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Just feeling pretty down and out and need to vent.

My faculty recently had reviews - various admin popping in to observe performance for 5-15 minutes. Concerns over safety were dismissed (Covid is currently in our work community and increased mixing of bodies could increase transmission even more). We were told that those evaluating would be standing just in the doorway, so we needn't worry. This was not the case - some evaluators came and walked around the room, even sitting right next to students - yes, they had their mask on, however we have been instructed not to cross the 2m line that has been marked in our rooms and to maintain distance whenever possible.

Anyways, I received a fairly bad evaluation. I know this happens, obviously, and I know there are always things to work on. I do, however, have frustrations with my feedback, as I feel it was quite harsh for the not even 10 minutes I was observed, nor did it take into account the various factors affected by Covid-19, plus the feedback did not contain a lot of, if any, constructive notes.

I'm frustrated because the recommended colleagues to work with to improve are all men. They are good at what they do, don't get me wrong. However, there is a difference in how men and women are perceived when they walk in a room, how students respond to the presence of men versus women, especially where I work. So, while there are things to be learned, some of it, a lot of it, feels unhelpful because it relies on the way men are perceived by others, on being able to walk into a room and be seen immediately as the authority. My female colleagues were not even mentioned as colleagues I could work with - both have been in the profession for nearly twice as long as my male colleagues, yet were not even acknowledged for their experience or wisdom.

I feel upset that the go-to model for success is men. Its not like I didn't know this, as I have experienced the 'just model exactly what this man does' many times in my life. I'm just so tired of it. So tired of 'if you only acted more like a man, you would be taken more seriously'. 'If you only spoke to people this way (like a man) you would be so much better.' Yet attempts to do these things get called out as being unpleasant, rude, unsettling, etc. Its exhausting.

I haven't shared any of this with my partner because I feel so ashamed for receiving such a poor review. Which I know is ridiculous, but I can't shake it. I've never had such a strong reaction to negative feedback/criticism before. I've felt upset or disappointed in myself before, though usually I'm quick to look at what I can do to improve and see it as an important part of life and the road to improvement. This time I just feel so small and powerless. I've tried incorporating the recommendations from my male colleague, but it feels so wrong, so uncomfortable; I feel like I don't recognize myself, but I know that it will make my future evaluations much better because it is having the desired results. I've raised this concern in as polite and professional way possible, but its not taken seriously because 'if you just do it this way for a while, you will eventually be able to return to who you want to be'. I know its important to be improving, but surely there is a way to improve whilst staying true to what comes naturally - does that even make sense? I'm worried I'm just being overly sensitive or confident in 'my ways' or something and that's why I'm having a negative reaction.

Anyways, if you read all of this, thank you. x

Just feeling pretty down and out and need to vent. My faculty recently had reviews - various admin popping in to observe performance for 5-15 minutes. Concerns over safety were dismissed (Covid is currently in our work community and increased mixing of bodies could increase transmission even more). We were told that those evaluating would be standing just in the doorway, so we needn't worry. This was not the case - some evaluators came and walked around the room, even sitting right next to students - yes, they had their mask on, however we have been instructed not to cross the 2m line that has been marked in our rooms and to maintain distance whenever possible. Anyways, I received a fairly bad evaluation. I know this happens, obviously, and I know there are always things to work on. I do, however, have frustrations with my feedback, as I feel it was quite harsh for the not even 10 minutes I was observed, nor did it take into account the various factors affected by Covid-19, plus the feedback did not contain a lot of, if any, constructive notes. I'm frustrated because the recommended colleagues to work with to improve are all men. They are good at what they do, don't get me wrong. However, there is a difference in how men and women are perceived when they walk in a room, how students respond to the presence of men versus women, especially where I work. So, while there are things to be learned, some of it, a lot of it, feels unhelpful because it relies on the way men are perceived by others, on being able to walk into a room and be seen immediately as the authority. My female colleagues were not even mentioned as colleagues I could work with - both have been in the profession for nearly twice as long as my male colleagues, yet were not even acknowledged for their experience or wisdom. I feel upset that the go-to model for success is men. Its not like I didn't know this, as I have experienced the 'just model exactly what this man does' many times in my life. I'm just so tired of it. So tired of 'if you only acted more like a man, you would be taken more seriously'. 'If you only spoke to people this way (like a man) you would be so much better.' Yet attempts to do these things get called out as being unpleasant, rude, unsettling, etc. Its exhausting. I haven't shared any of this with my partner because I feel so ashamed for receiving such a poor review. Which I know is ridiculous, but I can't shake it. I've never had such a strong reaction to negative feedback/criticism before. I've felt upset or disappointed in myself before, though usually I'm quick to look at what I can do to improve and see it as an important part of life and the road to improvement. This time I just feel so small and powerless. I've tried incorporating the recommendations from my male colleague, but it feels so wrong, so uncomfortable; I feel like I don't recognize myself, but I know that it will make my future evaluations much better because it is having the desired results. I've raised this concern in as polite and professional way possible, but its not taken seriously because 'if you just do it this way for a while, you will eventually be able to return to who you want to be'. I know its important to be improving, but surely there is a way to improve whilst staying true to what comes naturally - does that even make sense? I'm worried I'm just being overly sensitive or confident in 'my ways' or something and that's why I'm having a negative reaction. Anyways, if you read all of this, thank you. x

17 comments

[–] drdee 14 points (+14|-0)

I had a similar reaction when finally realising that (most) negative reviews or critiques of my work actually had nothing to do with my work (and therefore weren't things I could work to improve on) but were just sexism, plain and simple, which I could never get away from no matter how much I strove to improve.

