Pet Peeves via WiA

I posted on Monday that I would be spending this week at the Women in Astronomy and Space Sciences conference. Hannah over at WiA wrote a great day-by-day summary of the event and, over on my NN blog, I wrote my own summary of the more salient points.

I want to start by saying that I found the conference invaluable, and am happy I could take part; however, one point I did bring up on my other blog was regarding the judgments and biases women have of each other, and how this does not help our cause. There are two things that kept popping up in conversations that I would like to address.

#1: “Following” or “Trailing” spouse

We need to stop using this phrase! It’s offensive to both parties – for the “follower” it makes it seem like they are weak, powerless, and have no value in their career; for the “leader” it makes it seem like they are overbearing, only care about their career, and are just plain jerks.

People need to realize that the majority of couples these days make decisions together. Marriage is a partnership, after all. If a couple decides that living together in the same city is important to them, and to their marriage, then they should not be penalized or judged for that. It does not make either party less serious about their career.

Please, please, please stop using this phrase! The “two-body problem” is much nicer, and a better description of the issue.

#2: Astronomers don’t “want” non-academic jobs

Throughout the conference, many talked about the benefit of non-academic careers, and how those jobs (and the people who have them) should be valued. I am in complete agreement, and think astronomy and physics students need to have more information on these types of careers right from the beginning.

The thing that bothered me was the implication that people who took these careers only did so because they couldn’t get a tenure-track position for whatever reason (children, geographical location, health, having to work part-time, etc.). Why is it so hard to understand that some of us actually want these jobs? That we strive for them from very early on? It’s not a consolation prize for us. Please stop treating us like second-class citizens just because we don’t want an academic job.

This also doesn’t mean that we think people who want or have academic jobs are idiots, or that those positions are no good. It just means something else is better for us.

We are all here to work together – be it on astronomy or women’s issues – but if we keep judging the choices of others, we will get no where fast. How can we expect others to support our decisions, if we can’t do it amongst ourselves? Let’s agree that my way might not be your way, and that’s okay, as long as we are all living life the way we want.


Comments on: "Pet Peeves via WiA" (6)

  1. spot on! I agree on both points.


  2. Welcome back! Sounds like it was a really interesting conference. I definitely agree on both points, especially the second one. From your NN post, again all very good points, but #5 was especially interesting.

    I've always been wary of all female groups for that particular reason. I hated computer science, but one of the things I liked about it during the brief time I was in it was that it was mostly guys. We'd do a project and they didn't spend time gossiping or building consensus or cutting each other down. It was about getting the job done. Once the project was done is a whole other story but when it was time to work, they worked. I don't get why groups of women, particularly larger groups, can't do the same. And I've seen it in schools during my practicum placements too.

    I realize this all probably sounds like a huge, sexist generalization I'm making but that's not my intention, it has just been my own experience. I'm not sure what it will take to bring about a change, but hopefully one day, women will realize that they are only sabotaging themselves by behaving in that way.


  3. Hear hear!

    The 2nd point has plagued me repeatedly – it seems to hold true for all fields (although probably more so in some than in others). I am not a second class citizen, a failure, a drop-out, or any of the other terms I've heard around the blogosphere!


  4. First time here, nice blog! On point #2 … I think it's going to take years possibly decades longer to get this mindset to change. I've just stopped caring about it. I took a non-academia job, and I honestly think I'm the better for it. I look at the other three people who entered the PhD program at the same time as me and I see that two are still post-docs, and the other is an assistant professor still fighting for their first major grant. Me? I've got a steady job, I've got my agencies version of tenure, I make a very decent paycheck, benefits are great, I do all the science I want, and I don't have to fight for a single penny of funding. And you know what? I don't get dinged for working a 40 hour week which allows me to consider having a family that will actually see me on the weekends.

    For me, that's enough. And when someone from academia gives me grief, I rattle off my list of perks and watch them shut up right quick. Sure, perhaps I'll never hit that grand slam that 1 in 1,000,000 academics hit … I'll just keep plugging away with my singles. Last time I looked at their numbers, I'd be willing to bet Ichiro will wind up in the HoF just as quickly as Albert Pujols will.


  5. Theresa – thanks!

    Andrea – I hear ya, and I don't think your statement is rash. I think we've all had experiences like that. It makes me wonder about why some of us go into traditionally male dominated fields: do we do it because we interact better with men, or do we interact better with men because we are in these fields?

    Cath – I totally agree!! We need to change this first class/second class culture BS!

    Thomas – welcome to the blog! It's funny that even though you have all those benefits over an academic job and you actually like what you're doing, you still have to justify your choice! I think those of us in non-academic careers (yes, I count myself as one, even though I'm a post-doc right now! LOL) can have just as much, if not more, of an affect on the advancement of science.


  6. Spot on!

    And I can't believe I missed meeting you at WIA! Or did we meet and just not know it?


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