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agressiveness vs dependency

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Thu Nov 20 12:03:39 EST 1997

Last night I went to a dinner party and the topic turned to the
differences between the way male and female scientists are treated in
Japan.  Readers of this group may recall that I have asked questions on
related topics before because I have recently made friends with a new
post-doc from Japan.  I am happy to report that things along those lines
are improving dramatically, and I feel
I have made a friend and am learning ALOT about this other culture, with
which I was totally unfamiliar.  Anyway, last night's topic turned to an
interesting question.

I mentioned that this Japanese friend of mine thinks that the difference
betweem the japanese academic system and the american one is that while
women are able to rise to higher positions in the  US, they are required
to be alot tougher, more aggressive and receive far less support.  Susan
Forsburg has pointed out that in fact, you get less and less support the
higher up you go.  In japan, on the other hand, this friend tells me that
your oportunities are severely limited, that you will never be more than a
psot-doc, but that the PIs, who are all male, treat you will greater
kindness and compassion, and are far more supportive.   Someone in last
night's group pointed out that the greater kindness and compassion is
actually condescending.

So from there the topic turned to an interesting question.  if you had the
choice to make, between staying in a system in which you had to be tough
and agressive to succeed and success meant having to do it in the face of
alot of opposition, and no positive feed-back, would you choose that over
being in a system where you could have a comfortable life, but in which
you were not only not required to be tough and aggressive, but restricted
from being that.  Nevertheless, you would enjoy one on one encounters and
your life would be far less stressful.

Which would you choose? 

Not one man in the group chose the Japanese way.  The women were not so
sure.  And the quesiton came up, "Do men choose the more competitive
environment because they are more agressive, or is it because most men
don't get how tiring it is to be the underdog?"  

We were interested then, in how this might affect the ability of a man to
be a good mentor.....if they don't get it, how can they help someone who
HAS to get it?
And the reverse question---especially if you feel you have been treated
unfairly as a woman in science, how can you be a fair and impartial mentor
to male students, especially if you also have female students?  I wonder
if you don't subconsciously favor one over the other?  I'd be interested
to hear....


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