assertive vs. bitchy

Estelle M Hrabak emhrabak at HOPPER.UNH.EDU
Mon Oct 6 12:44:05 EST 1997

On 6 Oct 1997, Janet Mertz wrote:

(some deletion)
> However, many of my male peers were jealous of me and 
> I didn't enjoy playing this highly aggressive game. Thus, I turned 
> down Harvard and other places where one has to be highly aggressive 
> to survive as a professor in favor of the University of 
> Wisconsin-Madison where I can do equally good work in a much 
> friendlier, less-competitive environment. I have been continuously 
> funded by major N.I.H. grants for the past 20 years, have exciting 
> findings that resulted in an "outstanding" rating on my recent 
> competitive renewal, give excellent talks, serve on study sections 
> and editorial boards, and am much happier with myself and my life. 
> However, I am no longer an invited speaker at conferences because I 
> am not playing the game by the same rules as are the "assertive old 
> boys". One can succeed without being forced to play the game the way 
> the "old boys" do. Don't give up. The only way we will be able to 
> change the rules of the game for all is by having a higher percentage 
> of the players being women in positions of power. Remember, 
> however, this problem is not peculiar to science. 
(Some deletion)
> 	Hang in there. We can make a difference and succeeed.
> 	Janet Mertz
> 	Professor
I think that Janet makes an excellent point.  We all likely have
the potential to be "successful" if we learn the rules and "play the
game".  However, perhaps a more important criterion is whether this makes
us happy with ourselves and our lives, as Janet said.   At the risk of
sounding totally sappy, I would argue that this viewpoint does have merit,
especially since an entire population of "superstars" would be pretty
obnoxious.  It is surely possible to find places where extreme
competitiveness is not the only measure of worth.

This raises a question that I've thought about  - Do you think that
having more women in power positions will change the
aggressive/competitive nature of science OR will the women who move in to
those power positions have gotten there largely by playing the game by the
prevailing rules and then see no reason to change them?   
(I know there's no answer to this - but what do you think?)

Estelle Hrabak - who doc'd and postdoc'd at University of Wisconsin and is
now an asst. prof. at University of New Hampshire (also a nice working

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