Archive for the ‘lack of mentoring’ Category

I was employed as a feminist philosopher in a department where I was the only woman; that is to say, I was employed to teach feminist theory in philosophy. From the beginning there were questions about my competency, about the nature of my work, and with that, very little support from my male colleagues. I felt very undermined, and this did not help my profound lack of confidence. I was given no mentoring, and the one senior woman in a cognate discipline, was an anti-philosopher. She had no sympathy or understanding for what I was doing. One of my colleagues came and shouted at me in front of a grad student when I sent him an email in which I mis-spelt his name. As a result, I moved my office. No-one came to invite me back to the department; no-one tried to sort the issue out. No-one apologised. To this day the former colleague has never acknowledged his role in my moving office. I eventually returned to another office in the department but the whole event was ignored and never spoken of. When I unsuccessfully applied for a promotion at the very same time my first book with a first rate publisher was published, no-one helped me out or suggested I lodge an appeal. Yet there were clearly politics involved in my lack of success. When I was head of the department, my male colleagues basically ignored me or undermined any of my efforts to secure pedagogical changes that would benefit the discipline. I resigned in frustration and everything went back to as it was. I left suddenly, without any goodbyes after giving appropriate notice. No-one seemed to care that I left, or why. I became a philosopher because I love ideas and their exploration. That has not changed, but I feel emotionally and intellectually abused by my whole experience.

I recently returned from a conference at which I encountered the most contentious member of my dissertation committee. This fellow delayed my defense by 1) not reading my dissertation until the day before my originally scheduled defense date and 2) threatening to fail me if my defense date was not pushed back. My original defense date was cancelled the night before I was supposed to defend. This caused me to be a graduate student for an additional summer term. Because he was in Europe for the summer, he did not get around to reading the chapters of my dissertation relevant to his interests until late summer. This caused me to be a graduate student for an additional fall term. He did not actually read my revisions or my other chapters until late in the fall term, at which point I finally mustered the courage to say to him, enough is enough. I was allowed to defend late in the fall term, but lost a job as a result.

I count the interaction at this last conference as a win. Yes, he did approach me in a thinly veiled contentious manner, but I managed to avoid any private interaction for the most part. It is unfortunate that I have to do this, but one of my other committee members recommended this approach to him, complete avoidance in the profession, after my defense. I will not be able to avoid him completely, but I can certainly avoid any private interaction with him.

In the not-so-distant past, I wrote a dissertation on a relatively “hot” topic in philosophy of X. My adviser, who was not in residence at my grad-institution the year I defended, offered only minimal support during my “dissertating” (though other (male) members of my department went *way* beyond the call of duty (e.g. reading and commenting on multiple drafts, revisions, etc.) to support me while I wrote).

A couple of years after I defended and had gotten a TT job at a SLAC, my “adviser” published a monograph on my dissertation topic, but he did not cite (or acknowledge) my work. A couple of years after that, he edited a volume on the same topic I wrote on, but did not invite me to contribute.

It is true, I am not running in R1 circles, but I have had a steady stream of (low rent) publications. I have found it very hard to keep up with Philosophy of X at my SLAC with a heavy teaching and service load. Meanwhile, as part of my review process, I am suppose to show how I have been influential in my field. Seriously? I am a woman in M&E at a SLAC in the south. Puh-leez!

It has been some time now since I finished my PhD, and I am trying to break into another area of philosophy that may be more welcoming to me.

I was on the job market this year. I was told (more than once) by our placement director that if I got a job that would show that “the department should admit more female grad students.” Nothing was said of my abilities or accomplishments.

Mentoring men

Posted: May 13, 2013 by Jender in lack of mentoring

I submitted this earlier post about mentoring. I can’t believe it, but it just happened again. We’ve got two tenure-track people starting next year, one man and one woman. We were recently wrangling over our reduced budget, trying to decide where to direct resources, and several times the department chair asked a male colleague to check with our incoming man to see what speakers he’ll want to invite next year, what conferences he wants to go to, etc. These two men work in the same area, so it was pretty clear that the more senior person was being asked to informally mentor the more junior one. After several of these requests I finally spoke up and asked if anyone was going to do the same thing for the incoming woman. The chair looked surprised and said, “Oh. I don’t know. Could you take care of that?” So I guess I’m her mentor. But if I hadn’t said anything, she would have received none of this support, and I don’t think anyone would have noticed that they had forgotten about her.

In my first week of grad school at a non-Leiter top 20, my graduate adviser asked if I was married. When I told him I was, he asked if my husband knows I’m in grad school, and then he asked if my husband knows I won’t be home to cook dinner every night.

When I responded that I’ve been working and going to school for many years and that he’s quite bright and can cook for himself, he seemed to dismiss me on the spot. In fact, that was the last meeting I managed to have with him in the 5 or so years he was the graduate adviser. I figured out right away I was on my own.

In the end, he retired due to a medical condition and I finished my Ph.D. It seems to me that I won.

“I am fed up”

Posted: May 11, 2012 by Jender in lack of mentoring

I am a female graduate student in philosophy and I am fed up.

I am fed up with my male dissertation supervisors never giving me written feedback on my work, never wanting to read my work (“just describe it to me (over email), please”), and never wanting to meet with me to talk about my work. I have verified that they have good rapport with most of their male graduate students and have given them pages of feedback.

I am fed up with being told by well-meaning female faculty that maybe the reason why I’m having a hard time establishing rapport with my male supervisors is that they “feel awkward” about the women in philosophy “problem” at university and “don’t want to risk anything that could be perceived as sexual harassment”. Is this supposed to make me feel better? Thank you for making me feel like a walking pair of breasts.

