“Who was my mentor?”

Posted: September 7, 2011 by Jender in ignoring women, lack of mentoring, Maleness of philosophy

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.

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