Friday, March 2, 2018

still not an advantage

When I was writing the previous post about having a young-looking face, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a late-middle age man who has always been "the smartest guy in the room" and expected (and received) instant respect his entire career. I had mentioned disliking how young I look in passing, and he said, "but that's such a career advantage!"

I'm usually reasonably even-keeled, and I'm the last person to start a fight in public (think cocktail party), but I had to fire back. What possible advantage could it be that every time I meet someone new in a professional situation, they peg me as a nobody, someone who couldn't possibly be very knowledgeable in (whatever I'm there for). Yeah, I pleasantly surprise a lot of people who were initially thinking "why on earth is she here?". And I can prepare a mean ambush for those who are on the other side in technical disputes. But it is so much work to get that respect that is just immediately granted to other scientists who look the part. I work on my physical presentation (stance, voice, etc), I have a whole strategy for how to work in my years of experience at whatever the task is, I make sure that I have all my technical backup ready to go and that I know the subject cold... and then everybody else just rolls in and does their thing.

You may be wondering if part of the problem is that I look young and I'm female. Yeah. The whole package really doesn't help. But that's a whole other post...

1 comment:

Courtney van Stolk said...

Hi Short Geologist,
I feel your pain. I worked as a field technician at a consulting firm, and one day I showed up at a client to do storm water sampling. The guy at the reception desk got on the plant-wide intercom and hollered "Watch out for the little girl playing in puddles!". People have tried to give me well-intentioned and often conflicting advice about how to look older but I think at the end of the day it's all in the eyes of other people. Nothing we can do to mess with their heads alas...