Thursday, September 9, 2010

Saying no to something

Taking on a new leadership role in my department and working to balance both the work and the politics.  The work is largely me not letting the small urgent get in the way of the big important items.  I did some work over the summer evaluating what is important to my career (long term) and what gives me pleasure/satisfaction on the job.  These items were somewhat different so I rank them both in my evaluation.  Then I sorted my list of items and highlighted those that not rank highly on either list.  These are my items I need to work on saying no to (at least sometimes).  It has been helpful for me (and my need to please) to remember that these are not the things I want/need to be doing for success or happiness.  Also along with this I looked at how much time was being spent on tasks and I was astonished to realize how many papers, grants, etc. I was reviewing.  Obviously I can't avoid all of this, but when I am a regular NIH study section member, I don't need to review for every other agency/country that asks.  Also, I need to focus on only accepting reviews that are beneficial for me from a time/reward/knowledge tradeoff.  I realized I was reviewing on average at least 36 papers/year.  So now I try to accept no more than 2 per month.  I also learned that when you say no quickly, people are less mad.  Probably because they at least have more time to find someone, where as when you say no 1-2 weeks later, they are in a bad place for their timelines.  They might not be happy but at least they have more time.  Also suggesting alternates is greatly appreciated (sorry to all those colleagues who are on my suggestion list).

Also I'm resisting getting too involved in the kiddos new school.  There are lots of moms there who don't work outside the home and I don't really feel bad about them doing the lions share of room parties, field trips, etc.  I learned you can spot them very quickly on the playground at drop-off time.  They are the ones in their workout clothes who are headed to the gym after drop off.  (Sorry I'm a little envious of the time to work out.)  But, I've found the working mom's who power walk back to their homes to jump in the car and make it to work at an almost reasonable hour.

I'd love to hear about others tips/things that they are saying no to!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to school

It's that time of year.  The new freshmen arrive on campus so full of excitement and hope.  Their parents are so nervous hoping that they will thrive away from home (and that the big tuition bill is worth it).   The parking lot that was only half full all summer is now packed.  The building is humming with students and events.

I longingly look at my to-do list once manageable and now filling with items.  The manuscripts unfinished fall by the wayside.  The papers to-read are buried in the pile.  The emails requesting meeting from everyone under the sun are rolling in.  My happy calendar with big blocks of time to work is no more.

Farewell summer, I will miss you.  Not the hot, humid days and boiling car at night, but expanse of time to think and work on scholarship.

Don't get me wrong, I like teaching and students, with their excitement and enthusiasm.  But I will miss the carefree days of summer that always go by too fast.  And, my list of summer items that never gets done before fall rolls around again.

Now on to my new departmental leadership role and the extra items it entails....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Treating others as we wish to be treated

I sometimes find it frustrating that people justify a history or traditional method of doing things as a reason for why it is best.  There are many historical events that we now find repulsive, Japanese internment, slavery, etc.  Yet some PI's choose to run their labs as though it were the 18th century.  If they are famous and well established, they may still be able to recruit a cohort of students that is willing to put up with harsh conditions in exchange for working in Dr. X's lab.  However, there is a growing subset of the student population that will no longer tolerate these conditions.  It is Dr. X's prerogative to choose how he runs his lab, by and large.  However, it does become an issue when Dr. X want to eliminate major part of the graduate program to fit his methods.  As many graduate programs in engineering and the sciences incorporate research rotations prior thesis mentor selection (as is common in the life sciences) this starts to become an issue, when students get to see first hand what life is like in Dr. X's lab before they officially join the lab.  I can't argue with Dr. X's success, which is undisputed, but I wonder in 10 years if there will be anyone left willing to work in the sweat shop.

