The infamous Google memo by James Damore rightfully struck a cord in social media, the popular press, and academia. The memo hit on many things, but in particular a core argument that has raged for thousands of years: are men and women innately different? And if they are different, should attention to these differences be reflected in policies in the workplace and society in general?
Last month I gave a conference talk where I was one of several invited, keynote speakers. The audience was around 300 people, and I felt prepared, but a bit nervous. Giving talks like this are not necessarily new for me, but only a few times have I been featured in such a prominent role. Once I got going with the talk two things happened that I was unprepared for. First, there was a technical issue with my some of my PowerPoint slides where the words were misaligned on some of the figures. My guess is that whatever version of PowerPoint the conference was using must have been different from mine, which I didn’t notice until I was well into the talk. Second, I ended up getting through my talk much faster than anticipated. I was slotted for an hour and planned to talk 40 minutes and then take questions, but ended up only talking around 25 minutes. Questions did fill up the rest of the time, but still, it wasn’t what I planned, and I wondered if people would feel disappointed.
Graduate school is really, really hard. This is because as a psychology graduate student you are living a life that combines coursework, supervised research, independent research, and typically a part time job which pays you just enough to live around the poverty line. Demands are high and very often the praise and positive feedback graduate students get for all their work is minimal. This is not just because academia is an exercise in managing rejection (journals, grants, etc.), but because faculty themselves (myself included) are often not the greatest at doling out consistent compliments and positive feedback. Maybe we have become so accustomed to using rejection as a motivator we forget that the opposite may be equally, if not more, effective in motivating those we mentor.
Now in my 8th year as a psychology professor, one topic job that seems to consistently come up in conversation around working with students is email etiquette. I guess I should clarify that these conversations usually have to do with one part of email etiquette: expected response time. For better or worse (probably worse), it’s clear that in academia email has become the dominant way people communicate with each other.