Make Sure that Your Girls Aren’t Too Ambitious

One of my students shared the Cosmo Special Report in the October 2013 issue. I photo copied the article, read it, and have carried it around for two months. I wanted to blog about it immediately, but alas, grading and other work related responsibilities got in the way of a response. Here I am just weeks before a new year begins and I am finally ready to comment on the nine page article, “The Ambition Gap” by Lorie Gottlieb. The Cole’s Notes version is that single women are more ambitious and successful than their male cohort and consequently are having a hard time finding an equal. It is more complicated than this, but this article speaks to the supposed crisis of heterosexual masculinity (see Michael Atkinson for an informed position), women’s success, and the alleged post-feminist era. Yes, the article assumes that the coupling is between a heterosexual couple.

The first point that I want to make is that we are not in a post-feminist era. We are not in a feminist era. We are in an era that extols the importance of equality, but we wring our hands when we talk about the reality of who is successful, who sits at the table, and who are the high earners. Now, clearly, happiness and ambition are not mutually exclusive. What Gottleib is getting at, though, is that men are “losing their drive” (144). She recounts story after story of the young, single, successful woman who is more successful than their male partners or former partners. Thanks to the success of Liberal feminisms, we see more women working, buying homes, and in managerial positions (Gottleib 145). However, I want to ask: which women? Surely, we need to disaggregate and examine these numbers. Lots of statistics in the US and Canada illustrate that more single headed households are women headed households. We are also quite familiar with the fact that men, on average, make more money than women. And, when we look at upper management, board of directors, and chief executive officers the picture becomes more homogenous–male and white.

On page 147, Gottlieb has a column dedicated to “Watch Out for These Red Flags.” And, what are they?
1. He has no plan 2. He doesn’t communicate 3. He’s envious of your success 4. He takes advantage 5. He’s resistant to change

I am no dating expert; however, I think that these are red flags for most in their 20s and older and not so much about an ambition gap. Gottleib offers a shallow examination, but at the same time does not ask more important questions regarding race, class, sexual orientation, education, and types of career. Women might earn 60% of the undergraduate and graduate degrees (148), but she does not break this down enough for me. Why do I care? My experience as a university professor and one who has continued to look at women, politics, leadership, and higher education, I know that women tend to gravitate to certain fields of study that do not translate into higher earning jobs. We see women over-represented in Education, Humanities, and Social Work and under-represented in Engineering, Sciences, and Computer Sciences. This, then, influences the earning power for women.

What do I like about the article? Well, it was provocative and I read it closely several times. I also appreciated her column about “How You Can Bridge the Gap.” She pulls from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (my thoughts on the Lean In movement).

She offers some points of advice: 1. Prescreen 2. Establish boundaries 3. Accept trade-offs 4. Give him a nudge

This advice is timeless and part of having a healthy partnership for heterosexual or same-sex couples. What do we do? Encourage people to think about what they want and how they want to pursue their dreams. Encourage girls to go into the STEM fields and work on the leaky pipeline for women and work. I am also concerned with this notion that women are too ambitious. There are parts of the article that equate being single with too much work success. This message is problematic.

Frosh Chants and Consequences

In the last few weeks, three Canadian universities have made headlines within days of one another and not the way that development officers like to see. Students at St. Mary’s University (SMU) in Halifax, NS chanted a truly unfortunate chant at a university sanctioned event. Students from the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business said the same chant during some Frosh activities. Then, the Engineering students at Memorial used an unfortunate term on their mugs for their pub crawl. Student leaders at SMU and UBC have resigned. All three schools have noted that investigations will take place and awareness campaigns or sensitivity training workshops are forthcoming.

As a feminist social scientist I was not surprised that the students felt it was acceptable to engage in the chants. We live in a hypersexualized world where social justice activists, rape crisis workers, and academics working in Women’s Studies or other fields continually explain that rape culture thrives. During the last sixteen years, I have dedicated my career in Political Science and Women’s Studies to teaching courses related to gender and difference in an academic setting. I work with undergraduate students and I see and hear things on campus. While the chants are offensive–these are not isolated events, we need to ask why students feel compelled to participate in the chants. I have seen posters on campuses for different student events, like a sailing club’s pub crawl event called: “outrigger and gold digger” pub crawl. One only has to walk around a university to find some very interesting posters for events usually held off campus.