I take a different approach.  I focus on results and progress.  I want students who are self motivated and work toward a goal.  I don't like to micromanage and everyone is happier when I don't.  (I get a little high strung when I am in micro mode, just as my first grad student.)  As long as you are making progress and communicating problems, I'm happy to let you run loose.  I don't worry about your hours (my students often are using equipment on other parts of campus).  I try to lay out deadlines ahead of time (reasonably) and then let you figure out when to get it done.  If you choose to go on vacation for 1 week during the 2 week period, you might be working some late nights to finish.  But that is your choice, as an adult.  I also encourage students to plan their own calendars for thesis writing and determine a reasonable defense date.  It generally works.  My lab is more laid back, but the students still publish a 3-5 papers from their thesis work.  It's not for everyone and there have been students that switched labs or quit graduate school.  But all in all I works, and it fosters the type of people I would like to have as future faculty colleagues.  In general, it may be less efficient than micromanaging, but in the end getting a PhD is about learning to be an independent researcher, not a work horse for the PI.  I used to think I lived in a department of people who agreed with this statement, but after some recent discussions, I'm not so sure any more.  Your thoughts on lab cultures and mentoring styles and how to shape those with positive departmental policies?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why are women the ones seeking balance?

I recently went to an NIH study section and there were several women on the panel.  It was great to see that many women, even though it meant lines in the ladies room during breaks.  We noted several things: (1) it was the women that were in a hurry to get home and were pushing to finish in time to make an earlier flight/train home, (2) I saw 4 study section members in the fitness center between 6-6:30 AM, and all were female.  I’m sure some of the men must work out right?  Now either they work out later (since they can get ready more quickly in the AM) or they don’t work out on the road because they have plenty of time at home to work out.  I find it funny, but I think these to observations exemplify how women work hard to balance their lives (generally harder than men).  I find it easier to work out on the road because I only have to get myself ready and out the door in the AM, and can wake up at the same time given no commute and no kids to get up.  Just some interesting observations….  
Also, the women had some very insightful comments and worked hard to keep things consistent across the whole set of grants.

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 10, 2010

What decade are we in?

I am aware that gender-based discrimination does occur today.  However, I assumed that most of the time it was restricted to inappropriate comments and other more subtle acts.  Recently I attended a meeting where the gender pay equity results were presented for my university.  It turns out that women are paid less then men regardless of school, rank, and year post-degree (and some other time correction factors).  This data was 1 year old.  I was shocked!!! Now depending on the school and department you may not be able reach statistical significance (given small departments and small number of women in many cases)  but when the residual difference between men and women is always negative in every model for every school, that is a problem.  And when the residual difference has tripled in the last 10 years, that also seems like a bad sign.

The big question is what to do.  We are a private university and salary info is supposed to be secret.  We aren't supposed to share it with others.  I will preface this by saying that my school actually had the least difference (percentage wise) thanks to a great previous dean who corrected problems.  My chair is very fair and tries to have a standard rate for a given rank (corrected for time at rank).  Also, having a spouse at the university gives me localized data.  But as a university how do we fix this?  Clearly the chairs are setting the salaries so they have control, but how do we hold them accountable when the data is private and often cannot be release on a department level to the public given the number of individuals at a rank?  Deans should be overseeing this, but clearly this is not happening.  This is just part of a climate problem at our university but this is a clear sign.

What as women can we do to change this?  Seek guidance for our professional societies?  Set up to model based calculator to guide negotiations for women on campus?  Riot in the street?  And why does this happen?  Do women just settle for less?  Do the chairs push them harder to accept less?  Are we less likely to get outside offers to push our salaries up?

How can it be 2010 and well educated, highly-qualified women are still paid less than men?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Looking ahead

So as I am regrouping from some of my service work for the year and glimpsing the end of the semester, my thoughts turn toward the future and a question I think about now and then.  So now what?
I received tenure a few years ago and was so thrilled to make it over the bar.  I was almost more thrilled when my spouse also joined me on the other side.  Now that the afterglow has worn off, what's next?  The big next mark for me (other than renewing my R01) was clearly promotion to full at some point.  It's not as all consuming as getting tenure, after all they can't fire me (without good cause) even if I don't make it to full ever.  But, on the other hand there are many  people who stall out at Associate and are become the permanent Associate.  Not the end of the world, but not what I want either.   So I'm thinking about what I need to do for promotion to full.

