On making career decisions and doubt

(by babyattachmode) Nov 22 2018

I don't love the feeling of doubt. The feeling when you wake up in the night and options keep circling around in your head. And I especially dislike the fact that when it comes to actual career options, you can rarely ever compare options right next to each other like ice cream flavors, it's more like trains at a train station where you choose one that goes somewhere without knowing if 10 minutes later a train to a much nicer destination will leave.

I would really like my brain to be a computer in that way, where I feed information, the computer compares it to the criteria I've set for a decision and then it spits out a yes or no answer.

So what I've tried to do this year is make a clear list of things that I would want in a job and things that I particularly don't want. Some things are easy: I don't want to commute for more than an hour on a daily basis. However, other things are less easy to turn into a clear list to feed into the decision making flow chart.

And a computer would never be flattered when someone suggests a job that they hadn't considered before just because someone suggests they might be good at it, whereas my brain starts to doubt whether to change the criteria when something like that happens.

Or maybe I'm overthinking this too much?

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On diversity as a tick-box exercise

(by babyattachmode) Nov 12 2018

A few days ago I wrote about women in higher positions at Dutch universities and how it seems from research at economics departments that "women are still not gaining a foothold through the regular application and employment policies." At first glance, it is therefore encouraging to see that the Dutch scientific organization, the main funding body of Dutch academic science, has a diversity statement on their website.*

My initial enthousiasm about this waned when I wondered if this is just a tick-box exercise, instead of a true effort to transform Dutch academia into a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem. The reason that got me thinking about this is another edition of "Pump your career", the "Talent day for female scientists". I wrote about issues that I have with this title before, but one of the speakers at this event pointed out that at least NWO removed all the images of shoes from the website, so I guess that is something. But what is more problematic with this event is the fact that it puts the onus - and thus the work - to improve diversity on women. Why does it not focus on everybody to create a more inclusive work environment?

And then I noticed a picture of the recipients of a large amount of grant money and saw that they are all white men (click the picture in the tweet to see more white men!).

So women get a one day event to learn how to negotiate better, but consortia led exclusively by men get 19 million Euro for research.


* But when will NWO start focussing on diversity other than gender diversity...?

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Women at Dutch universities: from behind a curtain to a seat at the kids' table.

(by babyattachmode) Nov 10 2018

Recently, I learned about Anna Maria van Schurman, the first Dutch female student at Utrecht University in 1636. She was allowed to attend lectures, but only when she sat separated from the men, and hidden from them behind a curtain. Apparently men would allow a woman into the unversity, but only if they weren't distracted by her in their studies.

382 years later, women are everywhere in Dutch universities, but when it comes to the top ranks, they are still underrepresented. This survey across economics faculties comes to the following conclusion when assessing what is being done to promote more women to full professors:

The most successful programmes seem to be the additional ones specifically designed for women. In other words: as long as there are extras, women are being appointed. However, women are still not gaining a foothold through the regular application and employment policies.

It begs the question whether the 1636 situation where women are tolerated only when they are hidden behind a curtain is still the case in a way: women are only tolerated in positions that are specifically crafted for them - like a seat at the kids' table-, but they are not given an actual seat at the grown up table.

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Scientopia fundraiser

(by babyattachmode) Nov 02 2018

Just a quick post: if you enjoy reading here, and you'd like to donate to Scientopia, you can do so in the right sidebar. My twitter word cloud sums up pretty well what the topics are on my blog 🙂


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On being comfortable enough for activism

(by babyattachmode) Oct 28 2018

I started writing as babyattachmode online just after BlueEyes was born. I felt that in the competitive academic world, where I was trying to establish myself in a position with a bit more permanence than a post-doc job, I needed to hide a part of my identity. I felt that it was better to hide the part of me that was a tired new mom and to only show the competitive postdoc who would stay productive no matter what to the real world. At the same time, as babyattachmode I could talk about things I thought could be different in academia, like every day sexism and the position of women in science.

After a few years with these two identities - babyattachmode online and my IRL identity offline - I realized that I wished I would be more like babyattachmode IRL. I started to speak up when someone would for example make a sexist remark in a meeting. At first, this made me highly uncomfortable, but the more I did it, the more normal it felt.