Thanks to the chants we are talking more about Rape Culture. But, what is Rape Culture? Rape Culture is the end product of the hypersexulization of women and men and excuses harassments, chants, and acts of violence against women and men. Rape culture causes people to think that joking about having non-consensual sex with a minor is not rape–but a light hearted moment. Rape Culture allowed the sexualized violence of Steubenville to take place, where at first the town appeared to defend the young men involved and attacked the victim. And, I argue that this hypersexualized culture makes posting questionable photos on Facebook acceptable, but a photo of a nursing mother objectionable. Rape culture also educates boys and men that girls and women are always sexually available to them. We need to have more conversations about consent and sexualized violence. We also need to discuss what make up the components of healthy sexuality.

What is telling about these episodes is the varied reactions. For instance, the comments online on newspaper sites or other platforms. My students chide me and say, “Don’t look at the comments.” I try to not do so, but then occasionally I wonder what people are saying.  The comments are at times instructive and then illuminating about the sheer depth of rape culture. Why do I say this? Well, when people post that they should be able to joke about sexual assault and that it’s just a joke, I take issue with that. There are certain things that we should not joke about and instead understand that violence against women is not a joking matter. I have a great sense of humor, but there are some issues that deserve serious conversations. Let’s continue the learning and the conversation.

Lean In Keynote: Blog Her 13

I am at Blog Her 13 in Chicago and this morning attended Sheryl Sandberg’s keynote and then attended the Lean In Circle workshop. Where to start. The keynote was more of a discussion between Lisa Stone, Blog Her, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO. Sandberg was on the floor taking photos with delegates, signing books, and just meeting people. I had a chance to take a photo and talk to her for a few precious minutes about her book, Lean In. She was gracious with the crowd and was eventually pulled away for the keynote. As I waited in line for my moment with her, I was reminded of my Comic-Con experiences and felt like a fan girl.

Her keynote hit on the points outlined in the book and Stone asked some great questions. She also shared that the Blog Her Visionaries survey was filled out quickly within hours. I am one of these people and was happy to fill out the short survey about the book and movement. What I enjoyed most was how honest Sandberg came across. On the table sat some Lean In branded sheets to write down what you would do if you were not afraid. Sandberg shared her’s: Write a book about feminism. Yes, you read that correctly. She also seemed comfortable with embracing the term, feminism. It is clear that she is a strong advocate for women and men and their success. She made a point to share that some male executives have told her, “You have cost me lots of money.” Why? Because women are asking for raises!

I have previously blogged about her book and the movement. I am registered with the Lean In site and in an Education circle. I will blog later about the Lean In Circle workshop. It was amazing and I am still processing it. I have a page of notes to mull over, as I think about my workshop experience. Overall, I was glad that I woke up early to get a rock star seat at the keynote. And, I got to finally meet Veronica Arreola, Professional Feminist! We had a good chat about the book, too.

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Leaning In

This post first ran on Inside Higher Education as part of the University of Venus blogs. I’m sharing it here on my blog.

I’m going to offer a few reviews of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and this first one is going to be a sweeping overview of the entire book. There are specific chapters that I want to speak to as well, but first I’ll do a review of the book and the Lean In movement. In order to get access to the Lean In circles, er… movement, you have to join the site via Facebook, which is of no surprise given that Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. I say this in both an honest and tongue in cheek way, as I know that the Facebook metrics are working away analyzing users use of the Facebook platforms and various add ons.

The Lean In site offers anecdotes from different women who are members of Lean In and they each share their stories of times in their life when they leaned in. The members are mostly women and some men from different backgrounds (race, class, and work sector). What they share is an inspiring story about a learning experience or successful moment in their lives—either at work or in their personal lives. The anecdotes are concise. There are also videos that vary in time and some are quite lengthy (40 minutes long). I’ve enjoyed poring through the site and reading and watching the different stories. Some feel like testimonies and are quite personal, whereas others read like a motivational speech.