I have talked to a couple of senior faculty type that are involved in this type of promotion including my chair.  The comments include making sure to increase my international exposure.  Not sure how to do this except through international travel, but of course this is challenging with small kiddos at home.  I do have an international conference that I am giving an invited lecture at this summer, so hopefully this will help.  I'm on the board of directors or similar governing boards for 2 societies in my area of research/field (figure this should be good for visibility).  I am also joining an NIH Study section in the coming year.  I figure the timing should actually be somewhat beneficial in that I will get to see lots of grant in the new format.  My chair is really focused on publication metrics, but he did share his formula for evaluation here, so that is helpful.  Of the recent cases that were promoted to full from my department (each has a somewhat strange career path) I have already passed on or the other in many of the metrics, so I'm just about in the pack by most measures here.   The other big component was what has advanced in my research since tenure.  Actually a lot since I have had several students graduate with their PhDs since tenure, so here I'm feeling like I have a good story.

I feel that there is a lack of mentoring at my institution (and many others) after tenure.  While pre-tenure mentoring is more important, we are not completely mature the day after tenure.  So, it's been a little harder tracking down the metrics for promotion to full.  I also only was present for 1 of the 3 tenure cases that went up since I got tenure due to travel or conflicts, so even the whole department discussion is still unclear to me.

After getting to full, where to I want to go.  Leadership (chair??, research center director?), administration (probably not, given what I have seen at my institution) .  Focus more on research or mentoring??  Interesting thoughts, but now back to the details of the end of the semester.

Any newly (or not so newly tenured) folks out there with sage advice??

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are we part of the problem?

The AAUW release a report recently called "Why So Few?".  It seeks to identify reasons for the gender gap in STEM fields and offers some potential fixes.  I was excited by the possibilities, but somewhat disappointed by the short chapter with limited recommendations.  I should preface this conversation by saying that I'm serving on a committee right now looking at ways to improve enrollment and retention of undergraduate women in STEM fields, so this was of interest to me.

This week, there is an editorial piece on the report on the Chronicle website "Are Women Partly to Blame for the Gender Gap in STEM Fields?".  It is a thought provoking article that I agree with in some respects, such as how the AAUW report doesn't really offer any new suggestions.  It also got me thinking about whether I was part of the problem, and discouraged women from entering careers in academic STEM fields.  After all, it is hard to make it through the tenure process, and it is hard to balance working with having small kids.  I think tenure is hard for everyone, not just women (although it does fall during our prime reproductive years).  I also think that being a working mom is really hard, no matter what your job is and in fact we have luxury of having a more flexible schedule than many professions (lawyers, physicians, etc.).   I can't do everything at home, but I can do a lot, and much of my work can be done between 8 pm and 2 am, just as well as 8 am to 2 pm (except for the effect on my sanity).  But are women keeping each other down at times rather than being advocates for others?  

This is a delicate balance for me.  I would love to have another female faculty member in my department.  DESPERATELY!!!  But, I don't want someone who is not qualified or would not contribute to the department.  I'm not willing to give someone a complete pass on quality just to get a warm body in here that would likely not succeed.  But, do I go too far sometimes to make sure that when we do get another woman, she will meet the bar?  Am I subconsciously too hard on women candidates I'm not sure about?  I'm a big supporter of the good ones, but they never seem to accept the offers.  Food for thought....

What about students?  Do I let them see the sometimes grim reality of the challenge of being a faculty member a little too openly?  Does it discourage them?  I think this was definitely the case for my first doctoral student.  She is at home with two young kids right now.  I think this is totally the right decision for her and I support her on this.  But did my struggles in the early years turn her off to a faculty career?  I hope not, but I fear it may be true.  

I certainly did get turned off in graduate school by the harshness of a few female faculty members.  They had surely been through a lot to get to where they were, but rather than convert that experience into trying to ease the path for others it was more of a "I went through it so you must too" type of hazing.  This is what I want desperately to avoid.

I think the truth is that we just need to be more open and more flexible about what constitutes success, a career path and. acchievement.  Definitions of fields, milestone, research are all opening up more with interdisciplinary research anyway.  People don't all follow the same path from undergraduate to graduate school to post doc to faculty position.  Theey may detour for work, family, or just adventure.  This all makes them richer people.  I love that more and more women in my field are having kids pre-tenure.  It's become the norm rather than the exception for women faculty that started in the last 10 years.  Amazing, because 12 years ago I could count on 1 hand the number of women faculty I knew who had kids pre-tenure.  And, I don't think there is a big drop in the % of women getting tenure, so while I'm not goign to lie and say it's easy, it can and is being done.  

