Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Random Worries and a Bit of Biking Bliss

Today our vice chair for undergrad stuffs held an advising session for our majors; a couple of weeks ago, she'd asked for volunteers in each subfield to come help advise in break out groups. So, I said I'd help if she needed me.

We have five subfields, and the VC tried to get one person to lead a break out group for each. Our tenure line faculty is almost exactly 50% male and 50% female.

Want to guess what the gender balance of faculty at the session was?

If you said 100% female, you'd be correct! Well, the chair (male) also showed up to speak for a moment and be supportive. And another female faculty member showed up because she's advising for the first time this semester, and thought it would be helpful to her. Count: 5 women, 1 man.

Time: 2 and a half hours. Students at my break out session: about 14.

Have I mentioned lately how happy I am to be spending the next semester in Asia?


I'm worried about my seminar. The men speak way more than the women. I've tried a couple things to try to encourage the women to speak, but I'm not succeeding.

The women DO contribute well when they're leading discussion. And they participate in group stuff. But when we talk as a whole, they aren't speaking as much.

I try to be cognizant, and I'm not seeing men cut off the women, and I don't think I'm cutting them off. I try to give positive and challenging feedback to men and women when they speak. But I'm not confident that I'm actually doing so equally, and that bothers me. I need help with this.

I'm semi-satisfied with the discussion leading. They've been bringing up great questions, but don't press people hard to really bring out stuff from the texts. So I do. But then I'm talking too much. I need help with this, too.


I got an email earlier today from a colleague who bikes (and knows I bike) about a bike thing with the headmaster.

I don't know if I should go.

Why go: networking by bike. Bike. And did I mention, BIKE!

Why not: I don't want to get dropped by a group of mostly men, or make them feel like I'm holding them back. Biking is for fun, not networking or stress.

Maybe the headmaster is a sexist jerk? Maybe he isn't, really, but needs to be a bit more aware of how sexist he can sound? I'm a foolish optimist, aren't I?


I went to the local library this afternoon to learn to use the DVD player and such for the series of presentations I'm doing starting Monday evening. The librarian took me down, and we spent 10 minutes while he decided if the TV was okay. Then he tried to get the DVD thing to work. And it did, except that the remote didn't (and you need the remote to select "menu" and so on, to choose scenes to show). I spent the next 20 minutes while he went to change the batteries, and then decided that it wasn't the batteries, but that it was the wrong remote.

I'm glad he figured it out today, and not on Monday evening with however many local folks hanging out, staring at me. I can sit calmly for half an hour when there's no rush. I get a lot crankier when there are a number of people waiting.

I'm really glad I went in today. Really glad!


I got on my bike today; I wasn't going to go, but then I decided it would be good to get some exercise, so I got things together, and then I got on the bike. And getting on the bike was just gut-wrenchingly good. The smoothness, the rhythm, something just felt so indescribably right that I caught my breath with surprise.

I don't know. I should expect that the bike feels smooth and easy when I get on, right? It feels that way every time. But somehow, I was surprised at how good just getting on felt.

I was really glad I went out.


  1. On the women not talking issue, sometimes really subtle things can help -- I've found just looking at the woman you want to speak up, really briefly, for a second, can get her to talk, if not that time, then the next.

    Or you can be less subtle: "Elizabeth has something to tell us about this," you can say.

    (It would be very cool if Elizabeth actually does has something to say on that topic when you yank her into the spotlight, obviously!)

    Other times I point at reluctant speakers in my best Captain Picard style and say, "What do you think?"

    (This is when I am not being subtle at all.)

    I used to be one of the women who did not talk. This was when I figured screw the fellas, if they didn't want to hear from me, I would keep it to myself. One of my feminist friends said to me, Well, when are you going to start speaking up, then? If not now, when, Levi tells us, and so now I make my students talk. They need to learn to speak up sometime. Why not now?

  2. Going around the room? everybody talks even if to say pass?

  3. Delagar and Timna, Thanks for your suggestions. I'm working on them!