Saturday, October 06, 2007

A quick thought on same-gender mentors

Writing about Dr. Feminism (or, Dr. F from now on...) got me thinking.

Dr. F didn't have to help me. She could have decided to decline the first meeting or tell me that I needed to work with someone with whom I had an established working relationship.

She could have been prickly about time and meeting conditions so that I could never get down to see her from BN stated.

She could have ignored e-mails and generally gone about her business as if I weren't important.

She did none of that. She was willing to invest in a student who won't bring her glory or help her in any meaningful way. She was willing to take time out of her break, sabbatical and summer to read drafts and discuss ideas... because she knew those were the only times possible for me.

Dr. F is on a "9 month contract" (a bogus term, BTW, if you are on the tenure-track or tenured, your salary is annual, even if they don't send the checks in the summer!). She had no explicit obligation to help me. I don't know why she did, but she did.

Dr. F doesn't look down at my CC teaching job, rather she respects what I'm doing and how I do it. In fact, she's impressed at how much I was able to produce while also coaching, traveling for love and teaching.

In many ways, she showed me how to be generous with myself and with my students. I hope that I have always been respectful of her time and I know I've thanked her at every opportunity. I hope she understands how sincere those thanks are.

Many of you are female, quite a few of you are women in mostly male fields.

American Philosophy is extraordinarily a male field -- (there was a recent, shocking APA study on this exact point... I'll find it if you really want to see it). Most of the current grad students at my grad school are male and until this year nearly ALL of the faculty (and, I think all of the graduate faculty until Dr. F) were male.

We also know that men and women relate to the world in different ways. Women, we see it on a regular basis and know this is true -- men, trust us -- the world doesn't look the same to us as it does to you...

So, women -- please take the time to work with female students in your field. Whether they are grad students or undergrads, if most of your colleagues are men, they need you more than ever. Sure, it isn't your responsibility, it may not be in your job description and you may need to go out of your way to do so...

but, they need you to do it. I'll even be so bold as to assert that you have a moral duty to work with women who want to do the work.

Trust me, from the student's perspective, it makes a difference.

1 comment:

Bardiac said...

What a great post, and a great reminder. In any field, it's important to mentor young women.