Negotiating an Ideal Faculty Position Workshop: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Negotiating an Ideal Faculty Position workshop at Rice University, generously funded by the NSF Advance program. All in all, I really enjoyed the workshop and was quite glad to have attended.

Before I get into some of the meatier topics in subsequent posts, let me give you an overview about how these three busy days went Down.

Attendees: 70 women in science, engineering and psychology
Grad student : postdoc ratio = ~3:2
Percentage of attendees applying for positions this year = ~30
Percentage of attendees from Rice = 29
Percentage of attendees from the Houston area not including Rice = 13
Percentage of engineers = ~40
Breakdown of social dynamics:

Figure 1: Let's just say that whenever alcohol was made available, I drank it. Quickly. In other words, my multi-channel pipet makes better conversation than most of these gals did.

Location: Houston and Rice University
Lovely weather, lovely time of year. Grassy and green.

Hotel accomodations = nice. Shared a suite with one other attendee. She was one of the 'normal' variety. I couldn't believe my luck. Hotel had one of those pod coffee-makers which spit out phenomenally good coffee. And no, I do not yet make enough money to contain my excitement about free shit that is actually good. I may or may not have confiscated two unopened pods as souvenirs.

Rice = Beautiful campus. Beautiful groves of trees. Beautiful Spanish architecture reminiscent of my favorite place. Could totally live there.

Dress: Business casual worked well. Some women wore suits, which were quite unnecessary. Some women wore jeans- meh. I went with chinos, cardigans, and collared shirts. Also, pretty ballet flats which I won't show you people after your icy reception to my last contribution to blogospheric fashion.

Atmosphere: Comfortable, casual. Minimal pressure.

Emphasis on Women-Related Topics: While this was certainly a theme throughout the workshop, it was in no way an overtly major part of it. There was some general "we need more women in science" cheerleading going on as well as some pointers on taking credit for work to the same degree that men do. I was pleased that any gender focus revolved around empowerment of women and not around something more negative.

ADVANCE funding and Rice: Rice received a 5-year ADVANCE grant for this workshop, which is currently in its fourth year. ADVANCE funding is not renewable, and Rice is evaluating whether or not it will choose to continue with this program on its own dime. I certainly hope they do. It helped me a lot, and I suspect it helped the grad students even more than the postdocs. I'm only sorry that this program couldn't reach more people, and that's part of why I'm going to try to share the information I learned with all of you.

As for whether or not this program actually helps Rice with recruiting- I asked one of the program directors and she didn't seem to have a strong opinion. While she thought that the program made many people more aware of Rice University, she didn't believe that any hires have been made as a direct result of the program. So they really do seem to be hosting this workshop for largely philanthropic reasons.