And in the beginning of this year I grabbed the opportunity to become involved in the inclusion and diversity group within the company I work for. I have a permanent position where I am now and felt comfortable enough to become more vocal on this topic. However, as Sara Ahmed pointed out: "When you expose a problem, you pose a problem". I tend to want everyone to be happy and posing a problem is the opposite of that.

I realized that some people would respond annoyed when I told them I was working on this topic and for example told that they felt that this was unnecessary ("we already have women, right?"). Last week, I gave a talk about this topic to over a 100 colleagues. I was 90% excited about this and 10% afraid it would not be good for career advancement if the 50-something white men in the company  people in leadership positions would see me as 'the angry feminist'. So semi-consciously I dressed as elegant as I could to avoid this as much as possible*. Perhaps babyattachmode wouldn't care what she wears and my IRL identity does, but slowly I am merging these two identities in the real world and it feels really good.

What about you? Are there parts of your online identity that you wish you would use more offline?

*Writing this and the title for this post makes me realize the privilege of my situation: I am white, cis, thin, heterosexual and able-bodied and I can choose whether I feel comfortable enough to be an activist when it comes to diversity and inclusion at work. I realize that this is not the case for everyone and that sometimes the way you look or the life you live almost automatically makes you an activist.

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On setting boundaries and saying no

(by babyattachmode) Oct 17 2018

For a long time in my life, I looked at other people for guidance about my own boundaries: I thought that if they could do something, I should be able to do that same thing. If they worked for 50 hours, then so should I. If they partied until 3am, then I should also be able to do that.

It has only recently dawned on me that everyone has their own boundaries. And it is weird that it has taken me so long to consciously realize this, because as someone who tends to get migraines, partying until 3am often meant the next day in bed with a migraine for me, while the others would happily go about their day.

And that was the other realization: that I usually only felt a boundary when I hit the proverbial wall, for example in the form of a migraine attack. But I also think that all the crying at work that I have done meant that I only felt a boundary when I really hit it and tension had built up so much that the only way out was crying.

So I'm trying to be more conscious of where I am in relation to the wall, as opposed to only noticing it once I'm hitting it. And one of the steps I took this morning was to block TWO WHOLE WEEKS in my calendar before the end of the year to finish a task that I need to finish. I know that if I don't do this, more urgent stuff will come up. So when I cycled to work this morning I found myself wishing that I could just take a vacation to finish this task, and it occurred to me that I can actually do that. Now let's see how good I'm going to be at keeping those two weeks free to work on that task....

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What are the little things a company can do for its employees?

(by babyattachmode) Oct 01 2018

Despite all sorts of horrible stuff going on in the world, this weekend I wondered about something a little lighter: the small things companies do for their employees. For example, the company I work for has a service to do your drycleaning for you (if you bring it to the office- and I think you have to pay too), and was recently contemplating whether to offer a flower delivery service, where you could pick up flowers at the office.

These services seem to have been chosen with rather traditional gender roles in mind: are these really the things that a diverse array of employees benefit from?

The reason this got me thinking this weekend is that I realized that we had almost no time to buy a birthday present for a party that BlueEyes was invited to this weekend. Wouldn't it be convenient if my company would offer a service that would handle this for me and buy me a little pack of Legos or something like that? And along those same lines, what about a service to triage phone calls from school before disrupting my work schedule? I know of another company that offers onsite daycare with the option to have your baby stay the night if you need to travel for work, which seems very useful to me. And I can imagine that people who need to go to the pharmacy to refill their prescriptions often might benefit from a service that is offered to do that for them.

What about you? What would the most helpful service be that a company could offer to you?

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On #MeToo, courage, empathy and igniting the atmosphere

(by babyattachmode) Sep 28 2018

I only watched the beginning of the Kavanaugh hearings yesterday. I don't live in the US anymore and the process of supreme court nominations are not something I would normally follow. But of course this wasn't about that. It was about somthing that touches all of us. To me, these hearings symbolized what it is like to be a girl and a woman in a patriarchical society. Where from a young age, you become aware that boys can do things with you that you have to carry with you for the rest of their lives while they laugh about it.

