The Top 5 Mistakes Women Make in Academic Settings

[Repost from the TPII archives]

I frequently offer the workshop:  “Yes You Can!  Women and Graduate School.”

It’s a workshop I led quite a few times in different forms, formally and informally, over the course of my years in academia. Sometimes it just informed the way I advised individual female graduate students.

I created it because I just can’t bear to watch all the ways that women shoot themselves in their collective feet in academia (and other professional settings too).

Starting with myself.  I made a lot of mistakes on my path through graduate school, my first job, tenure, move to a new institution, and departmental headship.  And I watched my female colleagues make them too.  And then I watched my students make them–most especially the graduate students I mentored personally through their Ph.D.s.

The mistakes arise from a single source: Women’s lifelong training, in our culture, toward various forms of self-effacement, both obvious and subtle, that undermine their authority in the institution, handicap their effectiveness in speaking and acting in the institution, and block their feelings of entitlement to claim the rewards of the institution.

Women demand and receive too little space

I work with some powerful and fierce women.  Heck, I am a powerful and fierce woman.  But even so, one after another of us falls prey to patterns of speech and thought that position us as “less than,” “secondary to,” “less deserving than,” “less intelligent than,” “in service to” the professors, administrators, and colleagues we encounter in the university.

Let me be clear:  At this point in feminist time, it’s not likely that any woman in the American academy would consider herself less intelligent or capable or deserving than an equivalent man, simply by virtue of her gender.

And for sure I’m not claiming that women are to blame for sexism and institutional gender discrimination, which persists in large and small ways! (the topic of other posts).

What happens is subtler.  What I am claiming is that women are frequently far from their own best advocates.  Women tend to speak and behave in patterns, usually unconsciously and derived from their socialization from childhood, that through their repetition, “perform” a “role” of being less intelligent and capable and deserving than some imagined peer or competitor.  These same patterns are ones that men, by and large,  because of their socialization from childhood (and of course with some exceptions), avoid.

Confident vs. submissive body language

Here are the top five ways that women undermine their own authority:

1)  Ending their declarative sentences and statements on a verbal upswing or “lilt” that communicates self-doubt and deference. “My work is on Japan?”  I focus on gender and transnationalism?”

2) Waiting their turn to interject contributions instead of diving in assertively, and seeking a collective experience rather than firmly expressing an individual viewpoint.  {raises hand and waits…}

3) Leading with, and defaulting to, what they “don’t know” and “can’t do” and what “won’t work.” ie, “I’m not sure if this is always the case, but I think xxxx.  I haven’t read everything in the field, though, so I might be off-base there.”

4) Having a weak handshake and deferential body language, including smiling too much, laughing too often, trailing off, taking up too little space, and defaulting to questions rather than statements.

5) Expressing themselves in a disorganized and emotional manner that muddies their main point and obscures their actual achievements and goals. ie, “I think it’s just really, really important to consider the impact of xxx, which, you know, a lot of folks haven’t really done, even though of course Nelson has done some important work on xxx, but still in my own work I try and extend that…” (in this example also note the default to “I try” and to making her work derivative and dependent through the use of “extend.”  See the post, Why You Don’t Need Extenze.”)

The end result of years of such repetitions of these patterns is that women students and faculty accrue less status and fewer rewards at each stage in their career within the academic institution.

While women together have to combat institutional sexism and the glass ceiling, women individually can vastly improve their scholarly achievements and career prospects by being alert to self-defeating patterns of thought, speech, and behavior from their earliest days in the field.

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The Top 5 Mistakes Women Make in Academic Settings — 56 Comments

  1. Tied to this, the collective experience you identify seems to me to lead feamle academics to contextualise their decisions in a way that reinforces the ‘disorganised’ or indecisive perception (regardless of reality). So for example

    “Them: Do you want to involved in X?”

    “Me: What’s in it for me?”

    “Them: X is it in for you”

    “Me: Thank you but no, it does not fit with my current priorities”.

    notice I don’t explain what my priorities are – because why should I?

