Positive feedback.

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Wed Dec 17 14:15:35 EST 1997

> From: "Deborah A. Cook" <dcook at cau.edu>

> One thing that I think is absent in academic science is validation. An
> earlier thread touched on this in terms of looking for the negative in
> journal clubs as well as other areas of academic science. I think
> women
> leave science because we don't get enough praise. We take and take the
> crap and finally when something good happens, nobody notices.

> Academic science has gotten way too negative. I think we need to
> recognize that the competition for funds is stiff. I can deal with
> that
> as a PI. What bothers me is the more grants, more publications
> attitude from administrators, who refuse to recognize how hard 
> it is and then  don't praise people for being successful in 
> spite of it.

Oh, do I ever hear you on this one--and it's not just administrators
but the old-guard faculty. No matter how much you do, it just
isn't good enough to desrve praise.  They DO fall all over themselves
to promote and stroke their "superstars" (and make excuses for 
them too)  but ignore everybody else (even if they are doing better!).  
It's hard enough to accept that you aren't going to be a superstar,
but to have your contributions completely ignored while they
continue to inflate a few already high pressured egos gets a bit
much.  Everyone needs to feel wanted, and no institution survives
on superstars alone.  (As a rule, they make pretty bad colleagues.)
I think being ignored and feeling undervalued probably contributes
a lot to attrition.  And it doesn't take much to counter those feelings.

I can count on one hand how many positive comments I got in 
grad school.  These days,  I try to keep remembering to
give the people who work for me positive feedback, but I also
 want to warn them to be prepared to generate it from inside
at the next step of their career in case they don't get it
>From the PI.  

This may affect women more than men simply
because women get so MUCH negative feedback--there are still so
many signals telling us we don't belong as scientists .  For
instance, the fact I am continually mistaken for my secretary,
which doesn't happen to the men--leading to the most recent
example of this, when a woman came out of the phosphorimager lab
next to my office and asked "whose lab is this?"  Because we
call departments "labs", I told her the dept name.  "No," 
she said, "who is the PI here?"  I told her there are 8 
PIs in the dept.  "But whose AREA is this?"  she asked.  I
said, "you are standing in my office, so it's mine."  Blank
face.  I elaborated...."I am one of the PIs."  COMPLETE
SHOCK.  There are very few offices here, they are mostly 
inhabited by PIs, but this woman seemed completely blown away
that my typical cramped PI office with papers on the floor and
a whiteboard and journals stacked everywhere REALLY belonged
to a PI, and that PI is ME.  It was quite clear that she would
never have walked in my open door if I had been a man at work
on the ocmputer instead of a woman. 

Shouldn't we believe the T shirt
by now that a woman's place is at the top?  It makes me so
sad that women make the same negative assumptions.

Sometimes I feel as though I am missing an essential rulebook
 telling me how things work and how to get ahead. Most of
my colleagues seem to have it while I stumble uncertainly
along getting ignroed.  Maybe I just don't have the right 
personality. Anyone else ever get that feeling?

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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 
"These are my opinions.  I don't have  
time to speak for anyone else."

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