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Author Topic: Women and chairships?  (Read 29341 times)
anonrightnow
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« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2008, 11:19:25 AM »

It sounds like you do not have previous chair experience, is that true? I can't imagine going to a new institution, tenured or not, and trying to learn the ropes as a new faculty member AND new chair.

Yes, bigsky you're right--I don't have any previous chair experience.  I have administrative experience, but haven't been chair of a department.  The reason I would like one of the positions for which I'm applying is that I know the area of the country, the school, and would have help (for the first time ever!) with my children (grandparents in the same town).  So, that's why I am thinking this could be a good option for me and my family.  It would also be fairly easy for my partner go get a job.  But, as I previously stated, I now have tenure and some flexibility.  So I am weighing giving my children grandparents (my family is also very close) in the same town vs. mom as chair of a dept.
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5yearplan
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« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2010, 9:42:22 PM »

I have an 8 year old and became chair of my small department almost two years ago.  I am married and have a supportive spouse who has tenure, but who has a fellowship and travels about 25% of the time.

I have seen many women of color appointed to chairships as newly appointed associate professors. None of them have advanced to the rank of full professor, which means that they are only able to move from our R1 to other R1's or even other schools as Academic Professionals rather than Professors.  Those AP jobs are 40+ hour jobs as career administrators mainly dealing with policy, money, and snarky people.  I would rather die than have one of those jobs.  The ones who stay are unable to negotiate well with other admins here, since they can't afford to offend or alienate anyone in the slim hopes that are able to produce another monograph and even dream of promotion.  They are also not taken seriously by other chairs when we talk about things like senior hiring, and or even cases in which we handle promotion to full.

I made it a requirement that I be advanced to full professor status before I took this job.  I had two monographs from academic presses, though, so it was time.  I wouldn't recommend becoming chair before that time unless you are prepared to either shift your track to become a career administrator, or are happy being an associate professor for the rest of your time there.  I have been able to keep up research, by writing articles, but another monograph would not be do-able with this workload. 

I feel really strongly that women need to wait to be advanced to full professorships before taking these jobs. There are no men who would dream of doing this work at my R1 as an associate professor, and in fact I can't think of any.  My colleague from my first job at a State U became chair as an assistant professor.  He is struggling to be promoted to full, though we were in the same cohort, and he is very bitter about it--though we warned him at the time not to do it.  He has no chance of being promoted now, since it's been so long--he would have to do something really noteworthy, and he's too debilitated and full of wounded pride to tackle a new research project with the humility, pragmatism, and enthusiasm that you need.
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tenured_feminist
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« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2010, 7:59:48 AM »

Yup. My own chair, whom I love and is great at the job, is going to step down very soon so that he can get enough done to be promoted to full. He's done a great job as chair under very difficult economic circumstances, but that ain't gonna get him promoted.

No one, regardless of gender, should become a chair before getting within spitting distance of full without a clear exit plan. This is doubly true for service magnets (who are disproportionately women and/or people of color). And be aware that exit plans can easily fall apart during a chair's term!
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caesura
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« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2010, 8:03:01 AM »

IME, schools that hire in a chair from outside may be doing so because the department is too dysfunctional to find a chair from within.  So be on the lookout for that kind of problem when you interview.
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spyzowin
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« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2010, 8:04:15 AM »

After reading the posts under "Balancing", specifically about how women are paid less and have a hard time on the tenure track with children. . .I am wondering, "Am I crazy for applying to be chair of a department?" 

I have recently been awarded tenure and I have young(er) children.  I wouldn't mind leaving my current job (for various reasons), and  have applied for a of couple chairships. I am starting to wonder if I can do the job and do it well.  I have an extremely supportive spouse and, depending on location of the job, might have family support.  However, after reading various posts, I am starting to wonder if a chairship can be balanced with my family life.  Of course I wouldn't take a chair position without tenure, but I want to do a good job and be a positive influence on the department in which I work.

Anyone women with children out there having success being a chair, professor, and a mom?  I would love to hear if you think it's doable and how you do it.

If you ever miss anything because of your children, you will lose the moral authority to ask anyone to do anything. It sounds unfair, but tough. My last three chairs were childless (all women), the male chair before that had a grown child, and the male chair before that was a childless gay man.

So think carefully about this. No one will care about your family responsibilities, and your colleagues will already dislike you enough as it is.
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tenured_feminist
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« Reply #20 on: April 24, 2010, 8:13:31 AM »

I think that's bull, Amnirov. I've had chairs miss things for lots of stupid, irrelevant, and/or personal reasons. As long as the basic work gets done on time, who cares?

