On being allies

(by babyattachmode) Jan 16 2019

Science writer Ed Yong wrote an article for the Atlantic about new research on trans identity in childhood. I personally think it is well written and uses inclusive and respectful language.

However, in the response to it, I also read this tweet of a trans woman who expresses her annoyance with people who love this article but have been much less respectful before.

I remember a similar sentiment after the "Everything you know about obesity is wrong" article that appeared late last year: why do people only start listening when men who do not belong to the group they write about (whether it is trans people or fat people) say something that the group themselves has said before? It makes me wonder: because on the one hand we want people who hold the majority of power (i.e. men) to be allies for minority groups, but at the same time we don't want the scenario that only when men speak out, we believe the minority group. So how do we act as allies in such a society? I don't have a clear answer but I think it starts with listening and amplifying voices of minority groups. Is there a way to do it right, or is it 2 steps forward, 1 step back into a more inclusive society?

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2019 will be the year of personal branding

(by babyattachmode) Jan 02 2019

The thing that shocked me most as a recovering academic is that in academia I had a very clear goal that I was working towards, namely becoming a university professor with my own lab doing my own research. When I left academia, I lost that laser sharp focus on the goal entirely. In the beginning that wasn't so much a problem because I seriously enjoyed learning new things and understanding how my new environment worked. However, after a while some days started to feel like I was just moving things around without any clear goal in mind. I would do the work just to please the people around me (and because I get paid for doing it of course). It became more and more clear that I needed to replace the academic goal with some other goal, although perhaps it does not need to be as rigid and laser sharp as that one.

As I wrote at the end of December, 2018 was the year of contemplation and getting a better idea of what I want. I've worked on listing the things I like and dislike doing, but I feel like I need to do more work in crafting that vision of where I see myself and what I want to do. That's why I've made the theme for 2019 "personal branding".

I don't particularly like those words, because they sound a little like you're only showing the shiny, happy version of yourself, but to me they actually mean the opposite: to figure out your authentic self and feel strong enough to bring that to work. One aspect of that is that I tend to pile on as many projects as I possibly can, but I lack focus. Over the break I realized that this might just be because I don't want to fail and doing many things is both an excuse to not to everything 100% but also is a way to spread my changes that at least some of the projects will work out fine. I need to stop doing that and figure out what it is that I want to be known for and then focus on doing just that and embracing the larger chance of failing.

Perhaps this is the work of a lifetime, but no better day to start than today, right?! Happy 2019 and please share your theme in the comments, if you have one!

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My year in numbers and books

(by babyattachmode) Dec 31 2018

Some years are characterized by all sorts of spectacular numbers, like having 3 different jobs and living on 2 different continents, like 2014 was for me. This was not one of those years. This year was mostly characterized by me learning that a marriage is something you should never take for granted and always put work, effort and love into in appropriate amounts. Having little kids and a busy job, I seemed to have forgotten this and I sincerely hope the wake-up call I got this year came soon enough. I haven't written about this on the blog and will not write about it more than the two sentences I just wrote because this is clearly not just about me.

Otherwise, this was 2018 in numbers for me:

1: the number of manuscripts submitted with my name on it. I might actually publish something again in 2019 after 4 years of no new Pubmed entries.

3: the number of countries I visited. All with family, none for work this year sadly. Although now that I think about it we drove though more countries on our way to these, but I guess those don't really count.

5: the number of jobs I applied for.

Also 5: the number of jobs I didn't get. Which was a blessing in itself because halfway through the year I realized the cool things I can do in my own job that I had lost sight of earlier in the year.

6ish: the number of things I crocheted. The 6th item is by no means finished yet, because it's going to be a pretty large blanket for on the couch and I've been working on it for over a year. It's almost a meditation of enjoying the process instead of being focussed on the end product, probably something I should learn how to do better.

16: the number of books I finished, highlights being:

  • Ellen de Bruin: Onder het ijs --> such a good book, when will it be translated in English so most of you can read it too?! It's about academia, #MeTooSTEM and I just could not put it down!
  • Angela Saini: Inferior --> about how science and society have told women that they are inferior to men and all the reasons why this is not the case. Highly recommend!

All the books I read this year

750: the number of kilometers I ran this year, thanks to many people on twitter cheering me on!

All the kilometers I ran this year

10,000: the number of views this post received back in February when it went a little viral.

Happy New Year's Eve (if that is something you care about) and see you in 2019!

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Twelve months of InBabyAttachMode, 2018 edition

(by babyattachmode) Dec 21 2018

Just like last year, the first sentence of the first post of every month in the past year:

January: Happy 2018 everyone!

February: This morning, BlueEyes woke up with a slight fever and a bad cold.

March: Yesterday, the Brain Prize was awarded.

April: Yesterday Michael Eisen tweeted this.

May: It's been a bit quiet here on my blog and one of the reasons was that we took a short trip (4 nights) to Barcelona recently.

June: The other day I was in a training where we talked about how you can influence other people and we revisited Aristotle's pathos, ethos and logos triangle on persuading people (google it if you want to know more).

July: Last month, I received the following question from someone who found my blog and has a question:

August: When I went abroad to do my post-doc, I was determined to apply for funding from the homecountry's national science organization to be able to fund my project.

September: This is one of those posts where I would be fine if nobody reads it because it's scary to hit publish on this one.

October: 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.

November: 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.

December: Last year, somewhere on the internet I came across YearCompass: it's a little book you can print with prompts about how last year was, and what your dreams and wishes for the year to come are.


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2018 was the year of contemplation, what will next year be?

(by babyattachmode) Dec 19 2018

Last year, somewhere on the internet I came across YearCompass: it's a little book you can print with prompts about how last year was, and what your dreams and wishes for the year to come are. To be entirely honest, I did not completely fill out the booklet because it was quite a lot of work and required a lot of thinking that I wasn't sure I wanted to spend my entire Christmas break on. I did get quite far in finishing it.

The main thing it brought me was a theme for 2018: it became the year of contemplation for me. After last year, where I thought I had figured out what I wanted career-wise but wasn't able to actually move into that role, this felt like what I needed. I cheated a little on my year of contemplation by applying to jobs I thought I wanted. But I either did not get them, or they didn't speak to me enough to make the jump. I think that in the end that was a good thing.

What really helped in the year of contemplation was getting a coach at work. Together with them I worked on getting a better understanding of what it is that I want in a job. One of the excercises the coach had me do was to identify my saboteurs. To understand better what it is that stands in my way of understanding what I really want (for example not being able to decide between two jobs because I want to please both people) has been really eye-opening.

I'm going to sit down and do this year's YearCompass again and I would really encourage you to do so too!

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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 ūüôā


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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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