Very good piece. Just don’t read the comments. Really, don’t.
That was a fantastic read.
I think this is also good, and related:
It was flagged up on facebook by a PhD student in our labs wondering whether to stop making cakes for labmeetings. Whilst everyone takes their turn to bring cakes in for that, it probably is true that it is expected that the female staff/students will organise leaving parties, lunches, birthday cards and so on.
Should we stop? What happens in other workplaces? Is there a way to make sure everyone takes their turn to organise something?
Yes, cake at work is a fascinating thing. Two anecdotes from our group serve to illustrate. At our general weekly lab meeting, whoever is speaking, does cake, either baked or bought in. It’s become a bit competitive among the ones who bake, and the (young) men are as likely to join in as the women. Of the academic staff, however, I am the only one who bakes, so 3 male and 2 female academics don’t. It bothers me a wee bit, because that reinforces an “it’s a junior’s job”, but at least it is not as gendered as it might be. It’s not always been as balanced - it ebbs and flows somewhat with people turnover.
In another context, the students get together and do a pub journal club, no academics allowed. There, one of the students(female) tends to bake each week. However, she has just informed the group that she can’t afford to splash on ingredients anymore, and while she likes the baking, she needs a contribution to continue, so now there is a subscription for the journal club of 50p or whatever, each week so she can buy stuff to bake.
I thought that was really smart - she likes to bake, but isn’t prepared to give her time away for nothing. Altruism only works if what you are giving gains a public good that might accrue to you (cf UK blood donation) whereas baking cake is really a commodity that shouldn’t be given away for free. Harsh, perhaps, but…?
Of course this rather hides the fact how difficult the whole cake thing is. There is too much cake! Work (or my work, anyway) has become a very obesogenic environment. It’s not good.
Excellent idea to get people to chip in for ingredients - it’s actually not that cheap to bake these days!
We don’t normally do cake at lab meetings, because we don’t formally have them. Instead morning coffee when I am in the office becomes the lab meeting. Everyone comes in and there will be a discussion about the work one of the group members is doing. There are cake days for birthdays and it is the birthday person who brings them in.
In the last few years I have been taking the lab postdocs to lunch on Christmas Eve (or the last working day before Christmas) as a particular thank you to them for the extra responsibility they have to take on to make sure the program functions. I pay for this myself, even though I could pay for it out of the grants. I do ask a different one of the postdocs each year (has been the most junior for the last couple of years) to organise this, but they know they have full choice over where we go.
Sounds like how we dish out Christmas presents in my family: The youngest always does it. Amusingly for the last few years, that’s been my husband!
Money for ingredients is a brilliant idea! In our (extended) lab it’s almost always the same person who makes the cakes for birthdays & celebrations, must suggest that to her next time. As with your journal club student Luehea, she likes to bake - but I’m sure she’d like help with the cost of them all!
And yes, the constant stream of cakes in the dept is not good for our health/waistlines!
I’m certainly planning to be more assertive in getting the lab “freeloaders” (for want of a better term), to join in with the other housekeeping duties from now on too. Probably volunteering the youngest or newest person to organise particular regular events would work well and mean the fewest complaints, since hopefully no-one would be newest for long.
Secret aid worker: why don’t we practise what we preach about gender inequality?
This is a great piece, the frustration of the author is palpable, and everything she says has me going ‘yes! yes! yes!’
At the UN, we consistently advocate for gender equality to governments and populations worldwide. But hypocritically, we ourselves are riddled with loud, incompetent men in senior positions. I am beyond frustrated, for example, when I consider our head of agency – a lovely and kind man but one who is totally unaware of the office-wide breakdown his leadership has created, where zero collaboration between departments has become the norm. What we need is a real manager – not someone whose strengths are schmoozing and giving self-congratulatory presentations. While men are still able to coast to the top, any woman in a management position is always held to a higher standard and would not be able to get away with this kind of poor management.
[note to self - logged]