Today I’ve been noticing that there are faculty members, in all departments, who drop the ball a lot by letting things slide, and there are other faculty who pick up the slack and keep those balls in the air. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that that’s unfair. There’s no good excuse for it: just as many of the responsible people are disorganized and have busy personal/family lives as the irresponsible ones. The disorganized and overextended people certainly tend to forget things more, but they’re sincerely trying to keep all those balls in the air. Some people have just learned what they can get away with, and they do. I’m not talking about people who try but screw things up a lot; I mean the people who just let everything slide because they don’t care that much. That kid who never pulled their weight in group school projects. THAT person.
Everyone knows who those people are, too. Sometimes I suppose that tendency might pull someone up short when it comes to tenure, but often not, because “service” doesn’t amount to much in a tenure review. And there’s no real gender pattern I’ve observed when it comes to whether you’re a ball-dropper or ball-picker-upper in life in general. I’m sure everyone knows some very responsible men and some very irresponsible women, and I’d never argue otherwise.
But. There is a distinct gender pattern I’ve observed when it comes to faculty. I see very few women just letting everything slide so they can do the bare minimum, and already I’ve encountered several men like that. I don’t have statistics on this (anyone? Do those exist? I’d be interested to see them if they do), so we’re dealing with the unfortunately plural of anecdote, but for the moment let’s assume I’m right, and there are fewer women slackers than men slackers per capita in an academic environment. Just for the sake of trying to explain my own observations.
Why would that be the case? Possibilities:
1) Socialization. This presumes women in general are less likely than men to be slackers. I really have no idea if there are any statistics that might show this to be true. There certainly are different social pressures on boys and girls while they’re growing up, and to some extent women are still trained to pick up the slack, to do the housecleaning, to be the secretary. There’s still a lot of that being taught in subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways. But like I said, I’m not arguing that women like this don’t exist, because of course they do. I’m not sure how big a role this plays.
2) Filtering. The slacker women don’t make the cut, but some slacker men slip by (presumably, the REALLY slacking men still don’t). This could happen during undergrad, grad school, or postdocs (maybe even tenure, but hard to say).
I lean towards #2. I certainly feel like I can get away with a lot less bad behavior and lousy work ethics than men. I’m not terribly inclined towards either of those things, so maybe my perspective is biased by my own disinclinations. But still, I want to say that women can’t get away with as much. We have to meet a higher bar to justify our place.
That’s it in a nushell. We have to meet a higher bar. And when you’re working with men who are dropping the ball and have gotten away with it, over and over, to the point that everyone knows they do it and they’re still here, you as the woman have to pick up the slack. Because if slacker dude was working with another man, and that man refused to do more than his fair share, no one would blame him. He did his part, and his coworker fucked up. But if I fail to pick up the other ball, I can’t escape looking irresponsible.
It’s like the recent Office episode where Pam refused to photocopy anything in the new office, because she didn’t want to be automatically assigned all of the secretarial duties when she wasn’t a secretary. Good on Pam for that. I just wish it were that easy when you’re in a workplace with more than 3 people.