Month: June 2015

SURVEY: Hallowe’en at SMT

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YVKRK6P

Trick or Treat! This year, the annual meeting in St. Louis conflicts with Hallowe’en, one of the most important dates on the children’s calendar. (Anybody want to write a guest blog post on this issue?)

In order to encourage SMT members with families to bring their children to the conference and ensure the kids can still have an exciting Hallowe’en with their parental units, the CSW is looking into arranging a group visit to one of the special Hallowe’en events held by St. Louis’s wonderful family-friendly attractions. (And you don’t have to be a parent to come along, as long as you bring your inner child!)

But before we can investigate further, we need your input! So we’ve created a quick, 5-question survey to gauge the level of interest and find out which event(s) members and their families would most prefer. The survey will be available over the summer, but the more responses we get in before June 30, the stronger our application for a subvention grant to help reduce the costs to participants.

DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY: Filling in this survey does not commit you to anything! We just need to get a sense of the level of interest before we write our grant proposal.

Shared Story: You Can Have It All

The minute I decided to be a music theorist, my priorities changed. I broke off an engagement and became incredibly career focused, driven to the point of strep throat and bronchitis more times than I can count. However, I was one of the lucky ones. During the final year of my doctoral work, I presented at nine conferences. I met people who liked my research and had two job offers.

I took the job at the more “prestigious” school and moved to a city where I knew no one. The teaching load was incredible and I was driven to keep up a research agenda similar to that from my doctoral days. By the 2nd year, I was newly married and had an ulcer. My health was quickly declining and I never saw my husband. One of the upper level faculty had taken a curriculum document I had written and began to present it around the country as his own ideas. I was young and fresh out of school and a woman. No one would listen to me or would even believe me. I was miserable. My husband was an administrator at the university, but agreed to leave so I could find a new faculty position.

I took a job at a smaller school in a very small town and my husband went back to teaching high school. I knew we would only stay a few years as I regained my health. But here’s what happened. In this smaller school, I found a place where women were more valued. The music faculty listened to me…from day one. This was a place where I could be an inspiration to female undergraduates highlighting that you can be an excellent teacher and scholar and friend. Faculty actually took vacations and I was told to “enjoy your winter break.” I was extremely happy and all of a sudden my research and teaching took off.

Five years into the job, I found out I was pregnant. Shocked. Excited. Nervous. I was up for tenure that year. How would this change things? The day before I was to go before my tenure committee, I was 8 months pregnant and exhausted. I fainted in the classroom and was told by my dean to go home and please to not come back until after my maternity leave. The next day, he called me at home to tell me my positive tenure review was unanimous and he would be at my baby shower the next week. My university gives a semester paid maternity leave, so I went home for 8 months and concentrated on being a new mother.

Since that day, I have been incredibly supported by my faculty and administration. I have written several articles and just finished my second book. (All written with my baby in university child care or in a bouncy seat beside me). I’ve only had one faculty member say “How can you be so productive and still be a good wife?” My teaching is better than ever. I have high level administrative duties and feel I have made significant changes. I still attend all my conferences, but maybe I fly home a day sooner or in some cases, my husband and child go with me. I pay someone to clean my house so I can have extra time with my child and husband. (smartest decision!) Sometimes I ignore email for 24 hours to play outside. During the summer months, I find myself at the park or pool during the day and tend to work on my research very early in the morning.

I surround myself with strong women and never give in to the guilt. It is all getting done and I feel better than ever, both personally and professionally. So while there are plenty of horror stories, I was able to find a place where women are valued (with minor exceptions). I distance myself from the men (and women) who think I’m not capable of handling all of this and continue to prove them wrong. I will not compromise my integrity for anything and everyone on the campus knows better than to ask me to do anything “shady” or “off the books.” I can not be “talked” into anything that I do not believe in. I’m stronger than that.

Oh, and my sweet child? She has a sticker up in her room that reads “Girls can do anything.” And she believes it.

Not-All-Male Panels: Tips for Conference Organizers

My first post on all-male panels (https://womeninmusictheory.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/all-male-panels-at-smt/) answered a reader’s question about how he should respond to an invitation to chair an all-male panel at this year’s SMT Annual Meeting in St. Louis. But what about future, not-necessarily-SMT conferences where speakers have not yet been invited? If you’re organizing a music theory conference yourself, how can you ensure the inclusion of women among invited speakers in a field where men outnumber women 2-to-1?