    Instead I notice female academics really want the other person to *understand* why they cannot or don’t want to be involved and then often become involved even when they don’t want to be!

    Tied to that (and it sounds counter-intuitive in academia), the less I say and the less I smile when I say it, the more seriously I find my point is taken *regardless of it has any real merit* especially when coupled with the privilege institutionally afforded to me as a white male.

    • Some of this (though not all) is just chattiness, being an “external processor”, which I happen to be (as a man). The downside is that laying out my thought processes opens doors for point-by-point counterarguments. I need to work on this too.

  2. This is well timed advice, as I head off on my first of a series of interviews this week. I just deleted the paragraph from my job talk that starts “Of course I am not the first or only person to note…”

  3. This advice needs to be ethnicity specific. I keep seeing lists of dos and don’ts for academic professionals, and most seem to assume a Euro-American identity. The advice listed here might help a pink-skinned, straight-haired woman seem confident assertive. It will make a brown-skinned, afro-wearing woman seem “angry,” “hostile,” “unfriendly,” “too masculine,” “threatening,” etcetera. As a brown-skinned, curly-haired woman, I have been told very specifically to avoid doing most of the things you list here in order to “fit in” and get ahead.

      • I believe that you are completely wrong in this. I’ve done Interview Interventions with many, many women of color. It is absolutely and categorically wrong to believe that because you are “brown-skinned” therefore you must somehow “compensate” by being wimpy, mealy-mouthed, and apologetic. Many readers somehow misperceive that I am saying to be aggressive, pushy, or belligerent. I have no idea why anyone would take that view after reading this. What women–both white and non-white–learn to do in Interview Interventions with me is to clearly state their research topics, methods and conclusions, and their teaching competencies and methods, in simple, direct, concise manner without self-defeating habits of vagueness, excess emotionalism, or self-deprecation that damage the aura of expertise and authority that they project. If race matters here, it is that this is even more urgent for women of color than it is for white women, because racism means that you are confronting even more obstacles to being seen as an authority in your field.

        • Karen, I think you’re great, but I think you’re just not getting that language functions differently based on different intersectional identities. Women of colour will come across as ‘angry’ if they follow the same advice on being ‘more assertive’ that would likely work for white women. This is just a well-documented fact in socio-linguistics. I’m sorry, but you’re just totally wrong in your response to Robin and millie.

          • I am of course familiar with the scholarship on women of color and language use, but it doesn’t apply to this work that we do in the I-I. In my I-I work with clients of color (and others), nobody comes across as ‘angry’ because the issue at hand is not aggressiveness, but clarity, which is achieved through avoidance of circularity and overly juvenilized hyper-emotionalism (I am PASSIONATE about teaching; I just LOVE working with students; I REALLY REALLY THINK IT’S SO IMPORTANT THAT WE ALL JUST CONSIDER…).

            Are you really trying to say that sounding opaque, juvenilized, and hyper-emotionalized is an effective strategy for women of color in interview settings, but not for white women? I sure hope not. I sure hope nobody is saying that, far less believing it.

          • Actually, I’m now disregarding my own advice of: show, don’t tell! So, rather than trying to laboriously explain why I do what I do, let me just report that the tenure track job offer conversion rate of African American women who have done the Interview Intervention has been close to 100%. My statistics are not perfect because I have no way of tracking all client outcomes, and only know the outcomes of those who get in touch to tell me. But of the African American women who have done I-Is with Kellee or me, whom I have tracked, very close to 100% have gotten tt job offers. What we do works.

    • Pink-skinned? Do people say that? You’re writing a comment about how women of color are held to different standards in fear of sounding “angry,” – which I agree with – but then you say pink-skinned?! Worry less about the angry part, and more about the fact that you sound like an asshole.

