Women in Academia Panel

Republished from the Graduate Student Forum

On January 16, Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (GWISE), in collaboration with the Graduate Studies Office, hosted a “Women in Academia” panel. The panel was comprised of four Dartmouth faculty members, including: Professors Mary R. Albert (Thayer School of Engineering), Mary K. Hudson (Department of Physics and Astronomy), and Kathryn Cottingham (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Program), and Assistant Professor Meredith A. Kelly (Department of Earth Sciences). These women are very successful in their respective fields, with more than 70 publications combined in the last decade.

The panel covered a variety of topics, including the two-body problem (the challenge of academic spouses finding full-time jobs in the same geographic location), gender bias in hiring, achieving success in historically male-dominated fields, work-life balance, and the quest for tenure. The panelists observed that it is important to recognize when to speak up. They also remarked that it can be difficult to achieve work-life balance, but academic positions are often flexible, which is a benefit. They noted that it is important to have a partner who is supportive of your success.

Broadly, all four women strongly advised that it is important to take a job opportunity when it arises, and to not limit yourself in geographic terms. This is especially important at the postdoctoral stage, a relatively short period in your life. Cottingham suggests that before applying to a job, you should ask yourself: What would I do if offered the job? She said that if you almost certainly would not take it if offered, then it may be better not to apply in the first place. These scientists also stressed the importance of negotiations when being offered a faculty position. According to Kelly, “before you sign the contract [is when] you have the most power.”

Kiah Sanders, an immunology graduate student, said that “Dr. Mary Albert gave the best piece of advice I took away from the panel: That no matter how much stress or negativity you encounter on your way to your goal, you need to keep pushing forward and find motivation from within.” Sanders herself is working on a future seminar that will “focus on how women can better utilize our differences as strengths as we strive to attain higher positions in academia and other avenues following our graduate work.”

The “Women in Academia” panel was funded by NASA.

by Jeanine Amacher