Here are some excellent tips from Feminist Philosophers (a sister or perhaps mother blog to What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?, the inspiration for our CSW site). The author(s) offer these suggestions to conference organizers, but also anthology editors and “anyone else who is putting together a collection of philosophers and finding they’re all male:”

“So, you’re trying to think of people to invite to your conference, and all the ones who come to mind are male. Well, there was one woman but she said she was too busy. You’ve read (perhaps here, perhaps elsewhere) about the harms this can do in terms of implicit bias and stereotype threat. So you’d like to avoid an all-male conference. How might you do this?
What follows are some suggestions:
1. Realise that the first names you think of are overwhelmingly likely to be male. This is exactly what work on implicit bias would predict. So if you want some female names, you’ll need to work a little harder. You might ask around a bit. Or you might look at the papers cited by some of the men you’ve thought of to find some women who work in the area. Neither of these is ideal, though, since the same biases will make it harder for others to think of women, or to remember to cite them. Perhaps a better idea is to search for your topic on [IIMP/Music Index/RILM], and see what women have written on it.
2. Studies have shown that women often need to have done a lot more to be considered successful than men do. There’s a good chance that you’re only thinking of super-famous women, while considering much less famous men. That is, you may well be setting the bar higher for women. So consider inviting some less famous women than those you first thought of. (This will also help redress injustice, since in many cases implicit bias will have been involved in these women being less famous.)
3. Don’t wait till the last minute to invite women.
4. If there really are not that many women in your field, perhaps consult with them first about dates. You have to ask someone first, so why not them?
5. Women are often at lower-prestige institutions, in lower ranked jobs. This means they’re likely to have less access to funds. (In a recent poll, we found that lack of funds was the top reason women declined invitations.) One way to make it more possible for women to attend would be to prioritise funding for those with less resources to draw upon. The super-famous often have super-big research accounts too. So go ahead and ask if they can self-fund. (If they’re offended by the question, they’re arseholes and you don’t want them at your conference.
6. Offer childcare at your conference. It’s not as hard as you think. [The CSW has found it’s not easy, either, but that’s a topic for another post. SMT does offer childcare grants to conference attendees, though; see https://societymusictheory.org/grants/childcare.]”

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/how-to-avoid-a-gendered-conference/

These tips are part of FP’s “Gendered Conference Campaign,” and–especially if you’ve been asking yourself “what’s the harm in having an all-male panels, anyway?”–I highly recommend reading their page explaining the reasons behind this campaign:

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/gendered-conference-campaign/

Finally, how could I not leave you with some music? Here’s a link to the Gendered Conference Campaign’s own theme song! (I think given our field, we should have a contest to come up with our own!)

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/i-like-to-see-the-ladies/

Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair

Shared Story: Do Babies Matter in Music Theory?

I’d like to address a widespread and ongoing challenge, one that disproportionately affects female scholars: how to coordinate babies and tenure. What follows is a summary of my own approach and some of its challenges, along with a few reflections on the roles of gender and parenthood in academia more broadly.

I had a baby when my dissertation was about two-thirds drafted, far away from family and friends.  Everyone reassured me that the baby would sleep and that I could finish my writing then. As I discovered, however, not all babies are alike, and mine turned out not to be a “sleeper.” Naps were 20 minutes at the most, unless I held my baby (which meant I could only type with one hand), and night sleep wasn’t much better. My baby was underweight and still needed at least one night feeding at 6 months of age. Looking back, I’m not sure how I finished, edited, and defended my dissertation, while also preparing for conference presentations and applying for jobs.

The reason I decided to have a baby before getting a tenure-track job was that I knew that academic maternity policies are quite variable and not especially generous, and I didn’t want to raise a young family on a tenure-clock. What I didn’t realize, however, was that my decision meant that I would have no institutional support at all. Obviously, I had no income, but perhaps equally limiting, I had no development budget for conference attendance or pursuing my own research, something that was especially challenging without access to an academic library. I also lacked, at least in my own mind, a certain legitimacy, not having an academic affiliation to put on my conference nametag.

My “baby” is now 3, and I am teaching part-time at an institution near where my partner works.  My colleagues and administration are very supportive, but I am on the market for a tenure-track job. When I apply to jobs, I am never sure how—or indeed whether—I should explain the hole in my employment history. I have had successful interviews, but no job offers, which makes me wonder whether delaying full-time employment has already affected my career prospects.

