Day: November 2, 2022

Things Senior Male Faculty Might Want to Know

>>NOVEMBER 2022: If you have a question you’d like me to answer during Nov 2022 daily blogging, please leave a comment to this post.<< 

Another question by Profdirector, originally posted here:

What not obvious thing do you wish the old fully promoted men in your department knew?

I’m going to assume this question ends with “about the lives of their female colleagues” and not about, say, fantasy football. ‘Cause if it’s about fantasy football, I’ll be the first to admit my own cluelessness.

Seriously now, this is a question that I often mull over, and my answers have changed over time. I will say that most men I work with, and those in my broader technical community, really don’t hate women and don’t want to exclude them from the profession. I am sure this wasn’t the case decades ago (although, seriously, I was hired two decades ago, which blows my mind, so maybe whenever I want to say twenty years ago, I should start saying fifty years ago). I believe that most of them believe they are enlightened and supportive and treat women as equals. And if you are a well-performing woman, especially of some professional note, senior men (at least in my field) will generally support you.

However, there are many issues that I feel like they could and should know about, but typically don’t. And part of this lack of knowledge is philosophical, in that people are fundamentally unknowable and those of different genders have really different everyday lives, so how much can senior male professors really ever know about the realities of their female colleagues? Sure,  there are fundamental barriers to knowing, but I fell we are nowhere near them, and most men could definitely know much more than they typically seem to.

For one, most senior faculty men have “civilian” wives (I know there exist single men and gay men, but a majority in my field are married to women), i.e., wives who aren’t faculty and who either don’t work at all or work, often part time, in a career that is less well paid that the husband’s. These women are focused on the family and on supporting their husband’s career, and if they are happy with their choices, more power to them. But the husbands don’t understand that their female colleagues lead very different lives from them (the men), because, in a vast majority of marriages, women are still the household managers and spend a ton of time and energy on family and home regardless of what they do outside the home. These men don’t really understand their female professional colleague’s reality because they are not very knowledgeable about (or interested in) the workings of their own household.

I am not saying that women faculty’s husbands are lazy layabouts, not in the least. What I am saying is that they are more often than not employed in a career that is as demanding as a faculty career, or even more so; that when two people work full time in demanding jobs (in contrast to one of them not working or working part time), each one of them is going to be stretched thin in a way the employed spouse in a single-income household typically isn’t.

I know plenty of male faculty with kids and they seldom say they can’t meet at 8 am or at 6 pm because of kid pickup/dropoff, so clearly the other parent is doing the kid handling. Well, I am the one who can’t make these meetings. In a vast majority of marriages, women spend more time and energy on kids. That seems like it won’t change anytime soon. I personally don’t want to not take kids to school just because someone wants to meet at the crack of dawn.

I wish my male colleagues knew that female faculty do their (the men’s) exact job plus a lion’s share of the men’s wives’ job. I don’t really know what the colleagues would do with that information, but perhaps it might lead to more empathy.

The most supportive colleagues are those who are either married to a woman faculty member or to a woman in another demanding career. Even if they don’t have kids, these folks see first-hand how busy their spouses are, the shit they are likely put through in a career that’s coveted (and thus likely full of men), and it really opens their eyes.

I can see a difference between my husband now and when we first met in terms of how much he knows and understands the issues women face. He used to be supportive in an abstract sense, but after seeing real issues and hearing about them from the horse’s mouth for two decades, he now gets more incensed about gender-related injustices and ready to fuck someone up than I do. Alas, there aren’t enough women in highly paid careers to educate every man through marriage.

Now, as for young faculty women versus old faculty men. Honestly, with my pregnancies during the tenure track (baby No 2, a.k.a. Middle Boy, now 15) and after tenure (baby No 3, a.k.a. Smurf, now 11), several of my male colleagues were extremely supportive and genuinely excited for me, much more so than the two senior women (we have many more women now, but they’re all junior to me). However, there were also two men who I remember making comments that were supposed to be jokes but were, in the one case, indicating the colleague was resentful that a woman having a baby might get teaching release (and someone else picking up the teaching slack) and, in the other case, that using a tenure-clock extension (actually getting it automatic, but actually using it is not) means the woman is a “weak link” (direct quote). I don’t think this is happening very much anymore, in part because we’ve had more women since then, but, for example, in the case of the newest announced pregnancy, it turned out that many men had no idea whether or not we had any formal university-level pregnancy/birth accommodations (we don’t; it’s left to the departments to handle, and our department has been great about it). I’ve had this information for years, but I guess people only seek and retain information that’s directly relevant to them. Given that a lot of young women are mentored (formally or informally) by older men, it sounds like men should really make an effort to learn about how the faculty life looks from the standpoint of their female colleagues (hint: it’s not the same as the men’s), which includes knowing about the accommodations for birth and adoption that are relevant to all people of procreation age, regardless of gender.

I sometimes wish dudes could get a movie-type body swap with women, for like a month, just to see what a different world it is. For instance, I’d like male faculty to see how much emotional handholding for students female faculty have to do on the regular, and how it skyrocketed during the pandemic; how we had to keep our shit together for students and our families and be everyone’s rock, knowing that we ourselves didn’t and wouldn’t have much of an outlet or help from anywhere. I wish they saw and could really understand the amount of emotional labor we all do for the benefit  of the all the different people in our lives. This labor is huge but mostly invisible to men, because people don’t expect men to do it and don’t even approach men with demands for it.  And this labor is on top of, not instead of, everything else that men do in their jobs as faculty.

I wish they could see that women faculty are so fucking awesome, it’s actually pretty scary.

What say you, blogosphere? What not obvious thing do you wish the old fully promoted men in your department knew?