Money, power, and gendered norms

I have always hated anything involving money. I mean, I like having enough, but since enough = sufficient funds to live like an impoverished grad student*, this doesn’t require much. Today, though, I came across a feature on Marnie Hughes-Warrington in the Campus Morning Mail that made me want to reconsider this particular hatred of mine–particularly since hatred is really fear in this context. I simply don’t know enough.

“I felt very strongly that as a woman who has been working hard to learn about the parts of university business that are typically seen as very male – finances, facilities, all of those things – I thought it was really important to speak out to encourage other women particularly to see themselves in that space.

“The more you understand those things the more agency you have.”

Marnie Hughes-Warrington, via Campus Morning Mail

I never thought of it this way, but she’s right. Knowledge of these business aspects of university life (and beyond) is a sort of power.

As a very new member of academic administration, I am already learning how complex the contractual and financial work that underpins the research I once did actually is. I took this work for granted before; now, I’m the one behind the scenes, protecting the university’s interest by helping researchers write great grants and ensuring we stick to our contractual obligations. I am beginning to see that understanding how to make room to move within a contractual world is a certain kind of power, too, and it is a necessary one in this world.

I look forward to keeping an open mind about new opportunities to learn some of these “very male” pursuits. Let’s see where this journey takes me.



A week in

I am now a cubicle worker. I’m not yet sure how I feel about this. My colleagues are nice, but I miss problem solving. I keep telling myself I need to give it more time, that I have not yet done any work. And so I wait, while trolling ads for professorships far away. Maybe stability is not all it’s cracked up to be. Or maybe, with time, I’ll make space for other ventures.

Meanwhile, in reality…

Academia is an odd place to exist sometimes. I am currently surrounded by a generation of people who have spent a lifetime working towards one goal, and a generation after that who cannot afford to do anything but be everything to everyone in search of a wisp of a promise of being employed a little longer, and one more generation still who has not yet caught on to the reality of the scheme. Is this a picture painted by cynicism? Or simply a realistic picture of what academia has become?  The number of people have grown considerably, but the size of the money pot has remained (at best) the same.

I leave in a week and a half.

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A glimpse at my future

I’ve been sitting in on some training workshops for the job I will start in a few weeks’ time. In some sense, this is nerve wracking–to meet new soon-to-be colleagues at a time when I am personally trying to steady myself for a major transition. I am still (in some sense) clinging to the identity I built for myself over the last 16 years, to the point where I’m checking on a paper submission in the coffee break, tweaking one more little thing before submission. But in reality, it was a nice window into the future I’m about to begin.

What have I noticed? Well, everyone’s so nice–and professional. People introduce themselves, and introduce me to others. They know how to talk to each other. In fact, networking has never been so easy (if only i were better at names). And the talks? They were great: understandable, full of knowledge that I know will be useful, and very, very thorough. I came away with the impression that there will be a lot to learn, but once I get my head around the whats, whys, whens, and hows, I’ll do fine in my new position. I know how to write grants, and I know how to teach people how to write great ones. It’s even something I can say I’m passionate about.

So, despite the difficulty that change brings, I’m feeling positive about this one. More on that later.