Getting back to the book, Sandberg is asking that women own their skills and success. Try to sit at the table; overcome the imposter syndrome. But, she also warns that we will have moments when we must work together and help others. This isn’t a book about selfishly helping yourself or being selfless. This book offers her personal story about when she had to lean out and focus on family or other issues in her life, or moments when she leaned in to get to the next stage in her career. She refers to statistics, feminism, and important stories as she shares her truth. She also acknowledges that some women (and men) will stay at home and do the important work of raising children, so she gives a nod to the parents who choose to stay at home and does refer to this opportunity as a privilege. I was glad to see this reference, as it is a privilege to stay home. Of course, some women are indigent and at home, but the opt out conversation is often lacking any discussion of class privilege or mention that women of color have been leaning in for years, if not decades and that their leaning in is complicated by racialized sexism.

On a side note, I’m really tired of the reviews and commentaries that are published by a commentator who has not opened the book. Not cool. And I am not keen with the haterade against the book based on the fact that Sandberg is a wealthy, Jewish woman. The review needs to say more than simply attacking the messenger. The book is not perfect, but Sandberg offers some great points that many of us need to hear again and again. I cannot represent all Latinas and know that I have class and heterosexual privilege, but I will say this: there are many takeaways from this book. It is important to believe in yourself, network, make smart decisions, invest in yourself, and help others. Mentor, coach, sponsor. Get mentored, sponsored, and coached. There is more to this book and so-called movement.

Now, I have heard lots of commentary about how this book does not help all women or is myopic in its view. These comments are interesting to me. No book will speak to everyone. This book and its message, though, might help some women realize that they deserve to be at the damn table. The book and its anecdotes might squelch feelings of impostor syndrome. The videos on the Lean In site might also make some women and men realize that they need to serve as a better mentor or coach to those around them. My suggestion to my current students or students who just graduated–Lean In.

Helpful Info for Women in Political Science

Orgs, Books and More!

CPSA: http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/ (French: http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/postings-f.shtml)

Société Québécoise de Science Politique: http://www.sqsp.uqam.ca/

APSA, Women’s Caucus for Political Science: http://www.apsanet.org/content_2907.cfm (Organization webpage: http://www.apsanet.org/)

ISA—Feminist Theory and Gender Studies: http://www.isanet.org/ISA/Sections/FTGS.aspx

WPSA, Caucus for Women and Gender Justice: http://wpsawomen.com/Home_Page.html (Organization webpage: http://wpsa.research.pdx.edu/)

Websites

Eduseed: Promoting Higher Education Among Historically Disadvantaged Communities: http://www.eduseed.org/

Mama Phd (IHE): http://www.mamaphd.com/

Ontario Womens Liberal Commission: http://owlc.liberal.ca/news-2/women-queer-women-politics-involved-earth-problem/

Sister Mentors: Promoting Higher Education Among Women and Girls of Color: http://www.sistermentors.org/home.htm

The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com

Fear of Feminism: http://chronicle.com/article/Fear-of-Feminism/138631/

Gay Mentors in Modern Academe: http://chronicle.com/article/Gay-Mentors-in-Modern-Academe/130883/

Rejection and Its Discontents: http://chronicle.com/article/RejectionIts-Discontents/139403/

Self-Sabotage in the Academic Career: http://chronicle.com/article/Self-Sabotage-in-the-Academic/138875/

The Professor Is In: http://theprofessorisin.com/

The Thesis Whisperer http://thesiswhisperer.com/

Tomorrow’s Professor: http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/postings.php

TP Msg. #1259 Motherhood: How Faculty Manage Work and Family

http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/2013/05/30/tp-msg-1259-motherhood-how-faculty-manage-work-and-family/

TP Msg. #1250 Let’s Make a Deal—Six Myths About Job and Salary Negotiations

http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/2013/04/30/tp-msg-1250-lets-make-a-deal-six-myths-about-job-and-salary-negotiations/

TP Msg. #1241 The Chair’s Role in Facilitating a Collegial Department

http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/2013/03/28/tp-msg-1241-the-chairs-role-in-facilitating-a-collegial-department-2/

University of Venus (Inside Higher Education): http://uvenus.org/

Women in Higher Education: http://www.wihe.com/

Women Suffrage and Beyond: Confronting the Democratic Deficit: http://womensuffrage.org/

WMST-L Archives http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/wmsttoc.html

Journals of Interests and Journal Articles

Cambridge Journal of Education

Gender and Education

International Feminist Journal of Politics

Journal of Feminist Scholarship

Journal of Women, Politics & Policy

Politics and Gender

The Review of Higher Education

Women’s Studies in Communication

Acker, Sandra, and Grace Feuerverger. “Doing Good and Feeling Bad: the work of womenuniversity teachers.” Cambridge Journal of Education 26, no. 3 (1996): 401-422, doi: 10.1080/0305764960260309.