I'd rather have a chair who gets the tenure file upstairs quickly and cleanly before leaving at 3 PM for Suzie's ballet recital than a chair who goes to every random talk sponsored by the department and, oopsies, forgets that Eduardo needed to have three peer evaluations of his teaching in his file before coming up for tenure.
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spyzowin
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« Reply #21 on: April 24, 2010, 8:37:37 AM »

I think that's bull, Amnirov. I've had chairs miss things for lots of stupid, irrelevant, and/or personal reasons. As long as the basic work gets done on time, who cares?

I'd rather have a chair who gets the tenure file upstairs quickly and cleanly before leaving at 3 PM for Suzie's ballet recital than a chair who goes to every random talk sponsored by the department and, oopsies, forgets that Eduardo needed to have three peer evaluations of his teaching in his file before coming up for tenure.

Where I work, people have limited sympathy for colleagues who beg off for family reasons. I think that the issue on the table is the chair who leaves for Suzie's ballet recital instead of doing the peer evaluations on time.
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dundee
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« Reply #22 on: April 24, 2010, 10:38:39 AM »

I just wanted to chime on the comment re hiring a chair from the outside. My dept. did a national search for a chair precisely because there was too much internal dysfunction and history, so we needed an outsider to come in and sort things out. So far it has worked extremely well, but it was a tough situation for the new chair to come into. Some members of the dept. certainly did not want hu here and made that clear.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2010, 10:39:02 AM by dundee » Logged

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lizzy
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« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2010, 10:49:20 AM »

I just wanted to chime on the comment re hiring a chair from the outside. My dept. did a national search for a chair precisely because there was too much internal dysfunction and history, so we needed an outsider to come in and sort things out. So far it has worked extremely well, but it was a tough situation for the new chair to come into. Some members of the dept. certainly did not want hu here and made that clear.

My first job was in a department that had to do this. It's wasn't awful, but it was awkward for the new chair. He wasn't liked very much in the department and he had to learn the ropes of the new place on his own. He left quickly. And he didn't have a family.

Also, no matter what they say and how they behave during the interview process, you can't be sure what kind of departmental dynamic you're stepping into until you've been in the job for some time. I've never been a chair, but I have been in a snakepit of a department. The stress of being a faculty member in this kind of situation is bad enough. I can't imagine being in charge of it.

So, in other words, I'd suggest real caution and consideration. Is the move to the better location worth the potential costs?
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niceday
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« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2010, 11:21:19 AM »

OP -- my department chair is also a terminal associate. But that's what he was anyway and he has done very well for himself because he picked up the post at the end of his career and negotiated a nice raise to do so. As a result, he's retiring with a much nicer pension.

My chair likes to talk with me about how to handle my career over the long-term. He says it's a very bad idea to be a chair unless you are ready to go up for full or resigned to being a terminal associate. He says the only exception is if there is some urgent need for someone to take over for a few years and you use that moment to negotiate hard and then agree to do it only for a couple of years in return for some nice perks (for example, higher salary, a sabbatical) when you return to being regular faculty.

Your plan might work if you end up in a location that you are happy being for the rest of your career as a terminal associate. Nothing wrong with that under the right circumstances. That's what my chair was and he was very happy. He was a great chair (retiring this year) and had a pleasant, steady career in a nice department.
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madhatter
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« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2010, 1:37:56 PM »

I think that's bull, Amnirov. I've had chairs miss things for lots of stupid, irrelevant, and/or personal reasons. As long as the basic work gets done on time, who cares?

I'd rather have a chair who gets the tenure file upstairs quickly and cleanly before leaving at 3 PM for Suzie's ballet recital than a chair who goes to every random talk sponsored by the department and, oopsies, forgets that Eduardo needed to have three peer evaluations of his teaching in his file before coming up for tenure.

Where I work, people have limited sympathy for colleagues who beg off for family reasons.

That may not be "people" so much as "you."
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renji
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« Reply #26 on: April 24, 2010, 3:05:10 PM »

I think that many faculty feel pressure (internally and externally) to prematurely take administrative positions.

You need to think about what you will gain and what you will give up.

At my school, my chair is expected to work 9-5. But, he almost always works until about 9-10PM.

As a TT faculty member, I come and go (except for class times) as I please. This means that I can catch my daughter's track meets, soccer games, field trips, and even drop her off and pick her up (before she got a car).

I can stop by my son's day care for lunch or just work from home when he is not feeling well.

