency, and we all could step up more in that department, pretty much every day.
    Empathy is worth nurturing. It comes in handy.

  • TreeFish says:

    No, I am not the brother of PhysioProf, but I wish I was! TreeFish doesn't have a blog, since he's going on the job market soon. He actually can't blog cuz he wastes (er, spends?) enough time reading DM and PP and walking around the country in Google's street view!
    TreeFish has lots of pubs (more than 1; less than 100), half of which are first author. Anyone interested in hiring a TreeFish? His feet smell, but his teeth are white.

  • whimple says:

    Empathy is worth nurturing. It comes in handy.
    Would you like a side-order of ponies and rainbows with that? Self-righteous platitude preachiness is so irritating, but also usefully easy to dismiss out of hand. If you're going to be "That Guy", this is something you might consider watching out for. Talk is cheap; if you're really interested in fairness I'd recommend deeds instead of words. Show fairness through your own actions, speak up on occasion if you feel you must, but chirping in every single time is going to get you ignored. The eye-rolling is happening for a reason, and if you think it can't hurt you, I hope you're right about that.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Self-righteous platitude preachiness is so irritating, but also usefully easy to dismiss out of hand...Talk is cheap; if you're really interested in fairness I'd recommend deeds instead of words. Show fairness through your own actions, speak up on occasion if you feel you must,
    Oooookay. Perhaps it is my irritation with UncertainChad and his lazy-ass and cheap rhetorical strategies, vis a vis defining anyone who doesn't agree with him a "screechy monkey". But here's the thing. It is the absolutely most pathetic approach in an argument to go all ad hominem and straw man just because you don't have any willingness to grapple with the real issues being discussed. I hate that shit.
    "Self-righteous"? wtf is that supposed to mean and how do you view your own statements about what the "right" approach to anything is? Are these "self-righteous" or only "righteous"?
    "platitude"? my friend you've been spewing out the anti-affirmative action and defender-of-privilege platitudes in this thread.
    "preachiness". To the extent that a blog starts as a monologue with the blogger standing up in front of the audience with a message you mean? or the fact that anyone who ventures to state any sort of recommendation for behavior is "preaching"? General enough principles of blogging such that if you are not hammering every blog you read with this critique it becomes clear that you are resorting to cheap trickery to dismiss a position with which you do not agree. For that matter, your advancing a standard anti-affirmative action line in the comments above could be viewed as.....preaching!
    The point here is that these are cheap tricks designed to dismiss the other side of a discussion without addressing the actual substantive points at hand. They can be levied at either side approximately equally. Thus, these tricks do not really advance understanding or explication of an issue.
    "deeds instead of words"? are you joking? I'm discussing shit I do in real life. I act "fairly" in my view and am perfectly willing to discuss with anyone why my attitudes lead to improved "fairness" and their attitudes do not. I do not resort to cheap ad hominems and talking points and I am willing to discuss the data and interpretation thereof. I question my own assumptions as well as those of others. I am quite willing to change my views when I am wrong. And here's the thing. I can point to tangible positive outcomes of my "deeds". Can you say the same? What "local fairness" practices have you engaged in that have led to an improved situation?
    Final note on your last little crack.
    chirping in every single time is going to get you ignored. The eye-rolling is happening for a reason, and if you think it can't hurt you, I hope you're right about that.
    Leaving aside the hilarious analogies with a certain contact-sport candy-ass phenotype that really pushes my buttons, I'll try to take this seriously.
    I'm not suggesting there is no risk to someone who chooses to speak up for what they believe. Of course there is. If you are in an environment that is irredeemable and laden with misogynists and/or racist bigots, sure you are going to have very little effect other than to put yourself on the outs. Every person just has to make their own decisions within their own environments. My experiences suggest, however, that a decent number of people who act in ways consistent with bias are acting in unthinking bias. They just haven't really thought about it. And by making them think about it, you can affect change.
    __
    and I noticed Mark C-C has a very nice explication of the tired anti-affirmative-action position over at TSZ

  • PhysioProf says:

    the hilarious analogies with a certain contact-sport candy-ass phenotype that really pushes my buttons

    Dude, what the fuck are you talking about?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    It is the oblique threat phenotype. "If you don't quit doing X* then somebody is going to take you out**!"
    *Where X = "a normal or at least expected part of the game or sporting endeavor within the practices and mores of the league in question."
    **substitute threat of choice here.
    There seem to be at least two or three of these guys in any league I've been in. I find it "candy-ass***" because the person in question is failing to take direct responsibility for enforcing whatever mores he seems to feel need changing. I prefer the direct, sack-up, take responsibility for your viewpoint approach, myself.
    ***sadly, misogynistic epithets are frequently substituted in situ. I may have occasionally weakened on this score myself, for which I feel just terrible.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Zuska has a post up reviewing a preprint of an analysis of gender bias in particle physics. More data for the "problem? what problem?" crowd to consider....

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