Thursday, March 30, 2006

National "Ignore A Female Scientist" Week

This on Jane's post just today. Combining her post with my own week makes me think it's National "Ignore A Female Scientist" week.

Like Jane, I work with someone who consistently:

- Interrupts me,
- Disregards my ideas with no rationale,
- Tells me my ideas are wrong, only to repeat them back to me as his own,
- Ignores my intellectual presence.

I've taken all measures I think I possibly can. I've tried to be very direct with this person. I've spoken to my own advisor about it, and was told to cooperate. I've spoken to the Assistant Dean of Engineering, to the Graduate Advisor, to other faculty in the department. I've tried all their advice. Perhaps I'm doing something wrong, but even with all their advice, I've not been able to get this man to treat me with any kind of common courtesy.

It would be one thing if he were just a jerk. Unfortunately, I'm starting to see how his behavior is becoming an obstacle to my own intellectual development, academic success, and general happiness. The work I do for him is simply implementing his ideas, many of which are very mediocre.

What's ultimately frustrating to me is that the only next step I can see to correcting his behavior would be to file a formal complaint with the student grievance committee at the University of GradShitTownVille. I have no information about the formal grievance process, and I'm very hesistant to make a formal complaint as a result. Moreover, graduate students are not generally told that this process exists, and I had to make an inquiry just to find out that there is a process.

If I still worked in Industry, there would be more avenues through which I could resolve this problem. For example:

In Industry, I could quit my job, and find a healthier company. I cannot quit a school and go to another school so easily, though more and more I'm thinking of quitting altogether.

In Industry, I could discuss the issue with human resources, and the issue would come up in his annual review with his own boss. At the University of GradShitTownVille, there are no annual reviews that take student input into consideration.

In Industry, there are other safeties which would not require any action of my own. At IBM Research for example, minorities are tracked according to managers. If a given manager has a history of losing minorities to other managers and other groups, a flag is raised.


Lucy said...

Is there an ombudsman or someone in admin outside your department who you could talk to without making a formal complaint? At my uni there's a dean of student affairs who can be a more impartial student advocate in cases like this. I went to a women in science event recently where a student talked about wanting to quit because she gets no support from her advisor and the admin people there were horrified and had all kinds of ideas for people who could help. They're not well publicised but apparently there are often other options. I know you've already tried talking to a lot of people, but I hope there is someone who can actually help.

Jane said...

I was going to suggest what Lucy said. Barring that, find the most senior woman in engineering or science that you can (that you feel comfortable talking to), and talk to her. And if that doesn't work, find another senior woman who *will* listen and help. Sometimes, senior women scientists/engineers can be the best allies, because they've been there and put up with all of that before and will sometimes have better ideas for minimizing the problem person than anyone else, deans included.

This is never a fun situation to deal with, so best of luck. Email me if you want to chat more about this.

FemaleCSGradStudent said...

I appreciate your suggestions very much. Sadly, I feel that I've tried these avenues. The Assistant Dean is the most senior woman I know, and she is outside my department. The Graduate Advisor, inside my department, is also a woman.

I'm really reaching the end of the road.

DC said...

I've got some bad news for you. The grievance committee is known for not granting any student petitions of any kind. You can talk to Heather M. for more information about that whole exciting experience.

L. Wu said...
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Traveler, not tourist said...

That's too bad. Why do you have to work with him? You can have your own work, and only collaborate with your advisor, right? Maybe I'm missing something. But I don't see why you should continue working with him.

Hope you'll sort this out. Having to work in a negative environment will kill your ideas. I wish I could give some specific advice.

Saad Sheikh said...

Life there really sounds worse than phdcomics. You need to have courage, you sound like a brave person.

Btw. did u try giving him a taste of his own medicine, especially if you think you can get away with it.(he he)

anyways, sometimes u just have to do the inevitable: file a formal complaint. The only other way round is switching ur project or something ...

actually my room mate is stuck in same situation, actually its WAY WORSE THAN YOURS (if u find it that hard to imagine, i can give u some more details), he is considering filing a complain and switching his advisor. but hez determined to not to quit his phd.

i'd say stay determined! and best of luck!