Dressing, communication styles, etc.

Sabine Dippel sabine at hlrz28.zam.kfa-juelich.de
Tue Aug 20 10:02:04 EST 1996

Hi all!

Yesterday, I attended a series of (i. e. 3) talks that left me with a somewhat 
angry feeling, and somehow relates to a lot of topics discussed here in the last 
time, especially also on why certain people win poster contests.

I work in a huge research center (with a certain focus on physics, but also 
lots of other stuff from biology to meteorology), where each year there is 
some kind of contest among all who finished their PhD with a certain grade or
better. They can hand in some kind of article that is supposed to be understood by 
anyone (i.e. might be published in a non-science magazine) about (part of)
the results of ones thesis. 
Out of these articles (this year 12) 3 are chosen, and these three people have
to give a talk (20 min.) on this topic in front of a mixed (though with 
scientific background) audience. All three get some amount of money, but the 
ranking decides on how much, and only the first one gets this prize. 

When I attended these talks last year, I found them all extremely well-presented
and would have had big problems to choose a ranking. (I don't know if it's 
important, but last year all contestants were male.) This year, there was one
woman and two men (all in physics) and I thought "hey, great, maybe this year
we will have the second woman to get the prize". 
She gave the first of the talks, and compared to the ones I had heard last 
year, I did not think it was very good. However, the other two in my opinion 
were worse, though I have to admit that for the second one it might have 
just been a matter of style. So in my opinion (and some others too) there was
a definite 3rd place, and the decision of 1st and 2nd a matter of taste.

The result was that the guy whom I had ranked "possible first" was first
(though I preferred the woman), but that the woman and my "definite third"
shared the 2nd place. Since as far as choice of contents went (which in a 
way was already selected by selecting these 3), i.e. was the stuff presented
in a way understandable to anyone etc., all rated equal in my opinion, I think
that it was really a question of presentation style (and maybe dress?).

The woman presented her stuff very calmly, it was well thought out, she had
nice transparancies and seemed very natural. She wore a normal pair of pants
(no jeans) and a matching blouse. She had not brought anything for demonstration
purposes, and all in all did not seem very lively, but that seemed to be her
personality. The jokes she had were in the drawings on the transparencies.

The first guy seemed to have written down his speech (it was really written, not
spoken German) and to have learned it by heart. He was very lively, but he 
seemed to be playing a role (he reminded my strongly of a certain guy doing a
science show on German television in his intonation). He had brought some 
demonstration objects, but only showed them in the discussion section, because
he seemed to have forgotten to do so before. He wore a dark suit and tie.
I was somewhat put off by the act he seemed to be putting on, but he might 
have ranked first, too. 

The second guy sometimes seemed to forget what he wanted to say, mumbled and 
did not look at the audience, had one transparency which was so complicated 
that he had difficulties unfolding it, and the talk was a bit too long. He 
had brought some stuff for demonstration purposes, wore jacket and tie 
(also no jeans), but of a lighter color. Even though he mumbled, he seemed
quite lively when he presented his small experiments. 

The committee was all-male. 

I am not saying that there was any deliberate act in overlooking the woman,
but I got the impression that her matter-of-fact way of presenting her stuff,
and her calmness, seemed to have scored quite low with the committee, or that
it was rather wiped out by the impression of the other two. The women I spoke
to rather preferred that calm way to the showy second guy. 

Any ideas, comments, whatever about this? (Just another comment on the side:
last year, of the three I found hard to choose among, the one guy wearing the
dark suit also made the race. The year before, a woman won the prize, but at
that time I was not here yet, so I can't judge about that.)


| Sabine Dippel     | e-mail: s.dippel at kfa-juelich.de                | 
| HLRZ              | phone : [++49] (2461) 61-2318                  | 
| KFA Juelich       | fax   : [++49] (2461) 61-2430                  | 
| 52425 Juelich     | WWW   : http://w3.hlrz.kfa-juelich.de/~sabine/ | 
| Germany           |                                                | 

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