An article in Monday's Guardian talked about the pigeonholing language/stereotyping that can sometimes be used when categorizing women in leadership positions. Most of the illustrations in this article are not terribly subtle (as opposed to the gendered wording issues raised when people are writing letters of recommendation Given that these stereotypes are well-used still in many arenas, does this persist in the sciences (and entomology in particular) or are there other stereotypes in the sciences that we need to be aware of to avoid being our own worst enemies?

Earlier this year, CBS News ran an article on why women can be better leaders, but the intended message was to boardrooms, to let them know not to fear women selecting as leaders: they will do well, thank you very much.  Telling, however, in the data collected was when they asked new hires whether or not they aspired to become CEO of the company, only half of the women (18% vs. 36% of men) had such aspirations.  Arguably, becoming CEO or a top leader in anything (such as ESA President!) needs to be cultivated early in careers, as the process is not one that happens overnight.

Some of you may have been lucky enough to benefit from leadership training early in your career--do you think this has influenced the trajectory of where you are or where you see yourself in the future? How would you help others see this potential?  Can ESA help (or has it already?)?

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  • There is a summary article in Newswise at that talks about a study of gender bias in scientific authorship and collaboration.  This could translate to impacts on the ability of women to advance in their careers.  Scientific research is influenced by the so-called "invisible college," the informal networking that occurs within disciplines.  And people have a natural tendency to connect with those who appear to be similar to themselves in some way (whether that be gender or some other common characteristic).

    I retired from the entomology profession three years ago after having worked as a middle manager for over a decade.  I found that I was spending more and more of my time on administrative and bureaucratic tasks, and delegating more and more of the fun, scientific work to my staff.  I had a vantage point close enough to senior management to realize that it wasn't for me.  Even as a middle manager, I kept getting further and further away from the reasons that I entered the entomology profession in the first place.  I was spending my work time sitting at a desk or in meetings.  I found myself volunteering in environmental education organizations at least partly as a means to get out in the field again, at least on occasion, and reconnect with the passion of my earlier work years.

    After retiring, I returned to school to obtain a Masters degree in Library and Information Science (i.e., my fourth college degree).  My desire is to begin a second career where I can use the expertise I acquired in my first career in a different manner.  This involves a shift from a male-dominated profession to a female-dominated profession.  Interestingly, I am noticing that there is a disproportionate representation of men in leadership positions within the Library and Information Science profession.  Gender inequity can occur in any profession, not just in the sciences or traditionally male occupations.  There seems to be a more pervasive cultural influence.  But not aspiring to be a CEO may not be such a bad thing, especially if a person can contribute in ways that match their desires and interests.  Certainly though, those women who do desire leadership positions should be supported and encouraged in their efforts. 

  • It goes beyond terminology.  I seem to remember a video earlier this year (or late last year) that was supposed to encourage young women to enter the STEM fields but came off as horribly insulting, complete with young girls in spiked heels and lab coats.  Sorry ladies and gents, that is not lab appropriate attire.  A recent attempt at encouraging girls into the sciences is far more encouraging and down right entertaining.  Granted it's trying to sell toys, but it is still far more effective than that PSA.

    Beside that we still teach girls and women that gender roles are binary and even if a woman enters a STEM field she has an expectation to be the primary care provider.  This isn't in all cases of course, but studies continue to show that women are performing those "traditional" functions as well as being a primary financial contributor to the household.  That's a lot of freaking work!!!  Add to that a high-level leadership position and it looks to be a rather terrifying prospect.  Perhaps additional changes need to be made in how we teach the gendered roles and those expectations in addition to creating leadership training opportunities.  This goes all ways for boys, girls and everyone along the spectrum.

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