Career Trajectories & Leadership

Many women's careers fail to follow a direct and linear "ladder" that is a traditional metaphor for success and advancement. Instead, a vine progressing along a trellis moves upward but sometimes also moves laterally, and always relies on the support of the trellis frame itself. There are many places where the vine may eventually arrive, just as there are many trajectories that careers can follow and many forms that leadership can take.

Some related ideas worth knowing about, updated on a regular basis:

  • New Paths to Full Professor (Inside Higher Education, May 2019). Important and powerful ideas about how to re-envision what scholarship can and could be, and more appropriate and mature understanding around mentoring.  
  • Despite Progress, Persistent Gender Gap in Leadership (Matthew Biddle, Buffalo News, August 2018). No surprises here, but some explanations for why. "The researchers primarily attribute the gender gap to societal pressures that contribute to gender differences in personality traits. For example, men tend to be more assertive and dominant, whereas women tend to be more communal, cooperative and nurturing. As a result, men are more likely to participate and voice their opinions during group discussions, and be perceived by others as leaderlike."  Full published study can be found here
  • Walking the Career-Diversity Walk (Leonard Cassuto, July 2017, ChronicleVitae). Cassuto reminds us that there is often only "soft support" for non-traditional careers pursued by academics, that the infrastructure in place - knowingly or unknowingly - only supports traditional academic tracks. Attitudes are part of that infrastructure, and graduate students themselves perpetuate the pathways by privileging academic jobs above all other interesting opportunities that exist. 
  • Science Research Jobs, Open Only to Women (David Matthews, December 2017, Inside Higher Ed). Here's one way to ensure there is still flow of talent at the end of the pipeline: build a special pipeline that can only be filled with talent of a certain type. "Germany’s Max Planck Society of research institutes has launched a women-only program of tenure-track positions to improve its gender balance and stop rivals poaching its best female scientists.The Lise Meitner excellence program, named after the pioneering early-20th-century physicist, is one of several women-only hiring initiatives that some observers believe are becoming more common while the proportion of women in top research positions remains stubbornly low." A related idea is to have a Women's Executive Board, such as this one also at a German Research Center, to ensure explicit attention is available to women seeking leadership opportunities. 
  • Women in tech suffer because of American myth of meritocracy (Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, April 2018, The Conversation). Meritocracy, or the idea that leadership is based on the skills, knowledge, and abilities of individuals, is a great idea. But the numerous ways that the process and its assumptions play out only perpetuates the gender-imbalance in technology fields. Ozkazanc-Pan argues that awareness building is a first step towards the types of disruption that will be necessary to change things.