    • I am a pink-skinned, straight-haired 43 year old female tenured full professor. I don’t make any of the 5 mistakes and this has led to people in my department thinking I am angry, hostile, unfriendly, too masculine, and threatening. But please note I am not saying this to contradict Robin or devalue her comment. I am saying this because what Robin describes is the risk that all women may face if they refuse to make these mistakes. I think it’s the *effect* of being seen as angry that is what is going to be worse for the woman of color. Being an angry black woman makes you crazy. Being an angry white woman just makes you a bitch. (To which I say, I’m a successful full professor with status and power, so woof woof, and if you bug me more, grrrrrrr.)

        • I am the only man on our Faculty’s equity & diversity committee in a world top 40 R1 outside the US, and committed to the purpose of that committee. So, to add another qualification, some of these tips do not work too well in my country. My chain of command is as follows: VC is male, then the second in charge (Provost) is a woman scientist; my Dean of Science is a woman; Head of Department is a woman; 40% of my departmental colleagues are women. And we are in a STEM discipline faculty. Over in Arts, the situation is better, except the Dean is a bloke. Being aggressive, self-effacing, vague or assertive is rather beside the point. Out of the people listed, some are assertive and some are not (my HoD is not, but her predecessor, also a woman, was; the Dean is). The point is that they were hired on their track records and fit, and in that process were protected by the policies we have oversight of; anti-discrimination, hire committee makeup as gender-neutral, etc. Also, I think we may have progressed beyond some of the racial stereotyping typical of the US and reflected in some of the comments. I am reminded of the books about ‘raising boys’ and raising girls’ – even at an early age, gender behaviors become apparent (girls talking around a topic until they reach an opinion or consensus; teenage boys having to think for longer, saying little, then deciding, and are not so good at listening). But what we try to do in the university is say that these gendered characteristics are not what matters – rather it is about track records and fit. The only exception is with regards to Indigenous hiring and promotion, where if the candidate self-discloses, there are special policies in place and such candidates are actively encouraged and are more likely to be successful, all other things being equal. In addition, we are currently conducting a hire of three early and mid career individuals in a Department that has only one woman at present – in this case we have dispensation to make the hires women-only, for which we had to get State approval under the employment laws since were were restricting the job ad. If you are wondering where all this is, it is in a large country with a very racist past. My point is that womens’ personal behavior is less a factor in our system. This also applies in the UK where I have a lot of experience. I do not doubt that gender and race really count more and inequity is a real problem in many US departments. Which is sad.

  4. I thought this was a great post. I am a female scholar in my third year of my doctoral program- about to start my dissertation and expecting to go on the job market next year. I was just attending a conference and found myself doing many of the things you describe above. I am conscious of it and know what not to do, but struggle to get out of the habit. What advice do you have for becoming more assertive? My own efforts have included practicing my elevator speech and all presentations out-loud so that I can sound more assertive. Any other thoughts?

    • Try practicing your elevator speech in the mirror. Before you start, unabashedly say three good things about yourself, directly to your reflection, without looking either silly or haughty.

  5. Pingback: Must women be ‘fierce’ now, too? | Lynley Stace

  6. There are two things I take care of when I work with my graduate students: the process and the product.

    At first, they are a bit puzzled I give them theory and articles to read on how to do it and obviously not related to their topic however as we begin discussions and work throughout the semester, they have the know how and a deep sense of ownership as they move forward. This also takes care of the excuses along the way since we tackle them head on early in our journey.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. I read this and it is really great. I would like to say that maybe us males need to start doing the five things you listened more, instead of women trying to be more like males. Well, the first example maybe not, but the rest of these five things are not bad things, they acknowledge that there are other people in this world and engage them a much more cooperative way. These are all things I am trying to work toward, to deconstruct those alpha male characteristics that seem to cause a lot of discord and tension in group settings.

  8. I think this post is a fail. No one women I know in my institution act like this. It prescribes that women should copy behavior that is not always good for them as individuals or as part of a department/university, and act like some stereotype of what men are like. I find that quiet men rule the roost no matter how much women assert their ideas in meetings for example. The issue is not that we women should act like men (or this stereotype). The issue is not our behavior — or at least certainly not the behavior listed in this post.

