A listing of brief vignettes describing methods of mentoring problems and solutions. These are composites of different mentoring experiences of women. Each vignette describes a separate problem and solution that one woman or a group of women went through.
The following are composites of different mentoring experiences of women. Each vignette describes a separate problem and solution that one woman or a group of woman went through.
Marietta came to the department as one of its first women. She was a shy, reserved person, very different in style from the senior faculty in her field, all of whom were men. In several attempts to get to know more than a dozen members of the senior faculty, she felt rebuffed - and in a few cases, quite offended - by their behavior. One thought she was a new technician; another presumed she was the spouse of a colleague, another did not want to talk about any serious subject with her, etc.
In short, the men appeared uninterested in getting to know Marietta, and Marietta soon found it hard to trust any senior person in her department. In discussions with a woman adviser, she decided to build mentoring relationships with senior people away from this university. She began systematically to correspond with senior people at four other universities in two other countries.
She was soon invited to give a paper at one of these places, and during the subsequent trip, she got to know several other senior colleagues from around the world. One of these scientists later spoke very positively of Marietta's work in a discussion with a senior colleagues in her own department. Thereafter, Marietta was able slowly to develop the collegial relationships at home that she had wanted. As an important serendipitous side-benefit, when Marietta came up for her first promotion, the letters appeared all the more impressive, coming in from major laboratories in several different countries.
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Colleen came to the department as the new junior person in a field with an extremely well-known senior man who was working on similar problems. The senior faculty member quickly became a powerful and helpful mentor to Colleen. The two began a fruitful collaboration from which came a stream of well-regarded papers all jointly authored.
In Colleen's third year, an older woman suggested that Colleen talk with the department head. The older woman was concerned that Colleen's contribution to the papers would be attributed to the senior member of the pair even though Colleen had come up with several of the central ideas embodied in the work. Colleen went to talk with the department head.
In the opening hour, the department head smiled benignly and spoke warmly of the work Colleen had co-authored and of her "skillful lab work." Colleen, however, primed by her advisor, asked directly and specifically whether the close collaboration could hurt her career. She was dismayed to hear her friend's fears confirmed. "Well, as a matter of fact, I have heard others suggest that Professor Famous must have had the central ideas...." Colleen then pushed for the department head to help her think through a plan whereby she would be able to make clear that the contributions she had made - and was yet to make - to the collaboration. She began systematically to talk about her work with other senior people and ultimately acquired one other helpful mentor.
Ariadne came to the department as one of two junior women, the only two junior people to be hired for a long period of time. Three months later, she sought advice about how to deal with her woman colleague, Piro. Ariadne described what she saw as constant attempts by colleagues to pit the two against each other. Piro seemed in fact to be becoming hostile and competitive. Ariadne thought that some of the senior faculty, almost all of them male, were consciously or unconsciously trying to set up a competition between them. Ariadne also thought that the men might succeed and that both the women might get pushed out.
Ariadne was advised to invite Piro to dinner and to see if it would be possible for the two of them to mentor and support and speak well of each other. The advisor reasoned that whether or not either women got tenure, and even if either or both subsequently left the university, that having had a strong supporter would still have helped each career.
The two women did have dinner. They discovered that they saw some negative mentoring toward each of them about the other. So they made a pact. Each would staunchly support the other in all areas and in every possible way. They shared as much as they could about their respective projects. Each was able to line up one other woman faculty friend at another nearby university so they developed a dinner discussion group of four. Each then pushed the career of the other wherever appropriate. Both got tenure.
Laticia came to the department with very well-defined research interests in an area peripheral to the central focus of the department. She had been discovered in a vigorous affirmative action search and came strongly recommended by her thesis advisor, a man very eminent in their field. Since there was no one who could really advise her in her new department, Laticia continued to correspond weekly with her thesis advisor, who continued to be extremely helpful to her.
In her second year, Laticia's department head suggested that she should begin new line of research "closer to the needs of the department." Laticia was surprised and dismayed. She began to get to know other senior faculty in her department, all of whom gave her the same advice as the department head. She felt in some ways quite badly used, but concluded that her future at the university depended on a switch in sub-field. She lost about six months while trying to decide which mentor to believe and wished fervently that she had better understood the position she was in when she came and that her advisors had considered her interest before their own.