Bower, Glenna G. “Gender and Mentoring: A Strategy for Women to Obtain Full Professorship.”

Collins, Gail. “‘The Feminine’ Mystique at 50.” New York Times, January 23, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/magazine/the-feminine-mystique-at-50.html?pagewanted=all.

Elley-Brown, Margaret J. “The Significance of Career Narrative in Examining a High-Achieving Woman’s Career.” Australian Journal of Career Development 20, No. 3 (Spring 2011): 18-23, doi: 10.1177/103841621102000304.

Gaze, Beth. “Working Part Time: Reflections on Practicing the Work – Family Juggling Act.” Law and Justice Journal 1, no. 2 (2001): 199-212. http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=755722715628569;res=IELHSS.

Goeke, Jennifer, and Emily J. Klein and Pauline Garcia-Reid and Amanda S. Birnbaum et. al. “Deepening Roots: Building a Task-Centered Peer Mentoring Community.” Feminist Formations 23, no. 1 (2011): 212-234. http://muse.jhu.edu/.

Kreider, Tim. “The ‘Busy’ Trap.” New York Times, June 30, 2012. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/.

Mills, Melanie Bailey. “Intersections between Work and Family: When a Playpen Can be Office Furniture.” Women’s Studies in Communication 31, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 213-217, doi: 10.1080/07491409.2008.10162535.

Samek, Alyssa A. and Theresa A. Donofrio. “‘‘Academic Drag’’ and the Performance of the Critical Personae: An Exchange on Sexuality, Politics, and Identity in the Academy” Women’s Studies in Communication 36, no. 1 (2013): 28-55, doi: 10.1080/07491409.2012.754388.

Books

Armstrong, Sally. Ascent of Women. New York: Random House, 2010.

Baker, Maureen. Academic Careers and the Gender Gap. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012.

Cote, James E., and Anton L. Allahar. Ivory Tower Blues: A University System in Crisis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

Evans, Elrina, and Caroline Grant, eds. Mama PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life. New Brunswick. N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2008.

Jalalzai, Farida. Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact?: Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Krull, Catherine and Justyna Sempruch, eds. A Life in Balance? Reopening the Family-Work Debate. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.

Newman, Jacquetta, and Linda A. White. Women, Politics, and Public Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Noddings, Nel. Happiness and Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Noddings, Nel. The Maternal Factor. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010.

Osbord, Tracy L. How Women Represent Women. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Robinson, Ken. How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. New York: Knopf, 2013.

Valian, Virginia. Why So Slow?: The advancement of women. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

Twitter Handles to Follow (Working List!)

@AMaioni Antonia Maioni, President of Congress, McGill, Political Science

@ideas_idees Federation

@ATRWibben Annick T.R. Wibben, University of San Francisco, International Studies

@janniaragon, UVIC, Political Science

@partnershipuvic, UVic Corporate Relations

@JLisaYoung, Lisa Young, Dean of Graduate Studies, University of Calgary, Political Science

@OrsiniMichael, Michael Orsini, University of Ottawa, Political Science

@ChristineNLewis, Christine Lewis, Congress Coordinator, UVic

@UA_magazine, University Affairs, Ottawa, ON

@EmmMacfarlane, Dr. Emmett MacFarlane, University of Waterloo, Political Science

@uvicpoli, Uvic, Political Science Dept.

