The feminine catch

December 22, 2016

I just read your article on women in academia spending more time on being “good citizens”, undertaking administrative tasks and so forth, than on gunning for their own research as men do, and hence women fail to match these men in getting promotion (“Female professors ‘pay price for academic citizenship’”, News, 14 December).

I wanted to add the viewpoint of a shamelessly ambitious and brilliant (and child-free) female academic. I’ve been asked if I would like to dutifully chair the faculty and so on, and I have declined. I’ve pursued my research and changed my field – and I still haven’t been promoted.

The point about these stories – which can summed up as “women aren’t doing the right things” – is that they let the hierarchies off the basic fact, which is that they look at someone like me and think “that doesn’t look like a professor”.

I realise you were trying to make the point that we ought to value good citizenship, which would be great; but whether that happens or not, we need to acknowledge that not all women have feminine career patterns – and they are held back nonetheless.

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