[–] mooncycle8 [OP] 2 points (+2|-0)

Thank you for sharing (: it certainly makes it difficult to actually improve, or be 'seen' as improving

[–] TheRoyalJesterf 8 points (+8|-0)

Your perception is 100% correct. We women CANNOT win. If we are too nice and kind and accommodating, people walk all over us and take advantage of us. If we "act like men," as we are CONSTANTLY told to do, the same traits that get men called things like "confident, authoritative, decisive, etc." get us called "conceited, bossy, stubborn, etc."

Honestly, I think you should speak up. I understand not wanting to rock the boat, but it's ridiculous that all the people you were told to work with to improve are men when you have female colleagues with double the experience. That is NOT a coincidence. If you want to say something, I've got all the backup you need right here (and even if you don't want to say anything, PLEASE read this): Gender Bias in TA Evaluations

We had a thread on Ovarit about it here.

I am so sorry this has happened to you. Favoritism towards men affects women in so many ways. Politics, job interviews, medical care, work evaluations, meetings... it just never ends and it's beyond exhausting. If it's any comfort, I think it's impossible that someone as analytical and wise as you clearly are could possibly have deserved a poor evaluation.

[–] mooncycle8 [OP] 3 points (+3|-0)

Thank you so much for your kind comment.

I have no idea how I missed that thread, so thank you for bringing it to my attention - conversations I have had with female friends and colleagues about evaluations make so much more sense now, especially for those of us in STEM. I feel like our confusion and frustration actually had a foundation and wasn't just in our heads.

My position is potentially disposable if seen fit, so I am not sure I can speak up fully, as I can't afford to lose my job, but I do plan to request working with a female mentor.

[–] rad-sage-fem 7 points (+7|-0)

There's a chapter about this in Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez - that women tend to get poorer teaching evaluations through no fault of their own.

I also recognize myself in what you said about feeling like you have to be someone other than yourself to be successful. I think you're right that there are some gendered dynamics at play there.

And SO frustrating that they didn't suggest you work with your female colleagues!

I don't have any advice, but I really sympathize. This all sounds so frustrating and demoralizing.

[–] mooncycle8 [OP] 1 points (+1|-0)

Thank you <3

I had no idea about women getting poorer teaching evaluations - just read the article about TA evaluations TheRoyalJesterf attached and my blood boiling. Thinking back to previous evaluations, both my own and other female teachers, and remembering the conversations we have had about how some just did not make sense, etc. I'll have to pick up Invisible Women, been meaning to for a while, but now I am extra motivated.

Thanks again for your kind words

[–] ClaraReed1 7 points (+7|-0)

I'm so sorry you had the bad review. It really is tough and it does shake you, don't feel bad about being upset by it.

Is there anyone higher-up you can discuss this with, particularly in respect of how you do things vs how your male colleagues do things?

[–] mooncycle8 [OP] 3 points (+3|-0)

Thank you.

I have tried speaking up in terms of discussing how I can be successful whilst still doing what comes naturally, without bringing up women vs. men, just on a personal level. The response I got was that I don't have to do x,y, and z, but a,b, and c could be really helpful. A,b, and c all have to do with being able to walk into a room and be seen as the authority immediately, which for me is not the case. My immediate higher ups are men - one is who I am to be working with. Next higher up (the highest I can go) is a woman, but she is who gave the negative evaluation and rather than speak directly to me, went to my immediate head, which sort of makes me feel like I can't talk to her. I feel like if you are going to make such a negative evaluation, you should have to have that conversation with the person, rather than avoid it by passing it on to someone else. But maybe that is naïve on my part.

I am hoping to speak to my immediate boss on Monday and ask if there is any way to work with one of my female colleagues, or to at least work with both one of my female and male colleagues.

[–] Veneficca 2 points (+2|-0) Edited

all have to do with being able to walk into a room and be seen as the authority immediately, which for me is not the case

I feel you. I've seen this time and again with myself and other women, especially if we're short, feminine or young. It's so frustrating. People will challenge you more, assume you don't know what you're talking about, and eat up time and energy instead of just following directives as they would with a man. And others who see it assume you're the problem, that you're not an effective leader and can't control your team/students/audience.

Men often given terrible professional advice to women. "Once they see how great you are, they'll promote you." Nope, they promote men because they see them as future leaders - they think "great" women are great in support roles. "Put your foot down and show them who's in charge." Right and be accused of being harsh, hysterical or unreasonable while the male bosses get to be the fun, charming ones. "Maybe try being warmer and approachable." And become the office mommy expected to listen to everyone's problems and make special accommodations instead of holding anyone accountable.