@pmlagasse, Philippe Lagasse, University of Ottawa, Political Science

@thedaleykate, Kate M. Daley, York University, Political Science (PhD Candidate)

@geoffsal, Geoff Salamons, University of Alberta, Political Science (PhD Candidate)

@Mireille2013, Mireille Paquet, University of Montreal, Political Science (PhD Candidate)

@SuleTomkinson, Sule Tomkinson, University of Montreal, Political Science

TED Talks

Huffington, Arianna. “Arianna Huffington: How to succeed? Get more sleep.” Filmed December 2010. TED video, 4:11. Posted January 2011.

Katz, Jackson. “Jackson Katz: Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue.” Filmed November 2012. TED video, 17:41. Posted May 2013.

Koyczan, Shane. “Shane Koyczan: “To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful.” Filmed February 2013. TED video, 12:04. Posted March 2013. http://www.ted.com/talks/shane_koyczan_to_this_day_for_the_bullied_and_beautiful.html.

Lemmon, Gayle Tzemach. “Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Women entrepreneurs, example not exception.” Filmed December 2011. TED video, 13:16. Posted January 2012. http://www.ted.com/talks/gayle_tzemach_lemmon_women_entrepreneurs_example_not_exception.html.

Pierson, Rita. “Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion.” Filmed May 2013. TED video, 7:48. Posted May 2013. http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion.html.

Robinson, Sir Ken. “Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms.” Filmed October 2010. TED video, 11:41. Posted December 2010. http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html.

Sandberg, Sheryl. “Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders.” Filmed December 2010. TED video, 14:58. Posted December 2010. http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html.

Stokes, Colin. “Colin Stokes: How movies teach manhood.” Filmed November 2012. TED video, 12:53. Posted January 2013. http://www.ted.com/talks/colin_stokes_how_movies_teach_manhood.html.

Zimbardo, Philip. “Philip Zimbardo: The demise of guys?” Filmed March 2011. TED video, 4:47. Posted August 2011. http://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge.html

Many thanks to Ms. Sylvia Alves for her assistance in curating this array. This is a draft and please share, but note that this is from the two of us!

Please Stop: Post-Racial America

I am late in responding to Dr_JZs post about how after President Obama was elected in the 2008 suddenly pundits opined that the United States was in a post-racial era. This reminds me of the quote by Meg Sullivan, “I’ll be a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.” It does not exist. We are not in a post-racial era and to say this is to not acknowledge racism or different forms of privilege. Jordan-Zachery’s eloquent post notes how at this same time we have witnessed an invisibility of Black women in our field of Political Science. Jordan-Zachery spoke to this in her recent article published in Politics, Groups and Identities demonstrating via some statistics that fewer publications are examining Black women as a subject. Why? The answers will vary, but most will carry lots of baggage and will unsettle and make most of us uncomfortable. It is not that Latinos are now the majority minority. It is not that we live in a post-racial United States (although I am living in Canada).

I strongly believe that part of this invisibility stems from editors and reviewers deeming what is worthy of publication. It also stems from the research that is currently conducted and supported on campuses in departments of Political Science, Africana Studies, or Black Studies programs and departments. And, I will not speak for Jordan-Zachery; however, her blog post notes specifically how Intersectionality as method has been hijacked. OK, she does not use those exact words, but the following quote from Jordan-Zachery’s post is telling:

“Simply put, Black women are disappearing as research subjects within our ‘leading’ academic journals (Alexander-Floyd “Disappearing Acts” 2012) and within intersectionality research specifically. Many credit intersectionality research as an outgrowth of Black feminist standpoint theory and remind us that Black feminist standpoint theory is crucial to intersectionality, but in many cases a mere footnote or sentence makes this acknowledgment.” (Bold in the original post).

What can we make of this or should we make of this? Is this the hijacking of a method that is now mainstream within Feminist Political Science research that used to focus on Black women, then women of color. Now, Intersectionality is that catch all for all components of identity. Is it now meaningless? Perhaps Intersectionality as a method is so useful that everyone wants to employ it as a lens of analysis. It begs the question about methods and who can use them? I do not have the singular answer, but I do know that I am hard pressed to not find Intersectionality as a method in journal articles related to my areas of interest and teaching.