The most frustrating part, however, is how differently having a baby would have impacted my career if I were male. In academia, married mothers are the least likely of any population to get a tenure-track position or attain tenure after the probationary period. Married fathers, on the other hand, represent the “dominant mode of success,” winning jobs and promotions at higher rates than any other group. (Mason & Goulden 2003) Academic approaches to families may be different in 2015, but unfortunately my experience suggests otherwise.

https://www.aarweb.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/About/Committees/SWP/marriagebabyblues.pdf

(Submitted June 11, 2015)

All-Male Panels at SMT 2015

Share Your Stories” (“SYS”) is a place where readers can submit stories of their own experiences with the assurance that readers won’t be able to comment on those experiences. That’s the rule, and it’s not going to change. However, the other day a male theorist wrote in asking for advice on how to respond to an invitation to chair an all-male panel at the upcoming SMT conference. His question prompted my last entry about how to post a question, because I realized looking over the blog that we hadn’t yet set up an obvious way for people to do that if they’re asking something relatively simple that might be of interest to a lot of readers, and they actually want to get an answer or start a conversation about it. Now that I’ve set up a contact page where you can send in your questions or blog post ideas, I want to address the question he’s raised. From now on, please send questions of this kind via our “Contact Us” page rather than SYS.


(Please go here to see the original Shared Story post.) So let’s get to the question of all-male panels. If a male theorist wants to support the increased presence of women on SMT sessions, what’s the best way of responding to a request for him to chair an all-male panel? (If you’re new to this issue, see the link at the bottom of the page to a good article in the Guardian a couple of years ago.) Personally, here’s my take on it, considering only the upcoming SMT conference in St. Louis — not conferences in general.

I would say that it depends on who’s organizing the session: has the Program Committee put it together from all the year’s accepted proposals, or is it an invited or volunteer panel set up independently by one of the interest groups? If it’s the Program Committee (“PC”), logistically it may be difficult if not impossible to ensure there is a woman presenting a paper at each and every regular session. This year, I’m told women submitted only about 25% of proposals to SMT (we’re still waiting for data on the acceptance rate, but in recent years it’s tended to match the submission rate). Moreover, there may have been no women at all submitting papers on a particular topic (or no men on another).

The PC — which itself has a much greater representation of women at 50% than the SMT as a whole — has more control over gender balance among session chairs. This year’s PC Chair, Joti Rockwell, has told me that so far women represent about 40% of St. Louis chairs (they won’t have final numbers until all invitations have been issued and responded to), well over their rate of membership in the Society. (He also noted that invitations to male chairs may well have been proposed by women in the first place, given the gender balance within the PC.)

Given all these constraints, and how close we are now to the conference, declining the invitation to a session organized by the PC because there are no women on that particular panel would almost certainly make no difference in the gender balance among the speakers. I would recommend asking why there are no women on the panel, and depending on how you feel about their answer, either accepting it having at least raised the issue, or declining it while also assisting the PC by recommending one or two women whom they might invite instead.

But what if the session is organized by one of the Society’s interest groups, where sessions may be organized more casually, either by invitation or by people volunteering to speak rather than blind review of proposals in answer to a CFP? I think wherever it’s possible in the remaining time between now and the conference, challenging the organizers to improve the gender balance on their panel is the way to go, whether that means suggesting additional women speakers, or declining to chair and recommending one or two women whom they could invite. Others may have different suggestions on how to approach this, and please note that these are my personal opinions and not necessarily those of the CSW — I’ll let individual members offer their own thoughts if they wish. Thanks to our reader for bringing this important issue up for discussion! Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/06/four-steps-to-put-an-end-to-all-male-panels-at-conferences

How Do I Post a Question or Contribute a Blog Post?

Last week, we launched our “Share Your Stories” page, where readers can post their experiences. But since comments are disabled on that page, what do you do if you’re looking for answers to a question or want to start a public conversation? For now, just go to “Contact Us,” and send your question or blog post idea to one of the e-mail addresses provided. (Right now, on June 11, 2015, it’s my address — laureljparsons@gmail.com — but that will change in the next few months so if you want up-to-date contact info go to our contact page.)

If you’re asking a question, please let us know whether you’re ok with us answering it publicly (in a blog post with comments enabled so other readers can join in the conversation).

(If you’re looking for advice on a personal matter that you’d like to keep confidential, please see our Ask Me! situational mentoring page and contact one of our mentors.)

Coming right up — the question of all-male panels.

Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair

Shared Story: All Male Panels at SMT Conference

I am a tenured male professor and I was recently invited to chair an SMT session in St. Louis consisting of four male panelists.  What ought I to do?

http://allmalepanels.tumblr.com/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/a-simple-suggestion-to-help-phase-out-all-male-panels-at-tech-conferences/266837/

(Submitted June 9, 2015)

EDIT:

To see how to submit questions for discussion, please see our blog post here.

To see a response to the question of handling all-male SMT panels, click here.