Friday, June 6, 2014

Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts -

You may have read the very provocative article in The Wall Street Journal entitled, Gender Bias Alleged at UCLA's Anderson Business School.  The article included the graphic below which highlights dramatically the paucity of tenured and tenure-track female faculty at business schools.

As the first female Full Professor at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and the first female holder of an endowed chaired professorship in the UMass system, the statistics and comments in the article really pained me and, yet, I fully understood the situation. Just read the following from the article: Prof. Rossi, who has been at the school since 1997, said she hasn't observed overt discrimination or hostility at Anderson, but said she has witnessed subtle digs and dismissive comments directed at women from colleagues and students. "It's death by a thousand paper cuts," she said.  Professor Aimee Drolet Rossi is a marketing professor and a member of the Gender Equity Task Force, created by Dr. Olian, the first female Dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management. 

Everyone, males and females alike, needs to be treated professionally, in a civil manner, and have their contributions valued and recognized. 

Our colleges and universities are microcosms of our modern society. Lessons learned in academia carry through in one's life and impact behavior in government, the corporate world, our neighborhoods, and our families.

Academia is a testbed for our social and professional networks and for analyzing the behavior of decision-makers in hierarchies from students to faculty and staff to administrators, from department chairs to the upper echelons of  deans, provosts, chancellors, and presidents. Along the way, civility has been lost and the ivory tower now stands upon a muddy foundation. Positive, inclusive leadership has to come from the top.

There once was a time when collegiality mattered and a colleague's success would be celebrated through public recognition or a kind, personal note (remember those?). I even received, on several occasions, a bouquet of flowers, delivered with chocolate chip cookies for my daughter, sent, compliments of a top administrator.

Those not acknowledged appropriately and feeling excluded – I have listened to many from Assistant Professors to Full Professors  – actually feel pain. I have personally felt victimized - sometimes the "brand" is only what matters rather than individuals and research.

An organization such as a college or university is built on the achievements of all, accumulated over many, many years, as is its reputation and history. Good manners matter and provide the lubricant for the flourishing of work and productivity.  Good manners should be part and parcel of the academic culture. Why is it, then,  so hard for some in academia, which has been referred to as the “loneliest profession,”  to acknowledge with a thank you (even emailing a “Thnx” seems to be challenging for some),  to be consistent in recognizing contributions of individuals, to be inclusive communicators  and conduits for information, and to be respectful of others?

Civil society is built on courtesy, respect, and empathy.

It's time to bring back good manners to academia. Females, and even males, should not be dying by a thousand paper cuts!