Our blog post conversation also stems from a Google Hangout that we had last month catching up on work and more. I am happy and honored to have Julia (now I refer to her as a person and not a super-star academic) in my life. One of the interesting conversations that was about race and racism. Since Obama’s election and re-election we have both witnessed the marked ways that race is discussed or not discussed by the popular press, within the blogosphere, then in academe. It’s complicated. People generally feel a sense of unease when it comes to discussing race or racism. Frankly, I think that our blog posts would make some uncomfortable. This is a start of a longer conversation. Please weigh in–Dr. J_Z and I are waiting! Oh, and the title of my post is my asking that people stop referring to the US as a post-racial society. It’s not.

My Lifetime Listens to Yours. Muriel Ruckeyser

I have a book of quotes that serves as writing prompts and this is prompt two. There is space to write on the page, but I sent the first prompt to a friend in another department. And, have torn out the second prompt. Now, the title of this post comes from part of poem and the lengthy poem says lots. But, what does this excerpt say or how does it speak to you. I am thinking like a Political Scientist or Social Scientist at the moment and how I learn from reading and listening. If I think from a mentor’s point of view, I know that my reading and listening includes what is not said or spoken. People have “tells” for when they lie or feel uncomfortable and these nuances of movement are important to support and understand. What is your tell? I have different tells, but one is to stop and think and take a drink of water. During this short moment, I am thinking of my response–formulating what I want to say next.

We listen with more than our ears. But, do we learn from what we hear and see? I am in the midst of heavy marking and looked forward to this writing prompt and I come back to learning from others. I have also had several hours of office hours and meetings and tried my best to listen intently these past few work days. I firmly believe in life-long learning and this prompt reminds me of the importance of mindfulness. When I think of mindfulness, I always picture Dr. Juliann Allison, as she practices mindfulness in all that she does. This week I am trying to actively practice mindfulness. The Ruckeyser quote was the perfect reminder, as I try to balance out meetings, honors presentations, grading, and planning a conference. And, that is only part of the to do list. I’m breathing in and out and trying to listen.

Writing A Love Letter To Someone You Dislike: What?

My spawn used some of her birthday money at the Assembly of Text on Sunday. She bought a journal, 642 Things to Write About by Raincoast. My spawn was smitten with it and was quite happy to make this purchase. I leafed through the journal and found some hilarious prompts. The journal is clearly for an adult given that there are a few prompts that speak to alcohol or more life experience, but overall the journal offers some great exercises in creative writing. I’m including a screen shot from one prompt about writing a love letter to a person you don’t like. Now, this post is not a love letter to such person or persons. But, it did make me think about what causes us to like or dislike another person. I am providing a list of traits that I immediately thought of and it is not exhaustive.

Things I like in a person (first six I thought of):

Honesty

Smile

Generosity

Intelligence

Witt

Compassion

Five things that turn me off (first six I thought of):

Dishonesty

Laziness

Arrogance

Disrespectful

Trolls

Patronizing

If I think of these traits and people who I have easily engaged with, I know that they had some or all of the six traits that I noted. We might have met at work, in the community, at a conference or at a kid-related event. And, as far as the turn offs–same places. I will add that I meet so many people each year given my work and family life. I know for a fact that I don’t click well with people who dislike strong women. There, I said it. And, yes, I have found this to be true from about high school onward.

And for the dear, sweet souls who feel that they have to stalk me online, this is not a love letter to any specific person.  That’s right–it’s not about you. The writing prompt made me think about traits. What traits do you like/dislike? Think about it–write them down and get blogging.

love letter

Peer to Peer Mentoring: Leaning In

Now, I haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In yet, but I’m going to weigh in based on the reviews offline, online, her 60 Minutes interview, as well as based on joining Lean In’s site last week. The conversations about the book and the phenomena of Lean In as a movement reminds me of Graduate Women Scholars of Southern California. This was a peer-mentoring women’s group facilitated by one of the Women’s Studies faculty members at San Diego State University. Dr. Susan Cayleff saw that her office hours were busy with women graduate students asking the same questions. In 1991 she decided to try hosting once per month meetings at her house related around a particular topic.