I am fed up with men and women never co-mingling during informal departmental activities. What year is this?

I am fed up with seeing my male classmates talk about going out to dinners and drinks and playing basketball with their supervisers, when mine barely acknowledge my existence.

Be friendly – in a way that isn’t lecherous. And mentor your students – all of them. It would go a long way.

I am a grad student in a department with a heavy focus on critical theory. Interestingly enough-and perhaps as a result of the strong focus on gender studies in our department-the male faculty members are fairly respectful when dealing with female students and colleagues. The real issues have emerged between the female faculty and female students. Despite attempts at forming a women’s caucus, and despite the fact that our centre is headed by two very distinguished women, the female faculty consistently treat their female students in a patronizing and disinterested manner, while choosing “golden boys” among the other students. Their behavior ranges from condescendingly refusing to acknowledge the arguments and questions of female students in seminars, to discouraging their projects altogether. I have a theory that their own experiences as women in philosophy forced them to be so competitive and hostile; as “exception women” they are more comfortable taking on their male colleagues and feel threatened or insecure about working with other females. Ladies–it’s hard enough being women in philosophy, so let’s not make it any worse for each other.

Mentoring (and lack thereof)

Posted: September 21, 2011 by Jender in lack of mentoring

I’m a female grad student. A few years back I forged a friendly mentorship connection with a male professor Z. I was a naïve student initially, so Z’s disinclination to talk about my academic work or my academic career path did not worry me. Instead, Z enjoyed talking about his hobbies and sometimes about his research. To his credit, he often politely asked whether I’m enjoying my classes. Naively, I just assumed that one day this mentoring would turn more “academic.” One time I overheard Z speaking with a male grad student from my cohort. Z told him to identify a promising seminar paper, revise it, then publish; Z was willing to work with him to identify and polish the paper. I knew this student well and, like me, he was a few years away from going on the market.

I’m the only woman in my department. We recently hired two men, one tenure track, one temporary. At a department meeting before they arrived, we discussed who would “take responsibility” for each of them — be a mentor, show the person the ropes, talk to them about their work, etc. Somebody said, “you know, like we did for persons A, B, and C when they got here.” A, B, and C are the three men who were hired at the same time as me (about 5 years ago). I tentatively asked, “Who was my mentor?” because I don’t remember anyone helping me out in that way. Everyone looked surprised as though it had never occurred to them that I should have a mentor. I do remember a discussion at the end of my first year, when my department chair said that if I wanted some mentoring I was free to contact a female professor in English. She was their department chair and “very busy”, but maybe she’d be willing to talk with me. Needless to say, I did not follow up on that half-hearted suggestion. Maybe I should have, but there would have been no overlap in our research interests. I did manage to get tenure last year, but now I’m watching a 1-year hire be wined and dined by his philosophy mentor, and it’s making me pretty angry about the disparity in treatment.

Mentoring for men VS women

Posted: December 10, 2010 by Jender in lack of mentoring

I witness almost daily how my male colleagues spend significant more time supervising and mentoring young male philosophers than young female philosophers. I’ve witnessed many times how considerable effort is invested to help a struggling male philosopher get publications, conference invitations, and the like. The relevant male philosophers always deserve this special treatment. The problem is that I have yet to witness a struggling young female philosophers get anything remotely equivalent to the kind of help that I’ve witnessed many struggling young male philosophers get.

I am a (male) graduate student in a Leiter top-20 department. Recently our department’s liaison to a university committee on diversity reported in a faculty meeting on the lack of representation of minorities and women in our department. A grad student always attends faculty meetings and sends reports about the meetings to the grad students.

Maybe it is too much to ask that bold solutions to such large problems be raised at faculty meetings. But the liaison’s suggestions consisted of things like, “try to vary the names of people you use in examples you give to undergraduates, like Tran instead of Tim.” This is something faculty and graduate students should do, obviously — but what about changes that require *real commitment and time* from faculty members? For example, they could work on establishing better mentoring relationships with PhD students, and being sensitive, when mentoring their students, to the tendency of women (and possibly minorities?) to undervalue their work and make self-deprecating remarks about their abilities.

The report on the faculty meeting noted that this part of the meeting was short, and that it ended with faculty members “speculating” about the relative scarcity of female undergrads in upper-level courses. I’m glad they’re thinking about it, but I would like to see more serious thought about how to address under-representation.

Importance of mentoring

Posted: October 24, 2010 by Jender in lack of mentoring

I’m a female graduate student close to finishing my PhD in philosophy at a well-regarded school. Lack of friendly, informal encouragement and mentoring from our nearly all-male faculty had been difficult, confidence-eroding for me. From the beginning faculty expected me to interact with them on a formal footing, via arranged office hours and a highly professional, often awkward on my part, “shop talk.” Male grad students enjoyed a much more relaxed exchange in the hallway or over coffee, and most of them quickly found mentors and even friends among the faculty. I had only a couple of female students to commiserate with and have fun talking philosophy with. If it weren’t for my supportive, understanding spouse (also a philosopher, a graduate of different philosophy program) I would have quit after my third year, in spite of excellent “formal” standing in the program. My self-confidence eventually improved once I formed a good working rapport with a supportive dissertation adviser and started attending conferences where I met many wonderful female philosophers.

I was a graduate student in the early 1990s, when a prominent female philosopher in my overwhelmingly male field visited our department. She was traveling with a child. We (few) female graduate students were thrilled to have the chance to meet her. After her talk people gathered round to chat. She asked the male graduate students about their work. She asked the women about their availability for babysitting.