    • By general agreement, I am an assertive woman. I do not do (1), (3), or (4). I’m better than many at avoiding (2). I do (5) more than I should.

      I managed a PhD program, but not happily. Many men–faculty and students–did not like me. Many women like you did not like me either. At a conference, once, I tried talking more awkwardly and noncommittally. I got a far more positive reaction from random men and women both.

      Warning: following this post’s advice may be dangerous. Experiment. Caveat emptor.

    • Wow.. This is education. With no regard for why women behave in this manner, let’s erase it in the name of progress. I agree this is an epic fail, if that’s the conclusion. You cannot just alter a gender without repercussions. I am a fierce woman and I have no problem taking on the author of this post, but if this post was written by a male, then almost all of the techniques criticized in the post above would need to be employed, and would be twice as effective. The observervations might be accurate but the prescription might be deadly if not carefully administered. What is the point of fighting for opportunities for women if we cease to be women in the end?

    • Yes. My advice would actually be to cultivate the appearance this post advises against, but without internalizing any of your performance. That way you would, in public, have the behavior that is required/safe, but you would be fully aware that it was an act and not take it seriously. If I could do that, be like the quiet men while not internalizing this submissiveness, I would.

  9. This is fabulous, and I couldn’t agree more!

    Yet, in my odd little academic world (large, southern, public, research-intensive university, in a dept. w/profound gender issues) I’ve been faulted by my colleagues precisely because I do not do any of these things. It causes trouble, and means I am regularly called “arrogant,” “a bitch,” and worse…

    In sum, NOT behaving like the stereotypical woman can be problematic for those who do not understand!

    • I completely agree with you. Have been called all kinds of things by the “leadership” of my department. Unfortunately I am still in a large,southern, public, research-intensive university (trying to leave as soon as possible). In my dept, there are profound gender issues and rampant favoritism.

  10. This is very true, at least for me. I know I catch myself making these mistakes far too often. That said, every time I make the conscious effort not to make these mistakes and to instead try to act quietly assertive, I’m told that I seem overconfident. In my own personal experience, it seems that there’s a very fine (and possibly invisible) line between seeming weak and self-effacing and coming across as brash and overconfident.

  11. The Top Five Mistakes Men Make In Academic Settings

    1. Mistake: Emphasis on self-promotion. Solution: Consider spending more energy promoting others you consider deserving.

    2. Mistake: Emphasis on aggressive arguing for your point and one-upmanship during conversations. Solution: Work on your listening skills, and try to understand another person’s point of view during a conversation. Also: seek out and welcome opportunities to change your mind.

    3 Mistake: Taking up more than fair share of space–both physical space and figurative space. Remember that there are other voices who should be heard. Play fair and try to help make sure that all within a group have an equal amount of space.

    4. Mistake: Inflated sense of entitlement. Solution: Remember that academia is a community and that resources are shared resources. Help work collectively for more resources for all.

    5. Mistake: Using physical prowess to intimidate. Solution: Remember that people and their good ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Mind your handshake.

    • It is beliefs like these that keep women making the same self-defeating errors over and over. As I wrote on FB, this kind of post is always polarizing–many feel that these stereotypically “female” behaviors should be more widely practiced by all, instead of criticized. That may be true as an ideal, but as I always say, my work at TPII never focuses on the ideal, or what I think*should* be true. I focus entirely on my best estimate of what IS true. And years of one-on-one work with women on interviewing has convinced me that these behaviors hold women back individually far more often than they lead to any kind of systemic change in their surroundings! Indeed, what a little pressing and questioning during the Interview Interventions reveals is that the behaviors inevitably signify a deeper self-defeating attitude—ie, ” I really don’t feel entitled to this job I’m applying for,” or “who am I to think I can work at an Ivy League??” or “I am afraid of looking too cocky,” “I shouldn’t come across as too strong,” etc. etc. etc. Every single week, one I-I after another reveals to me another woman who is letting self-defeating thoughts find expression in self-defeating words. It’s gotta stop.

