Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Infiltrating the Old Boy's Club

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Old Boy's Club (OBC) is comprised of the old (and typically white) men who dominate the top tiers of many industries. This phenomenon is pretty apparent in most fields, but especially so in academia where female presence at high levels caps out at 35% at most. 

Now, we could shout about that endlessly in bitter, bitchy terms, but we’ve taken a dose of the considerate pills today (V.T. South’s roomie made pumpkin cake, V.T. North has a job again, all is awesome in the world) and decided to give the benefit of the doubt to members of the OBC: maybe they just don’t know about ladies’ struggles! Also, they probably don’t know about all the awesome ladies they could be hiring, because OBC members don’t network with ladies, they network with dudes.

That’s right: ladies talk to ladies when they want to get jobs, and dudes talk to dudes…. orn fancy science-speak, part of the gender-disparity in hiring practices stems from Gender-Segregated Networks. How does this matter? Well, since dudes happen to be in 65% of the positions of power, ladies suddenly lose a lot of their access to upper-division jobs.

In our rainbow world of pumpkin cake and employment, we’re going to say that everyone in the OBC is awesome and bewilderingly unaware of female scientists, and that it is OUR JOB to fix that. It's time to infiltrate the OBC, sneaking in ninja style through polite conversation and handing out business cards! Conferences are the ideal setting: OBC members are wandering about, slightly inebriated and giddy about new science. Its like shooting drunk fish in a barrel full of many other drunk fish, except the one fish you really want is wearing a name tag.

Secretly Amy is planning her takedown
The Geologic Society of America’s 125th annual meeting is this week, and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s 73rd annual meeting starts next week. So what’s a lady-ninja gotta do to get her networking on? Well there's more than one way to shoot a fish (probably, we haven’t confirmed this), but we're going to give you some of our top conference-stalking tips to get you a head start.

  1. Always Wear Your Nametag (do not be forgettable!)

  1. Business cards are a must. 

  1. Pick someone before hand, whose paper you have read and that might have some research related to yours. Email him ahead of time, then stalk the shit out of him until you track him down. Ask him questions, but make sure you know how it is related to your own research. Who knows, maybe you’ll clarify a point in the paper, or find out that the authors disagreed on something and are using a new technique that you’d be interested in reading about… you may even end up collaborating in the future.

  1. Make the conversation go both ways. Mansplaining should only happen when you are too polite to say "oh, wait, I'm going to pause you right there - do you mean this? Because I've seen this in my research, which seems to indicate something else. How does that fit with your idea?"

  1. Have an “elevator speech” planned. If you don’t have a project yet, have some basic interests outlined in your head. If you’ve already graduated and are hunting for tenure track or postdoc positions, have multiple elevator speeches planned out about what you want to do and be ready to improvise when meeting new individuals. You never know who you may meet and who might just be your perfect adviser fit.

Practicing her elevator speech on a captive audience

 Now, some of our readers are men, and some of them even have jobs in Academia (online high-five!). You gentlemen are in a unique position to help women become a bigger part of Academia, and we hope that this year you do your part by acting as a sidekick. Essentially, do all the things that a 1950’s hostess would do, except for the bits about preparing food (that probably won’t come up). More specifically:

  1. Always Wear Your Nametag!
Someone might just be looking for you!

  1. Introduce ladies to your homies. When a young woman approaches you and asks you some questions about your science, don't just answer them. Ask questions about their particular project, and ideally, connect them with someone else that also knows about that field. The great thing about conferences is that this person is PROBABLY THERE somewhere - make an effort to introduce them and that lady scientist, and discuss possible collaborations in addition to resources.

  1. Don’t just offer advice. Even if you mean it well, it can fall quickly into the dark abyss of accidental mansplaining, particularly if the woman you’re talking to is younger or a student.

As a side note, both Meaghan and Amy will be attending conferences this year - Amy to GSA, and Meaghan to SVP. If you are NOT attending one of these conferences and really, really wish you could see a particular talk, drop us a line and we'll do our best to check it out and report on it! You can let us know via twitter, facebook, email, google +, or in the comments section!

Drentea, 1998; Granovetter, 1973, 1985 Drentea P (1998) Consequences of women’s formal and informal job search methods for employment in female-dominated jobs. Gender & Society 12(3): 321–338.

Granovetter M (1973) The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology 78(6): 1360–1380.

Granovetter M (1985) Getting A Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers, second edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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