Roberta came to the university pregnant. She set up her office and her research program, took on two graduate students, and had the baby. The baby cried all night for months. Roberta's husband became tired and cross. Roberta became more tired than she had ever been in her life - and she lived that way for months. She had no time to get to know anyone. She felt very lonely. Her graduates students seemed plainly disappointed in her. The head of her section looked strained as he reviewed her first year with her and talked about her not having brought in the kind of money she should have been competing for. Roberta became quite sick with the flu that first summer. Her mother was angry with her for "never calling anymore." There was a heat wave. The research hit a reef. Roberta's husband talked of looking for a job in Chicago. The baby caught the flu from Roberta.
A senior faculty member found Roberta crying in her car in the parking lot and took her back into the office to talk. Two calls brought two appointments for Roberta: one with a woman professor in her school who had three children. The other was to talk with a confidential counselor. The senior faculty member then drew out Roberta about her work. They talked, non-stop, for an hour, then took up the topic again the following day in the faculty lunchroom. Roberta was introduced to another professor in the lunchroom. She agreed to meet with him the following week about a possible industrial contact. Over lunch, they laid a one-year plan to deal with eight different professional problems and issues. Roberta agreed to talk with the senior professor six weeks later.
She called the woman professor and the counselor sometimes every day for months. She went to the Child Care Office for help in getting day care.
This is not an immediate happily-ever-after story. It took three years, one of them with reduced teaching, for Roberta to get back to feeling normal. She is deeply proud of her survival skills, but describes those years as the hardest in her life.
Anne-Jeannette thought a senior faculty member was systematically taking her ideas in discussions with graduate students in her lab. She also thought the senior colleague was interfering with her sponsors and had lied about it to her.
Joyce found herself in extraordinary demand in her department: she was put onto several department committees; every woman graduate student and every graduate student of color in the department sought her out; and then she got a call to be named to a prestigious national committee.
Lorraine thought that a fellow junior faculty member was the person who was making obscene phone calls to her. Naomi knew who was making civilized but "entitled", undiscouragable passes at her: the colleague in the next floor lab. Martha Jo lost her funding in her second year due to an amazing fluke in a changeover in her Federal funding agency. Yung-An needed help in finding new industrial sponsors. And Taffy thought she had good reason to wonder if she was being paid as much as her male peers.
Susannah was wooed by three other universities, but very unsure about a wise course to take. Katerina fell deeply in love with a senior colleague in her section, who proposed to her in her second semester. Camilla had all her proposals funded at once and did not know how to deal with too much good fortune, Could all the work be done?
Thalia was invited to work on a regular basis in the consulting firm owned by three senior colleagues. She soon realized that her contribution might be quite central to the success of the firm. Jennifer made a central discovery in her third year, and as a result needed heavy-weight advice about how to spend her time the following two years. Sarah was offered a $30,000 pearl necklace by an Asian sponsor.
All of them went to the department head, the section head or the dean to work it out in discussions over time, and all of them lived happily every after.
Agnes was convinced that her department had made a mistake in hiring her. She was having migraines and was unsure about her teaching. Magda was very homesick for her sunny homeland and hated the cold, impersonal, unfriendly, workaholic environment in her department. Kuniko fell in love with a non-Japanese and despaired of every being able to go home again. Saralyn came out of the closet the summer before she came to the university. She wanted very much to talk with other single women faculty and, if possible, with other lesbians. Mara was afraid about speaking in public and had to present several colloquia.
Narabeth's parents were very old. She is an only child and very worried about their loneliness and frailty. Meena, a remarkably beautiful woman, was constantly sought out by male students, faculty and the administrators. She especially found herself the object of attention at professional conferences. Lineeta was the object of hostile attention, an apparent vendetta from a distinguished senior man at another university.
Taiwo felt extremely lonely with no other professional woman of her ethnic background at the university. She found herself with high phone bills. Marlene wondered if she married the right person and wondered if she'd picked the right career. Should she have gone into music after all?
Persephone found a lump in her right breast, spent six weeks before the mastectomy wondering for the thousandth time whether women get equal attention from physicians and spent six years hoping there would be no recurrence of the cancer. Liriane spent almost two decades trying to get pregnant, developing a courage and patience she would not have believed possible. Then she got pregnant at age 44.
All of them spent weeks and months slowly building friendships and networks with other women - and one or two men - and lived happily ever after, after a difficult struggle to make the situation work. One was heard to say, "Not only is no woman an island, but I am very sure that no one can make it alone here."