  12. These observations about women’s lack of assertiveness are nothing new: we were talking about them 30 years ago. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored, but if women are still having these communication problems after decades of reflection, I do have to wonder why.

    I did very well in grad school and was about to begin my dissertation. I was ready to apply for a teaching fellowship in one of several American universities (there was nothing available in Canada at the time) when my spouse announced that he wasn’t willing to move after all. He thought re-locating would mean a down-turn in his career trajectory. Sure, we’d agreed that it was “my turn,” but he didn’t think that he should have to compromise on what he considered to be his own best interests even if it had been reasonable for my plans to have been addressed after his had been realized. If I wanted to take a teaching fellowship, that was okay with him as long as I understood that he would under no circumstances agree to let our children go with me. They would stay with him. I would be able to live more simply and less expensively without them and would be able to send a significant portion of my earnings to him every month as my contribution to their care and well-being. He thought I could probably afford to come home every six weeks or so and I wouldn’t have to deal with the pesky problems of taking my children back and forth over the border.

    I was between a rock and a hard place, so to speak, and it was not lost on me that what he was proposing was, in effect, a separation and that he expected me to pay child support, potentially at such a level that returning home at the end of each term might be difficult; every six weeks was probably impossible.

    The great dream of my life was to be an academic. I had the full support of my university, my committee and of others in my field. Everyone, that is, except my spouse. What killed my career was the life choices I had already made. I couldn’t leave my children. I also couldn’t afford to fight to take them away with me. I needed to earn a certain level of income, low as it was, and wasn’t able to continue to teach at my university. My only option was to withdraw from the Ph.D. program and find other work. It was clear that my marriage was not going to last much longer and, indeed, it ended about four years later. I have never been able to afford to finish my Ph.D. and it’s too late for me to do it now even if I had the money.

    My advice to women who want an academic career is to pay close attention to my story and to the sadly similar experiences of other women. The choices you make in your life about marriage, your partner’s career and having children may be the things that will end your own career prospects.

      • These are very real issues that married women with children pursuing PhDs are facing. I think it’s too simplistic to say that the husband was just a “jerk” for not supporting an international move where finances would be uncertain. A teaching fellowship is not enough money to support a family of 3 or 4. Also, a woman is still considered the main caretaker for the children in this society and in many cultures. Relocating to get a job after the PhD, especially a temporary one with very little pay, is a very difficult decision for any family to make.

  13. I find it interesting that some commenters see these behaviours as positive qualities that define what it is to be a woman, and feel that men are making a mistake in not emulating them. While I can see the point that these behaviours can be perceived as more nurturing or caring (and thus more feminine), the fact remains that a man who does these things will be perceived as less powerful. Not doing them may make a woman seem bitchy or aggressive, but if she actually gains the power and status that she is entitled to, what does it matter if she seems less nice, but is more respected?

  14. Just once, I want to read something telling men to be more polite in professional/academic/business settings rather than something telling women to be more assertive.

    • It has nothing to do with politeness or the lack thereof. It has nothing to do with men. It has to do with women’s self-sabotaging habits.

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  16. Although always working in the South and when not, still under Southerners, my experience is that in fact, you need precisely those five traits if you are to survive. I did not have them originally and have still not fully acquired them, but one must try to mimic them if one is to get tenure and things like that. One is happier without them but if one is not independently wealthy, one is *well* advised to acquire these five traits!

  17. First, I think universalizing and generalizing “men” and “women” as categories with distinct behavior traits is unhelpful. Second, I’m not sure that academic communication “mistakes” can be attributed to any one factor, including gender. Let’s not forget that social location, i.e., age, levels of experience, power relations, ethnic and cultural differences all contribute to how individuals express themselves in social and professional interactions. I should expect there to be differences in approach, tone, and body language when interacting with different audiences, e.g., with a senior scholar on your doctoral committee as opposed to an undergraduate student in your classroom. I’m concerned with telling women that they make “mistakes,” as a general pronouncement here, when in fact, it may be an adaptive tactic as many others have pointed out already. It might be better to lose the “mistake” model altogether, otherwise it continues to send the message that women academics just can’t seem to get “it” right as if there’s only one way to do “it. I appreciate the spirit of Karen’s original post, but the issue is much more complex and deserves greater consideration. I’ve had male graduate student peers act in similarly deferential ways around me, likely because I’m 20 years older than most of them.

