So I had a meeting with a grad student who’s doing a really smart thing about her comprehensive exams. She’s actually meeting ftf with each of her committee members to talk about her respective lists! And it set me to thinking about all the ways in which we don’t ask for face time with advisors, mentors, or bosses, partly because we’re all doing this dance around how busy we all are, and partly because sometimes the higher ups freak us out and it’s less stressful to try to communicate via emailed attachments.
And this led to considering communication more generally and how women in particular can be so reluctant about communicating their accomplishments and actually having conversations about their work and progress with people who’ll be making decisions about employment, promotion, etc. Just as ideologies of romance teach us that it really isn’t romance or love or whatever if we have to communicate — after all, there’s something crass about saying “lower down” — so we expect that other people are going to know and care about our achievements as much as we do. I was at a workshop with women faculty members the other day and when the discussion turned to promoting their own work, they visibly shrank, and one of them said, “It just sounds slimy.” While I imagine that race factors into this in complicated ways, and perhaps class more centrally, I’ve met few shrinking violets who are men.
I pointed out it’s also not fair to expect that your boss is just going to know your achievements off the top of his head and brag on them. I find it really helpful when people send me email reminders about awards, publications, etc.
Of course, some bosses need more prodding than others.
Note to self: need to do a better job of teaching women how to do this!