And, I can continue to produce research at a high enough level to make full professor in 5-6 years (from now).

By prematurely launching into an admin position, you sacrifice the flexibility that makes this job so interesting and the free time needed to be a successful scholar and a full professor.

No one should tell you how to live your life and you should do what is best for you.


BUT, let those more senior professors, those who have already stopped researching, push papers around and attend those endless meetings. While you are young and active, spend your time adding to the knowledge of the world and taking advantage of the flexibility of our jobs, the flexibility that makes normal working stiffs so angry.


« Last Edit: April 24, 2010, 3:07:05 PM by renji » Logged
amlithist
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« Reply #27 on: April 25, 2010, 1:05:56 PM »

IME, schools that hire in a chair from outside may be doing so because the department is too dysfunctional to find a chair from within.  So be on the lookout for that kind of problem when you interview.

My best work friend chairs the dept. closely associated with mine; she was hired in as chair for this very reason.  She's divorced and has a grown child and is finishing her third year as chair--every minute of it a struggle, because of the mess the dept. has historically been.   

I took the chairship of my dept. for similar reasons--we were threatened with bringing in an outsider if one of us didn't step up.  The first year has been hell because of our dysfunctions, but things are actually settling down, mainly because I knew the players and how to work them to get them settled down. I'd pity an outsider having come in here, like my friend came into her mess. 

And with kids?  No way, even with grandparents in town--it's not just a matter of not physically being with the kids because you're at the office, but because the things you have to think about/worry about/plan for/bring home with you (whether literally or mentally) make you a different person than when you were just faculty.  You change when you're chair, whether you want to and whether you admit it or not.  It's not that you're a better or worse person (or parent), but your entire frame of reference is different.  And if you have a department of any size or consequence at all, you can't just leave it at the office, no matter how much you try to do so.
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geogeek
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« Reply #28 on: April 27, 2010, 11:41:02 AM »

I think that many faculty feel pressure (internally and externally) to prematurely take administrative positions.

... By prematurely launching into an admin position, you sacrifice the flexibility that makes this job so interesting and the free time needed to be a successful scholar and a full professor.

... let those more senior professors, those who have already stopped researching, push papers around and attend those endless meetings. While you are young and active, spend your time adding to the knowledge of the world and taking advantage of the flexibility of our jobs....


Following on to the above comments, I've noticed that there seems to be a push at some unis to place more women into "power" positions and/or to make them more visible by appointing them as department chairs.  This is especially true for STEM departments.  In theory, this is a good thing.  In practice, however, it can cause a woman to be pushed into admin at a relatively early point in her career.  There are so few fully promoted women in many STEM departments, that having a woman as chair often means either appointment someone who is not fully promoted, early promotion to full, or being appointed as chair just after full promotion.  Often these are women whose career paths are on an upward trajectory in terms of research and recognition.  Being a chair can cause that trajectory to flatten out or even begin to decrease.  The end result?  A department and university that can claim success in retaining and promoting women in STEM fields, but a faculty member whose research career might be suffering. 

I'd love to see more women as chairs of STEM departments, but only if it is what they truly want and/or if they are at a point in their career where they feel that their contributions to the discipline are largely complete.
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janewales
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« Reply #29 on: April 29, 2010, 10:34:27 AM »


At my place, chairs have to be full professors-- a recognition, I think, of the difficulty of getting your ducks in a row for that final promotion if you're also doing heavy admin (and of the political minefields some chairs will find themselves in-- you don't want to be disciplining someone who gets to vote on your promotion case in a year or two). So do think about where you are in your career right now, as part of the decision.

As for the family/ workload issue-- we've had one female chair in the 20 years I've been at my current uni. She was great. Her children were grown. That's been true for all the men who've held the position, too. Administration of this sort is not merely a 9 to 5 job; it also continues through the summer, at least where I am (we're a very large and complex department), requiring far more presence than is the norm for academics. Losing the freedom that most of us prize is very difficult.

There's no doubt that many places want to increase the numbers of women in these positions-- that's the line my dean used on me, in our most recent search for a new chair. For me right now, giving up teaching, severely limiting my research, and taking on a pretty thankless task just isn't appealing, and lord knows I'm already pulling my (token woman) administrative weight in a thousand other ways. But admin is indeed one of the avenues to academic mobility, and I see you want to move. What about a staged approach? Try to do some local (less intense) admin to pump up that part of your profile, while also getting things in place to move to full. Then, once you're promotable or close to it, get in touch with an academic head-hunting firm, and see where it takes you.

I hope things work out for you.
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