  18. Pingback: An alternate view on “The Top 5 Mistakes Women Make in Academic Settings” | Rhetorically Speaking

  19. I have two issues with this argument- first off I don’t think that smiling/laughing too much is an indicator of weakness. That has much more to do with personality types. As a graduate student in science with an extremely extroverted personality I do not find that smiling/laughing too much is a detriment to my advancement. Rather, it encourages people to approach me and form social bonds and meet potential contacts (which are a great help in and out of school). Maybe some colleagues find me to be silly when I exhibit such traits, but that’s their narrowminded thinking. I try not to worry to much about what other people think of me since I am in school for myself and for the advancement of my knowledge. If people can’t stop to listen to what is actually being said over HOW it is said, I lose a bit of respect for them as humans and scientists.
    Second-yes, I do tend to start my sentences with I’m not 100% positive but I think… And yes self doubt is the answer to why I do this. This self doubt stems from years of remembering incorrect information (especially when I’m presenting where emotions inevitably overrule my reason at times) and also years of having the idea that “nothing in science is 100% known/verified” drilled into my head. Unless I truly know my topic, like information concerning my model species in my thesis, I do NOT assert claims of knowledge.I am happy with my personality, even if it supposedly harbors many of these unwanted traits, and by not changing my basic self I am more comfortable to express the powerful beneficial aspects of my personality.

  20. I agree with this post completely and I am a hispanic woman in philosophy. People seem to think that this is how women naturally are demure, passive, etc. Women are socialized into these behaviors. She is trying to give us advice on how to break these behavioral patterns. My advisor was a very respected white male in philosophy and tried to get me to break these habits (3 and 5). He saw them as detrimental. I do not think the opposite of these habits are aggressive but assertive. We do not have to be passive or aggressive and she is trying to tell us where the middle lies. I am trying to break these habits which is easier said then done because I genuinely feel non-confident about my knowledge of the field.

  21. Since i am trying to understand the shortcomings in me, that is withholding me to get into an Academic position. I am sure there are few post doctoral researchers who have achieved 60 publications with 1000 citations, and i belong to this category. However i still fail to reach an interview for academic positions/ tenure track/ assistant professor positions in international universities. I am though glad to say that i do get many offers again as post-doc, which i plainly reject due to many reasons including salary constraints. Any advice would be much appreciated KAREN

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  23. Important post and fascinating responses. In my “teaching” institution I have a lot of frustration centering on these issues of gendered self-representation. Women around me pattern themselves on the “mommy” model, being involved with their students and children in a nurturing, caring manner, always willing to sacrifice themselves, their time, minds, energy to advance the interests of students/children. While this might not be bad in itself, a further aspect of this behavior is the implicit assumption that investing in one’s own scholarship is selfish. The institution values in concrete ways women who do service and commit themselves to teaching and leave aside research and publishing because it seems egocentric and self-involved. Getting this tt job I felt myself go insane, sitting alone in my office (no mentors, colleagues who are nice enough with the exception of a man who aggressively and actively behaved in a threatening and intimidating manner–esp. when a temp. chair) and very angry after having spent so much time/money/effort and having made all sacrifices to become a professor. I was getting the message that in fact I am supposed to be a mommy-professor (loving students, emotionally involved, willing to sacrifice–a kind of carpet bagger for underprivileged students). After a lot of anger, I set my nose to the grindstone and published like crazy–top articles, a solid book, multiple other kinds of creative books with public appeal. Having done this, sitting with my tenure files, never having been able to manage a successful second job search at the “better” institution (with funding, less teaching, more respect), I’m trying to keep my head above water and not feel that I am about to drown in tenure (and feeling guilty about this as well…given the market, etc. and struggling to deal with the constant drumbeat of “bad woman” critiques in my head). Being assertive, outspoken, and serious is the only option for me but the consequences–isolation, sense of fear and anxiety generated by others around me (one professor’s voice shook when talking to me and I realized I must seem a terrible bitch to him when all I was doing was standing at the threshold of his office wielding nothing threatening but my mind) is a sad sentence to carry. PS. I had a year of heavenly existence at a fellowship which I use to say to myself: well, even if I am not the “correct” woman at “mickey mouse teaching u” the fancy people at XX were willing to put up with me. This also makes me feel pathetic and like quitting to farm goats or cultivate garlic.