These monthly meetings were workshop-like and typically led by one of the members and the Cayleff. The topics covered varied from how to put together your CV, prepping for a conference presentation, working on your thesis/dissertation, dealing with your committee, and more. These meetings provided a safe place of support for women students. We were Leaning In. We were learning from one another and sharing strategies. It was a bullshit free zone for the most part and we were allowed to admit that we were second guessing our choices or having a hard time finishing projects. The women involved were primarily from the Art (Humanities) and Social Sciences from the local universities in San Diego; however, there were several from Los Angeles and even one or two who were from the Bay Area, but living in San Diego.

Thanks to this peer-mentoring group I was better prepared for grad school. Sure, I occasionally felt like I was faking it or didn’t belong, but overall the mentoring sessions reminded me that I had to make academe my own (or attempt to do so). I think that Lean In is on to something and that peer to peer mentoring is important. If Sandberg’s book and the site get more women to connect–great! I have benefited from strong mentors throughout my academic career and to this day have some great peer mentors and coaches. I have blogged before about how mentoring is my mandate. It is. Part of my mentoring is getting my students or peers to Lean In.

I need to read Sandberg’s book. And, yes, I know that she’s Harvard educated and part of the elite. I know that she’s wealthy–Google, then moved to Facebook as their Chief Operating Officer. But, from perusing different bios and videos, I can see that there is lots to gain from Lean In. And, I also know that we can be are worst enemies in our work lives, as well as our personal lives. Self-doubt, not negotiating, and making poor decisions hurts us all, but women more so at work. I am not an acolyte with rose-colored glasses. I think my main point is that I know how to Lean In and the Breathe Now is yet another example—a conference that I co-planned. Many of us have been networking, strategizing, and organizing. We know this work well. But, I’ll speak more to Sandberg’s book and movement after I read the book and pore through more of the blog.

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Before You Email Your Professor: Redux 2013

This was my most popular post in 2012 with more than 600 views. Of all my posts, I didn’t expect that this was the one, but I don’t imagine that the metrics at Word Press are wrong! I have taken the liberty of revising some of this.

I haven’t taken a Netiquette 101 course recently, so I think it’s time to give some tips about sending emails to your instructors. Of course, I assume that my colleagues send concise, well-written, and respectful emails to students. Frankly, that is a given. (Fingers crossed)

1. Always assume that you should be more formal. Each department will vary; however, going with formal is easier than the reverse and then hearing: I expect to be referred to as…

2. Address the person in the email with a hello or even a “dear.” Avoid, “hey. And, use your full name, as your instructor might have many students who share your first name.

Sample~

Dear Instructor: I am emailing to find out information about your Fall class. Do you suggest any prerequisites for the class? I’d also like to talk with you about a paper topic that I have. Do you have any time to meet this Summer?

Thank you,

Student X

Avoid:

Hey, I’m going to enroll in you class. Should I be worried about your feminist bias?

Smitty

3. Never send an email that is incoherent. This is email and not a text to your best-friend. Type out all words, use punctuation, and proper spelling. What I mean is that even if you’re using your smart phone, be smart and use real words and avoid abbreviations. You could even wait to compose the email on your tablet or laptop!

4. Never send an email when you are mad. This goes for all emails. Send yourself the email and then wait a few hours or overnight, and then send the email that you won’t later regret. When you send an angry email, it is very hard to do un-do. I know that I won’t respond and I’ll call a  meeting with you to chat about your problematic email.

5. Be honest. Understand that your instructor might say that this conversation needs to take place face to face. Some conversations really need that human interaction. This really goes for talking about an assignment, reviewing a draft, talking about grad school, and other important conversations.

6. Do not be offended if the instructor corrects your use of their first name or some policy. Most of us will be kind and say–we have a 24 hour policy with emails after work is handed back and it’s in the syllabus or I expect students to call me Prof. Schmitdkins. (Apologies to my colleague who I used for part of this last name!)

7. Read the syllabus before sending the email. Perhaps the syll answers your question or notes that you should take the time to write a coherent email noting who you are and why you are emailing. And, some of my friends won’t even respond to an email if the question is answered in the syllabus. Avoid saying something like, “I don’t have time to read the syllabus, but was wondering…” Read the syllabus and if your question is not answered, then send the email.

Overall, treat email with the same integrity that you would treat an office hour visit. And, yes, I do get lots of emails that start off with “hey” and have been asked about my feminist bias…

The above advice is good for all of us–in and outside of academia.

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