Here's the other myth, the being a stay at home mom (SAHM) is easy.  Frankly, it's really hard.  I have lots of friends that are SAHMs and that is just as hard a job for no pay.  I get to hang out with grown-ups (or almost grown-ups) all day and only have a few hours that can possibily have tantrums (from my kids at least).  So it's hard being a mom, whether you work outside the home or not.  Kids are hard just when you think you have them figured out they change on you.     The whole working vs SAHM battle is another battle I just don't get, in that it is so counter productive to helping women.  

Anyway, I'm going to try to think about ways to make sure I'm helping encourage women, rather than discouraging them.  Let me know if you have suggestions from your experiences.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Post Spring Break Hangover

OK.  I really wish that I did have a hangover from Spring Break because it would have meant doing something fun.  Instead I had a toddler with hand foot and mouth disease that resulting in 2 missed days from daycare and 2 more days of very picky eating (due to mouth sores).  Despite all this he has gained a pound recently so I guess he didn't starve too badly.  All this was really not conducive to finishing my spring break to-do list or taking a personal sanity (read clean out the clutter at home) day.   And now it's back to classes with nary a holiday until after finals.

On the bright side, despite the craziness that was my break, I did finish my grant and successfully defeat the e-submission system to get my grant submitted (read department admin hitting submit 50+ times and me clicking it once in the evening).  I could do a whole post about how unhappy I am that NIH chose not to grandfather grant being resubmitted.  It's really hard to response to reviews while cutting your grant length by 50%.  6 pages is too short for a grant proposal.  I hope the reviews can be considerate about the lack of space for methods.  I think the new format is actually helpful for providing info so that reviews can find it (e.g. significance and innovation), so I like this part (once I got my tooting your own horn hat on).  However, I'm still struggling to figure where to put the background info, or in other words I realize I'm not the only person in this field and that I am building on the work of others.

Also completed, book chapter (submitted), grading for my class up to date (as of last night), and planning on the way for the next recruiting weekend (Friday).  I did manage an few hours of me time after a eye exam/dilation put an end to grant writing one afternoon.  So really with the sick days, not too bad on my checklist.  Also did get the kids spring clothes washed and pool shoes ordered.  Now it's on to prepping for the guest lectures in another class this week and the 3 manuscripts that need to get submitted, as well as the paper reviews that are due soon.

One other interesting article from the NYTimes regarding the state of women at Harvard in the last 5 years. It's hard to fight the attitude/concern that women are being hired as tokens when the numbers are so small.  I think the key is that making life more balanced benefits everyone not just women.  Men these day have spouse who work frequently too.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Countdown to spring break

Sometimes I think the students don't realize that we look forward to Spring Break almost as much as they do, or perhaps more.  I'm looking for a few calm days to finish writing my grant due the next week (or possibly write the whole thing the way life is going lately).  Also on the list is to dig out all the spring/summer clothes for the kids and figure out what we need before the summer water play/pool/camp season is upon us.  (It sneaks up right after commencement.)

The last two weeks have been crazy busy with trying to finish my overdue book chapter, prepping for student presentations in my class (selecting papers for them to present), organizing a monster graduate recruiting weekend, and a quick trip to a board of directors meeting.  What is it about faculty that makes them long winded and bad at time management when speaking?  It was the nicest hotel I've stayed in for ages (perhaps ever).  Unfortunately I arrived about 7 hours before my meeting started so really it was mostly wasted on sleeping.  Oh and a week of all my crazy committees (read only tenured woman in engineering not on leave) meeting in the same week UGH!

So here I am with a million things on my to do list and only one week of classes left before spring break.  The thought that I might get them done by the end is so enticing (even though we all know I won't make it through them all).  Not as enticing as my friend who booked a spring break trip to Puerto Rico for her family a few weeks ago.  I'm soooo jealous.  Sun, beaches, drinks with umbrellas....  Ah well just catching up is almost as good right???