[–] DBrooke 4 points (+4|-0)

I feel so bad for you.

My advice : of course you're not perfect, and of course you make mistakes, and you know that. But you cannot afford to internalize any feedback which comes even partially from sexism. That way lies madness, because no matter what you do, you will never stop being a woman, and you will never win at their game. Play your own game.

As for asking you to work with a male mentor : if your negative feedback has anything at all to do with behavior, assertiveness, or "style", you need to flat out refuse to do this. Consider being explicit about the fact that what works for men, what is admired in men, is disastrous for women.

Seriously, I am old and in a mostly male profession, and I have known this for decades. But I couldn't have got away with making this point 20 years ago - or at least, I thought I couldn't. In 2020, you might have a chance.

[–] mooncycle8 [OP] 2 points (+2|-0)

Thank you for this.

Feedback is related to assertiveness - I have tried expressing that what has been recommended does not work for me, though have not directly related it to being a woman, as I was unsure I wanted to 'start' something. After speaking to one of my female colleagues, I've decided to ask if it is possible to have a female mentor - hopefully this will be possible. My male mentor has been given to me because "he is the best" ... which sort of annoyed me because it seems to dismisse the incredible experience my much more experienced female colleagues have.

[–] Avadavat 3 points (+3|-0)

I'm so sorry that this has got you down. And, it IS hard to determine how much of this review was caused by the default assumption of male behavior as success and the implicit bias and misogyny of your male colleagues (or, other external factors), and how much of it resulted from your own, actual performance.

I hope you're able to eventually share with your partner (shame surrounding secrets is horrible for your health), AND, that, possibly, you can turn to one of your very experienced female colleagues in confidentiality about your concerns.

Glad you posted here...it's a great start.

[–] mooncycle8 [OP] 2 points (+2|-0)

Thank you for such a lovely post.

I have thought a lot about my performance and separating my own performance v. default assumptions of success. I have identified several things I know I need to improve on, and knew it would come back in my evaluation. So, there is 100% validity to some of the feedback, but the lack of constructive criticism and being told my path to improvement is to be more like my male colleagues is what has me down the most I think. Its the way I am now being treated and checked in on, and needing to basically have everything checked by my male mentor that is leaving me feeling frustrated/embarrassed/ashamed, I think. Without clear feedback, it just feels like I am being infantilized almost. I don't know if any of that makes sense.

I have since spoken with a female colleague and she is actually who suggested I speak up more and ask to work with her or our other female colleague.

I plan to tell my partner - secrets are really the worse.

[–] Avadavat 0 points (+0|-0)

Good for you...these sound like really positive steps!

[–] remquarqk 1 points (+1|-0) Edited

Can you pinpoint parts of the review that are explicity sexist? If so maybe there is someone you can talk to at the school about it. Also the lack of care surrounding Covid feels like a major red flag with your school. If it was me I would be applying to other schools and creating a long-term plan to leave, if it was possible. Please don't be down on yourself---it really sounds like your school is lacking in support and they know it so are doubling down.

[–] HelgeNacht 1 points (+1|-0) Edited

I think sometimes shitty evaluations are also used as a way to prevent someone from being promoted to a better paying position within the same company.

I've noticed that bad evals have been used with previous co-workers of mine when they were openly planning on transitioning to a different department or wanted to apply for a better position. The bad evals "freeze" their ability to transfer or get promoted.

On occasion, managers from other departments would actually recognize this use of this "trick" to prevent someone from leaving a department, and would give the applicant the benefit of the doubt.

[–] wildpansy 0 points (+0|-0)

Women being told to act like men do to receive respect is something people do because they view the discrimination as a result of your gender instead of your sex. Women have different builds, different voices, are smaller on average, walk in a different manner and - something I believe but a lot of feminists would disagree with - have a naturally less agressive temperament which is a result of a survival instinct as sort. In our evolutionary past, the main way you'd rise in status among males was a physical fight or intimidation. And the way people would rise above you would be to use these things against you. The "strong male leader" instinct is still in play today if you look at some world leaders and the lack of any sort of merit they have outside of their intimidating, egotistical behavior. Obviously that's not all societies anymore, but the instincts to see someone as an authority figure instantly would still rely on assessing the sort of dominating, intimidating behavior only someone with a male body can pull off. What they're asking of you is to pull off this behavior whilst in a body the male students immediately categorize as nonthreatening and unintimidating. They're not doing this consciously, so it's unfair to expect you to be able to override this instinct somehow, when the students aren't even aware of it themselves.

In reality, this whole connection between having the power to make decisions and male traits needs to be erased. Basically, people should be able to be leaders without being leaders, if that makes sense, because it should be about making decisions in a way that achieves results, not about behaving in a certain way to manipulate people's perception of you. But until the focus on gender shifts to a focus on sex as the reason behind the discrimination women will continue to be expected to be able to behave like men and achieve the same reaction from others.