An all-female panel of powerhouse professors spoke Friday about issues females in academia face when entering the workforce.
The speakers — professors Laura Anderson, Chris Reiber, Jean Quataert and Leigh Ann Wheeler — covered topics including how women should present themselves professionally, how to balance family and work, and how to be confident in oneself when pursuing a job in academia.
Chris Reiber, an associate professor of anthropology, started off the evening by telling a story of why she decided to change her first name early in her career.
“My name is really Christine,” Reiber said. “Back when I was in graduate school there were virtually no men in my field, so I made a very conscious decision to change my professional name to Chris. That way my work would not be immediately tagged as male or female.”
But Reiber added that women entering academia today are in a better situation.
“I think the world is a very different place for you guys,” Reiber said. “I think there is enough recognition in departments of the need for diversity that now being a woman can actually be to your advantage.”
Laura Anderson, an associate professor of mathematics, also said that times are changing.
“I do think there has been a generational shift,” Anderson said. “A decade ago, I would have said, yes, lower your voice and act like a man, but now the climate is very different.”
Jean Quataert, a professor of history, said women shouldn’t be afraid of negotiating for their salary when accepting their first job.
“What has been true for a really long time is that women will get offered less money than men,” Quataert said. “It’s your one chance to enter the academy, and get a good amount of money because nobody will say that woman or that man wants too much … There is often a tendency for chairs to lowball, so this is a critical moment for your first job.”
And Leigh Ann Wheeler, an associate professor of history, said women need to be comfortable with self-promotion.
“I think it is true today, that at least the men I am familiar [with] in my field of history, are much more comfortable with promoting themselves then their female counterparts,” Wheeler said. “I think it’s most important to be yourself in a way that has integrity and that exudes confidence. I think you should learn how to promote yourself in a way that feels comfortable to you, and that is going to be different for different individuals.”
Wheeler also weighed in on her experience of having a child while being a professor at Binghamton.
“I waited to have a baby ‘til I finished my first book, which is the requirement for tenure,” Wheeler said. “I was glad that I waited. I had him and I fell head over heels in love with him, and then I didn’t care about anything else anymore … I am glad I didn’t have the pressure of tenure while I was going through this hormonal crisis.”
More than 20 people attended the event, titled “Myth and Realities: Women in Academia,” which was hosted by the Graduate Women’s Association and the Graduate Community of Scholars.