Was  I working on saying no???  I feel like a big failure in this department right now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The last two-three months have been really crazy due in part to an important leadership role in a university service.  All in all it was a really valuable learning experience in regard to how things really work at universities (or at least my university).  I'll share a few take home messages from this in a generalized form: (1)  if you are asked to chair a committee only agree to do so if you have major input into the make up of the committee (probably the most important part of reaching a favorable solution/recommendation), (2) the real action should happen outside the meeting (you should be talking with the key players on the committee making sure they up to speed before the meeting), don't blindside people with big proposals in a meeting and expect them to be on board, (3) get a mentor/confidant, especially if you are new to a leadership role (find someone outside the direct impact of the outcome so they can give you advice not colored by their personal stake, and it has to be someone you can totally trust and share details with so you can bounce ideas off them or get suggestions when things get tough), and (4) work your connections/relationships/networks to get a favorable outcome (this is how things work in reality, not some idealized neutral system so use the system to your benefit to get information or share it when needed with key players).

Overall I'm happy with the outcome of my assignment and it has fit within the best case scenario window identified at the start.  It's a little anti-climactic, but I think that is just exhaustion.  It took a lot more time, and mental energy than I envisioned when I agreed to do the job, but because of my personal stake in the outcome it was worth it.  I also learned a lot about working with people and finding the things that will make them cringe or get on board.  However, it has made me realize that being a good leader is a lot of work, and that's something I'll file in my head for consideration down the road.

Now it's back to the daily grind of teaching, grants, papers, my regular service obiligations, graduate admissions and recruiting, etc.  I'm trying to focus on aligning my time allocation with my priorities research, papers and grants because I find that graduate recruiting and teaching are overwhelming me right now.  I'm trying to follow some tips on this from an article I read in Inside Heigher Ed (thanks Aurora for the tip).  Started tracking my time yesterday and I'm realizing that the ever urgent nature of teaching and appointments seem to suck much of my time.  Tomorrow I'm going to take a writing day to try to focus on getting this in balance (and getting a good draft of my way overdue book chapter).  Also need to regroup and focus on the expectations for promotion to full professor.  (I fear this means ramping up the travel again.)

I'd love to hear your tips for aligning your tim alocation with your long term career goals.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Better marriages for working women

Interesting article today in the NYT on working women and female breadwinners....

It turns out that women who work and contribute to the family income (or are the sole breadwinners) are less likely to get divorced than women who do not work.   The assumption that these women have more flexibility in choosing their mates and are more likely to select someone supportive of their education, aspirations, etc.  Plausible....

It also pointed out that women have a hard time ceding control household/parenting tasks that their partners are doing.  Totally true for me.  I used to pick out outfits for kiddo #1 and prepack them in bags when I went out of town.  Partly to make sure he matched and partly to make sure required items like onesies were not forgotten or that nice dress clothes were not worn to daycare.  I've definitely loosened up here, partly due to the realization that those teachers know how things go when mom is out of town, and partly because kiddo #1 now picks out the clothes to be worn, so combinations I often would not pick go out the door on a regular basis.  I try to follow the rule that you can ask someone to do it but not tell them how to do it, although when bleach is used on colors or something similar I do feel like I have the right to interject.  I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a control freak at times.

 The other moderating factor for me is daycare.  I realize that they operate differently then at home.  Babies/kids fall asleep differently, eat differently and generally behave differently.  But that is OK as long as everyone's needs are met and things are done in a loving/appropriate way.  When you have 9 infants and 3 adults things are going to be different than 1 on 1. On the other hand, toddler learn to nap on cots and eat independently sooner.  They learn to climb stairs and start dressing skills earlier than I would teach them.  There is some positive peer pressure that encourages development.  With kiddo #2 I take this all in stride realizing the positive effects.  Anyway, I digress, but when someone else takes care of your kids, either dad or daycare or a nanny, it is different than what you would do, but that is usually OK.