This thread details how that happens ALL THE TIME:

And Christine Blasey Ford's incredibly moving and couragous act of speaking out and uncovering all those feelings that she has carried with her all those years inspires me tremendously.

But it also makes me sad that apparently you need to be white, academic, blonde, have a PhD, etc in order for people to MAYBE believe you. You need to have exactly the right tone and say the right words. It's not like because we know that assault and date rape happens, we easily believe women who come forward and say this has happened to them.

And then Kavanaugh's statement started and I had to switch the livestream off. Not only because it was bedtime for my kids here, but also because it was hard and painful to watch. It made me wonder: what if he actually didn't remember that this happened? I guess it is very possible that an event that haunts one person for the rest of their live is 'just another party' to another person. And that is what is the most horrible part of this to me: the complete lack of empathy that this indicates. And that by making it so hard to talk about this for the victims, it automatically makes it difficult to spark empathy in (potential) perpetrators. And that's when this morning I found this comic that hits the nail right on the head about why we need a #MeToo movement and what it can bring us if we use it well.

And if - like me - you're fantasizing about what all the rage of women in the world could do, @scicurious calculated that for you in this thread:

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On recognizing bias directed to you

(by babyattachmode) Sep 26 2018

A while ago, I received feedback that "I shouldn't show my ambition so much because it makes people around me uncomfortable". It was one of those remarks where at the time that I received this feedback, I didn't really react to it. I didn't immediately react for multiple reasons, the primary one being that I wanted to keep my pokerface in this meeting and I knew that reacting would mean that I would show emotions.

But when I cycled home later, I wondered whether the giver of said feedback would have said the same to a man. And I continued to wonder how you can recognize this? Because when you're the person giving feedback like this, you can flip it to test it, ie. check whether you would have said the same to a man as you would have to a woman. And sometimes it is obvious that the feedback is sexist, for example when you're a woman and asked to smile more. But in this case I believe it is much more subtle and perhaps I am being too pushy on what I would want to achieve and when?

Either way, I realized (again) that recognizing bias takes time and effort, and therefore it is a classical Nature move to put the burden of confronting gender bias in the workplace on women's shoulders. As this article clearly lays out: the onus shouldn't solely be on women to change the workplace:

"we cannot and must not absorb facetious messaging that says we created and can fix failings that are not of our own making—and that we might somehow shape-shift until we fit perfectly into fundamentally flawed workplaces."

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On being happy in my job

(by babyattachmode) Sep 12 2018

Earlier in the year, I wasn't very happy with where I was in my job. I wanted to make a next step which seemed like a real possibility but in the end it didn't happen. I vowed to myself (and the people around me), that I wanted something different and that I intended to move somewhere else (either in the organization or outside) in the middle of the year. I interviewed for a position that I didn't get and I sent a couple job applications, all of which did not lead to a job for various reasons. But I also decided not to apply to a bunch of opportunities that I saw, because they didn't speak to me enough to apply.

And then I changed my mind.

I decided that I was going to stay in my current job AND be happy in my current job. After I came back from vacation, I told my manager that I was going to retract my statement of wanting to move within the year.

So what made me change my mind? In the first part of the year - during the time I was looking for change - within my role a couple things changed: I got more responsibilities within a project, and I got involved with Inclusion & Diversity within my organisation. And I realized that for the latter, it was good to be in a place where I felt comfortable in my work, in order to find the confidence and stability to be an activist when talking about topics around diversity.

And at the same time, I became more aware of who I am without my work role. I realized that when I was in academia, a really large part of my identity came from my work. And still a large part of my identity does, but for a while I felt like I almost didn't know what the other parts were. Also, I retrieved most of my hapiness and fullfilment from the output of my work and not so much from the actual doing my work. Now, I try to approach work more like I (try to) approach running: I enjoy it WHILE I'm doing it, not only after I'm done and sitting on the couch (I will need to remind myself of this sentence the next time I'm in the middle of what feels like an endless and difficult run).

And as usual when you think you have all sorts of unique feelings and emotions, this morning I came across an HBR article that describes nearly EXACTLY what I felt. Except that I surely hope I'm not in my mid-career yet.

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