Getting Heard--Some Do

Janet Joy jjoy at nas.edu
Sat Jan 20 22:32:29 EST 1996


Marguerite Evans commented:
I try to keep up with all email daily - I come in early to do so
and I have read each of the "getting heard" in the hope that there may be
something more constructive than recruiting male conspirators to overcome
the problem!  If men behaved like this (and some do) what would women
think!  I am afraid I don't think it is the answer to the problem (and I
have already said what I think MAY help...) and it saddens me to think
that so many learned women are willing to resort to such tactics!  I
think if someone doesn't wish to acknowledge you/your ideas after you
have stood up, introduced yourself and said what you think, then it's
their loss and a bad reflection on them - not you.

..........reply..............

Supposing your career depends on 'their' (the men who aren't hearing what you
say)
estimation of your intellectual worth?  Perhaps in a moral sense it's "their
loss"
when they haven't listened to you, but what about the loss to your career
trajectory?

I have a problem with the distaste for "acting like them."   To be a successful
scientist (or almost any other demanding career), one must succeed on the terms
of the dominant group.  This is especially true in "social" careers like science
where collaboration and resource allocation depend on others.   Well, then it
seems a little futile to want to "win" by current standards, but not want to
play by them.   Complaining about not wanting to act like men sounds to
me like an excuse for not wanting to go the extra mile it takes to be
successful.

I found the comment by the "male conspirator" about speaking slowly and looking
straight at people to be the among the most useful advice on this entire thread.
It works!  I do think it's important not to confuse speaking styles that come
from
insecurity (little eye contact, rushed speech, and other self-diminishing
behaviors) with
female speaking styles in general.  After all, when talking among women friends
how many of you DON'T make eye contact?

PERSONAL COMMENT:  I too had trouble getting heard in lab meetings in grad
school.
The usual.  I suggest a new idea.  Topic changes.  John, the senior grad student
suggests the same idea at the next meeting.  "Fantastic!" says the lab head
(male).  Paranoia sets in.
I must be really inarticulate.  Situation persists (the law of inertia).
Finally it occurs
to me (duh) nothing will change unless I do something.  First, I ask my friends
in
the lab if they see it happening.  They say no, but then they watch.  They
see it.

 So (nervously), I point this out to my supervisor who is the lab head.  He says
he doesn't know what I'm talking about it, he really would never do it
intentionally.
I feel like a total fool and think I've really jeopardized by career because now
 he
thinks I'm an oversensitive female.

Curious ending.  I start to be heard!  This annoying situation goes away!!!  I
figure he
was actually sincerely oblvious, but I made him pay attention and he noticed.
Even
happier ending, I became one of his most successful students and he nominated
me for a wonderful thesis award (which I received).  Even more curious.  Years
later
a friend told me that my supervisor had told her, "When Janet first came to the
lab she
was this little mouse, and by the end she was telling me to go to hell!"  And he
 smiled!
Actually, I never did tell him that, but that's how he told the story.

It would be nice if all similar stories could end this way, but I know they
don't.  However
at least some do and it's often worth a try and often you get surprised.




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