Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another reminder of the importance of mentoring

Sometimes I really need someone to give me a good swift kick in the seat of my pants. Today, I got that much-needed kick.

Let me back up. I don't know if I've posted about this before (I just did a quick search of the archives and came up empty-handed), but a while back I decided that it was high time that *someone* started doing some community-building among the women majors and potential majors in our department. This is one area where, in my opinion, we do rather poorly, and where we really should be doing more, particularly if we'd like to increase the number of majors (not just women, but across the board, too---if we're welcoming of women, we're probably more welcoming of everyone else who doesn't fit that narrow CS stereotype). Anyway. So I decided to start small: lunch (or cookies and juice) every once in a while, just me and the women majors and other women from my classes and my colleagues' classes. I'd send out an email and see who showed up. Turnout was sometimes good, often small, but I kept doing it. I enjoyed it, the students enjoyed it, I thought I was doing a good thing.

To make a long and not very interesting story short, I got some flak from some of my colleagues about it, the third-year review stuff was coming to a head, and I just got all frustrated with everything and stopped organizing things.

Today I got an email from one of our former majors, one I was particularly close to. And she mentioned those lunches/cookie sessions, and how important they were to her and how important she thought they were to the morale of the women in the department.

Well, dang.

Guess I'll be resurrecting that lunch/cookie tradition when I return. And guess I'll remind myself of this the next time I get demoralized about "just" doing the "little things".


ScienceMama said...

What on earth did you get flak for? This sounds like a positive thing all around.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

I've help to organize a similar thing here at LargeU, but luckily, as "merely" a grad student, any flak I get from faculty or other higherups I can just (mostly) ignore.

Jane said...

sciencemama, the flak was the usual things one hears: is this our best use of faculty resources; aren't you afraid that the women will feel funny about being "singled out" for special treatment (???); this isn't fair to our male majors (!!!); yadda yadda. And yes, it's demoralizing to hear such things from otherwise "sane" people. (And it's not like I was using department money anyway, so I'm not sure why all the fuss. I think my mistake is that I let it slip that I was doing this. From now on, secrecy is my M.O.!)

unbalanced reaction, I like the idea of conveniently ignoring the flak! I'll have to try that. (Or as my mom used to say, "sometimes playing stupid/oblivious is your best defense".)

Chaser said...

Good for you!!

Wayfarer Scientista said...

good for you! It was the little thing of having coffee once a week with a small assortment of colleagues who had nothing whatsoever to do with my thesis or my comittee who got me through grad school. In the end I think the little things count even MORE then the big ones because they're more frequent.