I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I wrote. What can I say? It’s busy work being an angry lady.
Since I last wrote, I organized a silent protest of an honour Our Glorious Institution bestowed on a moustache-twirling villain. (Well, he doesn’t actually have a moustache. Rather, he spends his time publishing screeds against contraception and marriage equality, and in support of calls for Barack Obama to prove that he was born in the U.S., etc., etc. You get the idea.) So, there was that… And, there was a conference, and a whack of meetings, and papers to referee and prizes to adjudicate, and programs to administer and, oh yeah — the teaching, always the teaching… Phew. What a month!
Well, amidst all that angry lady work, there was a party too. …A lovely party with smart people and good conversations, one of which I wanted to mention to you.
I chatted with a senior administrator at a nearby university. We were discussing the demographic differences at our two universities, and the corresponding advantages and challenges. Where Our Glorious Institution has plenty of ethnic diversity (Well, “plenty” puts it a bit strongly. More modestly, a couple of our faculties have lots of faculty and grad students from four or so Asian countries.), it does a terrible job of recruiting and retaining women. My interlocutor’s uni has less ethnic diversity among its students but plenty of women at all seniority levels.
Anyway, she was telling me about a report she had to fill out for a government office or a granting agency — I don’t remember which — about diversity among the university’s employees, and how, quite to her surprise, her uni beat out all the others for most kinds of diversity. This led to the agency to which she was reporting inviting her to lead a workshop on how to promote diversity.
This admin was delighted with the outcome, but confessed to me that she had no idea what to say at such a workshop because, on her account, “We didn’t do anything.”
But, do you know what? I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason they didn’t have to actively do anything was that the uni in question to begin with had such a healthy gender balance at all levels.
Here’s my theory: Men broker power on the golf course, on the hockey rink, in the locker room, and in lots of places besides the workplace. And, as some recent literature has shown, men have long sponsored each other in the workplace too. I suggest that, when women are well-represented at all institutional levels, the power of the golf course or the male-male boardroom sponsor is diminished. Not having (in general) been enculturated into these practices, women administrators don’t reproduce them in their own conduct. And, that means that members of other groups who have likewise been absent from these traditional sites of white male power, now get a kick at the can.
In a way, when increases in women in the workplace break the white male log jam not just women but members of other marginalized groups can get through.