So I guess one thing we can say is that women scientists/engineers are less likely to divorce than some women, at least based on this article.  And if they do divorce, at least they have a means to support themselves, right?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Just when you get your head above water

It's my fault... Yesterday I was blissfully thinking that things were moving in to a slightly less crazy phase of time.  My major service venture is 99% complete (and the remaining 1% is not on me).  I was moving at a leisurely pace on finishing my book chapter that was due 1 week ago.  I mean printing out the "final" references to read for my book chapter and re-tagging my notes.  I even took an evening to indulge in my favorite TV shows.  Then it hit, just as I was getting cocky, winter time illness (in kiddo #2).  He woke up happy, but those droopy eyes and flushed cheeks said "fever", and sure enough my instinct was right.  Morning meeting moved to a teleconference, trip to the ped (the dreaded "virus" diagnosis), etc.  By the way teleconferencing with two barking dogs and a toddler screaming "Mommy", whenever you put him down makes it hard to keep your train of thought (even with the mute button on), especially while your toddler is trying to edit important spreadsheets that you forgot to close and your collaborators didn't email you the meeting handouts (even though you specifically asked them to).  Ah, well, at least tomorrow is Saturday and hopefully the fever will be gone Monday, along with my jump on next week.  I did make it in during nap to interview a graduate school candidate (for another department) and only now am finding the remains of snack/lunch on my sweater.  (Mental note, change clothes first next time...)
Happy Friday and  hoping this is not the downward spiral of winter illness that kiddo #1 had around this age.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Female Scientists Do More Housework

Another very interesting article about the work/life balance challenge from the Chronicle.  Basically women spend more time doing house work than men, even when they spend the same number of hours per week working.  Interesting...  We always thought this was the case, so nice to have some numbers behind it.

At my house, we have fairly equitable division of labor.  There are a few things we quibble about from time to time but generally pretty equal in most regards.  However, I will say that the mental division of labor is another story.  Who worries about schools, activities, gifts for birthday parties, etc.  That would be me.  My spouse is great about doing things, taking the kids to the doctor (when sick), making dinner (notice I didn't say cooking), meeting a repair/delivery person, etc.  However, he doesn't schedule doctor's appointments, research the best pediatric dentists in the area, find out where to go for swimming lessons, birthday parties, etc.  So this is where I feel the inequity lies.  Time I could be spending thinking great scientific thoughts instead goes into, when will I remember to get all the forms together to register for school or where should we hold kiddo's birthday party.  I always thought I would avoid mommy brain, but the truth is that I do think about kid stuff at work and talk to people at work about it rather than science, not all the time be sometimes.

It's easy to hire people to do stuff for you, relatively speaking.  We have a house cleaner who comes every other week.  We've had one since we started faculty positions.  I hate scrubbing toilets and with 2 incomes, we can afford it.  It's a lot harder to hire someone to worry about all the little things and chit chat with other moms to get the details.

I'm grateful to have a job that is flexible so I can leave early to take the kids to the doctor or stay home when they are sick.  Our solutions is that one of us teaches Monday/Wednesday and the other Tuesday/Thursday. This was when things come up, it is usually the one who isn't teaching that has to cover that day (e.g. sick kids).  It's not perfect, but it works pretty well.  As one colleague told me, "just don't teach at the same or adjacent times" or you will be passing sick kids to each other in the hall between classes.  This was sage advice.  I'm not really sure what lawyers or physicians do with sick kids, since they often can't cancel court or patients.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Leaky pipeline

Here is another article in the Chronicle today about the pipeline at Penn.

The main point was that just putting women and minorities into the pipeline as starting assistant professors is not sufficient.  Without some changes in the way academia operates, we will continue to lose more than our fair share of women and minorities along the way and the impact on the full professorship and administrative roles will still remain far lower than those hired at junior levels.  Has some very interesting comments about the role of pay, time (read domestic responsibilities), emotional resources, and recognition on women and minorities.

