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Role models?

jennifer brand jbrand at unl.edu
Wed May 12 11:16:37 EST 1993

amfmoore at bio1.acpub.duke.edu (Anne Moore) writes:

>I have been teaching at the university level for two years now 
>and have been startled to find myself in the position of the mentor rather 
>than the "mentee".
Yes, this is what happens, and it is startling, especially if this 
role is thrust upon you to the point where it starts interfering with 
your performance in other areas of your job. This is definitely the case
in engineering where our male colleagues are so relieved at having 
someone who "should be" the role model for the female students that the 
requests, both formal and informal, for mentoring and recruiting, etc.,
become overwhelming.

This is a serious problem with the whole role model concept. It is 
another "superwoman" demand to expect new faculty to perform as role 
models as well as teachers and researchers and yet give them little 
or no promotion and tenure credit for this. It is also a problem in 
that encouraging gender equality is very important, but faculty 
members don't go into non-traditional fields, generally, because they 
want to be Joan-of-Arc or a show-pony. The work in the field is the 
main draw.

This conflict is difficult to resolve, both institutionally and 
individually. My personal solution is only one "role model" event a 
month, and then only one with minimal effort. (Panel discussion is ok,
presenting workshops isn't--too much prep time.) I'd be interested in 
hearing other solutions or suggestions.

>What I have found most surprising is that it is the
>male students, rather than the female students, who seem to be in
>greater need of female role models. (examples follow)

Yes, I think that is the saddest and most discouraging part of the 
whole state-of-affairs.

Jennifer Brand
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Chemical Engineering
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
jbrand at unlinfo.unl.edu

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are strictly personal.

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