Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mentors and advocates

Recently I had lunch with the women faculty in engineering at my university.  Sadly it was a small number of women and currently we have a small number who are on campus (not on sabbatical, etc.).  We were discussing the way that women can easily take on too many service roles.  Key points that emerged were that it is really beneficial to have a senior advocate (male or female) to discuss appropriate service roles with and who can advise you on what committees are not too much work or worth the time investment.  Always respond to a request for service by asking for some time to think about it.  Then discuss the role with your advocate or mentor and determine if it is right for you.  Think about what would make you say yes (relief from another committee or duty, teaching relief, administrative support etc.) and request that as a condition for service.  Other good lines were, is this appropriate for an assistant professor (someone trying to get tenure) or how will this improve my tenure case?  Sometime women have a hard time saying no in the face of pressure from a chair or other powerful figure.  Asking for time to thing can by you time to make a rational decision (not based solely guilt) and help you find a nice way to say no.  I hope it was helpful for the others there.  That said, I did say yes to two major service commitments last week, so maybe I need to consider this advice myself!

Any good tips out there for saying no or balancing service requests?

1 comment:

  1. When I've been asked to over-extend myself during grad school or my postdoc, I kindly thank them for thinking of me, and then I cite a few of my other commitments to explain why I can't take on anything else at the moment. Citing related commitments works best, eg, saying no to X service committee because you're already a representative on Y service committee. This has worked well so far. People see that you already are very involved in the academic community, and they move on. I'm guessing something similar would work for some requests on faculty (who I'm sure get pinged with a lot more than I ever have).