The best line was "we need to model livable lives for our students".  This for me was the kicker when I though about going into academia.  I looked at the female faculty in the department where I did my undergraduate work (granted a major pressure cooker) and thought, I don't want their lives.  Many of them were single or divorced and childless.  I don't want to say that those things are bad for everyone, but for me they were deal breakers.  I didn't want a job that meant not being able to sustain a marriage or a family.  So modeling a life style that others might want (and actually having it too) is key to getting more women and minorities into STEM.  Making tenure and beyond a more "sustainable" process will make life better for everyone in academe.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Great article today about women breadwinners (in the Chronicle) and how they still don't make as much money as men (in the same field with the same education).   You can argue that women in some fields are younger (assistant prof versus full prof), but here's the rub:
"When compared with men's pay at the same level of educational attainment, women's pay is even more unequal: Women earn only 67 cents to their male counterparts' $1. That difference remains steady at every level of education.."
 Why is this?  Some of the arguments focus on how women are likely to be in lower paying specialties (primary care physicians versus surgeons), but I think it is more than that.  It may also be too that women are more interested in qualify of life (work/family balance) than money so they opt for situations that give them more flexibility rather than more pay.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?  I think it is bad that women are underpaid and don't have opportunities to advance!  On the other hand, I think that if women are truly choosing family time over more money, that is OK if that is what they want.

There are certainly situations where I see very successful individuals (research superstars, administrators, etc.) and I think wow that person is amazing.  Then I think, but on the other hand I don't want their lifestyle (too much travel, working 24/7, etc.)  I don't want to do bad research or not have any opportunities for leadership/advancement, but I don't want to give up evenings with my kids or be gone all the time.  Travel is something that appeals to me less and less.  Whether it is missing the family, the prep work required for the house to run smoothly while I'm gone (not to mention childcare if spouse is gone too), missed work, and the joys of flying these day I would rather not travel too much.  I obviously go to some conferences, give some seminars, and serve on review panels but I try to work on saying no.  How will this impact my earnings long term, hard to say.  I've been a co-breadwinner my whole career.  Sometimes I have made more money and sometimes my husband has made more than me.  Really for us the big issues are affording a house in a good (close) school district and being able to pay for high quality childcare.  But, would I take a job for double the money that cut my kid time in half, probably not.

Ah well, back to making the most of my last 3 week days before the semester starts...

Tentative syllabus - check
First round of edits on two papers from former students - check  (need to do second round on 1 paper)
Grant reviews - started
Book chapter - lit review in progress
Regulatory protocol - submitted
Major service work - moving along nicely
Paper reviews - To be started (need to work on saying no!!!)
Annual review - almost done
Lab freezer - former students samples - sorted/removed

Fairly productive break all in all, but my to-do list seems to be growing rather than shrinking.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back in the office

I am back!!! I say that with joy and gladness in my voice.  I love the kiddos, but 11 uninterrupted days without house guests or travel was a long time in cold weather.  We successfully navigated the shopping/gift buying/wrapping (the UPS man now thinks I'm crazy with gifts from out of town and online shopping) and celebrating with family.  The kiddos loved their presents and Santa had cookies (albeit the kind you take out of a box and bake).  We enjoyed local venues for kid entertainment and played in the snow.   But, thankfully I now have sometime to focus on work and get something done (which did not happen over the holidays).  And, we have 2 blissful weeks until classes start on the 19th.

December was a month of extraordinary craziness (even for me) the perfect storm of travel, end of the semester holidays and unexpected service commitments.  I agreed to serve in a leadership role for an important committee and the amount of time spent behind the scenes to get all the ducks lined up was amazingly more than anticipated.  Things are moving in a very positive direction, so I am hopeful that it all paid off, but it was much harder than I anticipated when I said yes.  The lesson I have learned is that you have to get everyone informed on the same page before the meeting so that they can all feel good about the decision being made and get a chance to things through/process the situation before hand.  Not sure how I feel about leadership/administrative roles after all this but I have definitely learned a lot about herding cats.

My goals for the new year are:
1) to have a more organized office
2) work on saying no more often
3) work out at least 2 times per week
4) focus on the big picture and what really matters

And for the next two weeks (before classes start), I need to edit two papers from students who graduated already, write a book chapter that is due in mid-Jan, and review some grants.  Oh and come up with a syllabus for my class (last taught a few years ago).

What are your New Years Goals?