Gender Mainstreaming

I was just walking past the dean's office on the way to lunch this afternoon when the dean called out - "Please keep your talk today at the faculty board meeting to 15 minutes!" My talk? I had read through the docket and did not see anything about me giving a talk.

"Oh," the dean says, "you wanted to give a talk about gender questions in curriculum, so I put it on for this meeting. You got the agenda, didn't you?". Sure, I got the agenda. I thought *he* was going to tell us about the current state of Gender Mainstreaming, as that was all that was listed. Yes, I had offered to give such a talk about 9 months ago, at the end of my previous seminar on "Gender and Computing".

It would have been nice if he had dropped me an email - especially as I would have wanted to bring the book with me I had been referring to on the teaching of women engineers, a Swedish report by Minna Salminen-Karlsson ("Att undervisa kvinnliga ingenjörsstudenter").

So here I was, half an hour's lunch break before my Gender seminar, and a half an hour between that class and the faculty board meeting. Luckily, I had my trusty Mac with me. I got some lunch and chose a table with some space - I was going to have to eat and hack at the same time. Colleagues made jokes about me sitting there, I pretty much told every one to buzz off and dug out the Powerpoint presentation.

There were 46 slides - that is a tad too much for 15 minutes. So in between mouthfuls of salad I went through the slides, turning most of them off. I winnowed it down to 20 something, then gave them as a presentation, cutting more until I was down to 18.

It was getting close to class time, so I saved what I was doing (smart girl) and dashed up to the lab. I had 3 minutes before class in which I loaded the slides into Keynote (the software purchased with difficulty, but it really saved the day) and made a pdf with 9 slides to a page - just 3 pages, the men should be able to cope with this.

I tried to send this off to the secretary, pleading with her to make me copies for the meeting, but of course the WLAN was not speaking with me. Luckily, one student was on, so I loaded the PDF onto my stick and used the web interface to email from her machine to type the letter again and include the PDF.

I then started class a few minutes late with a prime example of how institutions react to gender questions - marginalizing them, not taking them seriously, and in this case setting me up for disaster.

But as the (woman) administrative assistent whispered to me when I told her what had happened just before the meeting, we are women, we can cope with this. I had a few moments while setting up my machine to ask Keynote to put in the snazzy turning cube slide transition (only about 5 clicks), then my Mac was very sweet and immediately reset the monitor to cope with the beamer. The secretary was a sweethart and had managed to get the slides copied for me, just like as if I had prepared them a week ago.

After the technicalities at the opening of the meeting I was called on for my presentation, I whipped out my sweet little wireless slide-changer thingy and got to work. Okay, I needed 17 minutes after all. The dean sat through the entire talk moving papers around on his table and looking through them. He looked up at me exactly once. The others had pained expressions on their faces - they were just trying to survive without having to listen.

There were no questions, no comments - was I surprised? No. I lit into the dean after the meeting, saying to him that he could at least have pretended to be listening to me. Oh, he said, I multi-task. Grrrrrrr.

Oh well, I managed to get three pages with suggestions under their noses and forced them to listen to my oral report. The main tenets: good didaktics is the one major factor in retaining the women in engineering, speaking to school girls the best way to encourage them to be engineers.

And I got a free case study for my gender class. Now, what do I have to do to make them take me seriously? I am open to suggestions (and I want some comments, now that I have a constant readership of 20 hits a day, 30 when I post something).


Maria said...

It's hard to be heard at your own place; external experts are much more appreciate, that's my experience. Here comes my suggestion: Kick them in the a** (metaphorical); give them figures and facts, since they stick to them - and may be impressed. Or ask the ones who have daughters. However, if someone does not want to listen, you can not force him (or her). Yesterday, I've read, every day a sucker is born. We can not change the world as such ;-)

Anonymous said...

get the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad to peform between slides -- your Mac can do that, too! Have one of your students keep track and take notes, how often and when deans look up.

hey, look, just an idea from a handicapped (male) person -- you know, we can't help it, after all.