  24. Dr. K,

    I’ve spent half an hour reading through your posts and being taken aback by how SPOT-ON you are. I have recently obtained my Bachelor’s degree and currently have no plans to continue on to grad school, however, much of what you write is applicable to undergrads/post-grads as well. I truly wish I had read your conference posts prior to attending one this past Fall.

    It was no surprise to see you are a professor at UO (I spent a summer doing research there). Really, all of this was to say thanks for sharing your insight and wisdom.

  25. Dear Karen- thank you for the post and starting the conversation. I am female, a mother and belong to a minority race in America. I grew up in a country/culture that embraced female empowerment. In addition to the hardwork needed in this field, I feel that I got as far as I have (assistant professor in a business school in a research institution) because of individuals who both recognized my assertiveness and reward my efforts because of it.

    As an example, in a conversation with a colleague in a prestigious research institution that I eventually left, one thing that was mentioned was that I needed to ‘manage impressions.’ I did everything that you have listed on your post (came naturally due to my upbringing as a member of the majority in a country outside the US). The feedback I got was that being assertive made me seem aggressive. On the other hand the institution I currently work for (also a research, be it less snobby institution) thinks that I’m a natural leader- I’ve been repeatedly rewarded for taking initiative despite my race, standing in society as a mother or gender.

    I realize that you post wants to focus solely on gender- however I find that with the different ways in which one can be stereotyped- it always depends on the context. If women are not seen as leaders- assertiveness can only hurt- in fact being less assertive might make life happier for all parties. However if the culture of the department embraces female leadership- then woman assertiveness can be seen positively.

  26. Pingback: “I’m Sorry I Wasn’t More Clear”: Gendered Pitfalls in Presentations–A Guest Post | The Professor Is In

  27. Thanks. This was helpful. Time and time again, I’ve encountered this problem as a female instructor. It’s not enough to be a “nice” and “smart” person. So much depends on whether others can perceive your intelligence. It’s really depressing that humans behave much like animals, but then again I suppose it’s only practical. I’m in a new teaching assignment and will make quick use of your ideas. I googled this post because today I saw some students watch a video clip of an atheist and a religious person arguing. The religious person stuttered once and my students immediately judged him as “the loser” of the argument. It was interesting. Most of them didn’t listen to the words or reasoning at all. All of their comments focused on body language and determining a winner and loser. Stuttering or speaking quickly is definitely another item to add to the submissive list. Thanks!

  28. Pingback: "I'm Sorry I Wasn't More Clear": Gendered Pitfalls in Presentations-A Guest Post - The Professor is In -

  29. Pingback: Celebrating Women Mentors This International Women’s Day | Freedom from the Forbidden

  30. Your work is so relevant with the number of women in academia increasing each year. One mistake I’ve noticed is when women tend to fall into the role of “secretary” in male run labs. I’ve seen labs full of women, which at first glance seems amazing, only to learn they all act as subordinates to a charismatic “alpha” made as director. I’ve even seen males adapt to the setting too and put the advisor before their own career. Seeing this has made me aware of how easy it is for women (and all people) to be exploited in academia even when they are pursuing advanced degrees and should feel empowered. I think this behavior has all kinds of side effects including stunting their emotional and mental development as professionals. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

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