Archive for: July, 2014

Generational perceptions of dating your boss

Jul 08 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

horrific story on the web about ugly goings on in the leadership of Tinder (a dating company) is the latest in the tech industry treats women like dirt. The gist of it:

Wolfe's lawsuit, filed Monday, listed a series of alleged incidents of harassment over roughly 18 months starting in late 2012. Among the allegations: that Chief Executive Officer Sean Rad and the company's chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, removed her title as co-founder because of her gender; and that Mateen publicly insulted her, including calling her a whore at a company party, while Rad ignored her complaints.

The article details the outrageous behavior, and it sounds like there are lots of emails to back it up. The marketing officer has been suspended, pending an investigation (but will likely find a good job when it is all over, anyway).

This is probably one of what will be a string of these incidents. As they come to light, more women will be able to come forward and say "this crap happened to me, too".

The thing that got my attention, and the thing with which I struggle is part of the story buried deeper:

The lawsuit says Wolfe became romantically involved with Mateen, her boss, who joined the company in late 2012.

and then:

"As her romance broke down, the suit says, Mateen called her “a desperate loser” ....”  [more about bad post-break-up behavior on the part of Mateen].

I've had this discussion not quite a billion, but certainly more than a million, times with my GenX and Millenial female friends. In my generation, you just did not have an affair with a boss, or even someone close to being a peer. Not if you wanted to be taken seriously. If you did, you were always perceived as fucking your way to the top. It didn't matter how much it was "true love". You would be tainted in the eyes of the other (few as they were) women around.

That has changed. A clinical/researcher colleague, a female PhD Gen-X-er had an affair, and then married an older MD-researcher in the same field (they met while she did a postdoc in his dept, though not with him). I like this woman, I have mentored her, I have helped her with grantsmanship. But she is totally clueless as to why she is resented by the older women in the field. The two views: "I am free to have an affair with whomever I wish, and it is none of your business" vs. "she screwed her way to a job" and "look at all the stuff she does because she is now married to Dr. BSD".  I am not defending her, or the other women. This is just a dynamic that exists. Whether she is really not as good, or whether it is internalized sexism on the part of my generation, she is not going to get a totally neutral assessment.

So when I read that the Tinder situation involved a failed romance between two high-ranking employees with some sort of power/supervisory/professional relationship, I shake my head.  Would the bad situation been avoided had they not been involved? (and to be honest... the questions that my cohort would ask are: would she have had the job, the authority, the status if they had not been involved?). The world is complex, and not a ceteris paribus experiment.

My Gen-X friends say that anyone should be allowed to have affairs with whomever they please, to fall in love with whomever they please, and the world should just shut the fuck up. But the world is a complex  place. And some may see their reactions as prejudices to be resisted, others believe that their perception is correct and someone has made a choice that reflects their underlying lack of seriousness about the profession. Does that mean Gen-Xers should be careful about who they sleep with? Where is the burden of responsibility here?

Everyone needs to determine their own priorities. And to do so in as full as possible knowledge of the world.  And understand that there are consequences, and you either have to decide the consequences don't matter to you, or they do. What I don't want to hear is your irritation at the consequences for the choices you've made.



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Things that frost my shorts: defending Mum edition

Jul 01 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

There is no secret that I love my blog-mom, Isis. She has done wonderful things for me in the way of mums everywhere.

It is no secret that she loves shoes. Not the kind of shoes I wear, but the kind of shoes I'd like to wear. When things go bad she consoles herself with shoes, and when things go good she celebrates with shoes. It is certainly a more benign activity that say beating your children. or taking drugs. or drinking too much.

She is moving, and had to clear out her closet. Thats sad. But then some asshat wrote the following comment (which has slowly gotten under my skin):


Fuck you, you sniveling privileged bitch. Some of us are on job search three and your biggest problem is your shoes. Fuck you.

So first off, we don't use the word Bitch, as it is a gender specific insult. Maybe Ms. Bitch is reclaiming it. Not sure.

Secondly, Ms. Bitch, or Dr. Bitch, not clear which, does not get that some things are harder for some people. That everyone sees stress, challenge and hard in the context of their own life. Moving is hard. Doing science is hard. Isis has certainly paid her dues, and that things are going well for her is something for her, and the rest of us, to celebrate. If shoes are her biggest problem: I'm glad. It won't be for long, because thats not how life works.

Thirdly, I feel for Dr. Bitch's problems. I do. I have trainees. I have looked for jobs. I am grateful for that I am not on my third job search. At some point Dr. Bitch will have both more and less painful biggest problems. That is how life works.

Finally, comparing one's problems to someone else's is incredibly problematic, and leads to an ethical problem. Please see this. But two paragraphs to repeat myself:

We can’t judge the ultimate value of our tasks, but to me and to her, these problems are perhaps equally hard, equally challenging. Maybe climbing up a slide is a first world problem, let alone crafting a precise specific aim. But, they are the problems that confront me and the little girl, right now.


I try and remember that my problems are my problems, and frequently they are first world problems. Sometimes I need to be all two year old, and focus on the here and now. But sometimes I try to remind myself that there is about responsibilities to other  human beings whose problems are not of the first world .

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Misguided views of what is science

Jul 01 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Ivan Oransky tweeted:

which is a good thing, as the WSJ is not on my daily, or even weekly reading list.

The article  is full of the usual wide-eyed crap about what science is:

In a few years, running scientific lab experiments could be as simple as shopping online.

First, I am totally in favor of everyone doing science. I think we do it all day long. I think all small children are artists and scientists (being curious and expressing that curiosity) until it gets beaten out of them, or they are told that they can't do it.

Second, I am always in favor of streamlining, making more efficient and reducing the energy into the ugly repetitive mind-numbing steps that are necessary to get data.

On the other hand, it is exactly that doing these steps, that understanding these parts (even if one, as a PI, doesn't do them oneself) that often makes a difference in the final outcome. In my work, I do a lot of very grueling surgery to get chronic recording electrodes in the right place. I love it when the trainees get it right, and do it well, and I don't have to. But each new batch (and sometimes its a batch, and not one new person being trained by the old) needs to learn how. If I can't do it, I can't teach it, and they won't learn it.

If that work was sent out (please take one animal, put electrodes in these 16 muscles, around these 5 nerves, and oh by the way make sure you don't cut the Vagus) how could I teach anyone to it? And what happens when the surgery/nerve identification company goes bankrupt? What if we have deadlines (SfN, grant submission, trainee job talks) and no IACUC protocol in place to get that last little bit of necessary data?

But I don't think that is even the most serious issue. So much of what I've learned about the science is from making huge mistakes in doing the boring things, the little things. I know the anatomy in detail because I've sweated over 25 years of surgery. I can defend my animal model to NIH because I know exactly how close the anatomy is, and I know exactly where it is different. I get my ideas from knowing the basics stone cold. It's (one reason) why I step back and let the peeps do the surgeries, collect the data and fuck up time and time again. Yup it takes longer. No, I will never be a glamour lab. But they are learning. And lo and behold, they learn something I missed.

The bottom line for me: science is in the doing. Yes as you get older, you don't do everything in your lab, and you may not know how to do everything, and it is more efficient to let the lab do stuff. The WSJ article outlines the logical extension of that philosophy. It will make it easier to be a flash scientist if you can skip the boring steps. But the real cool stuff can still be found in those details.



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