Lifting a Ton of Feathers: A Woman's Guide for Surviving in the Academic World

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University of Toronto Press, 1993 - Education - 273 pages
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Lifting a Ton of Feathers is not only a survival guide, it is also a destroyer of academic myths about women's career chances in the university, and a revelation of the catch-22 positions in which women find themselves. Caplan demonstrates that while many women believe that when they fail it is their fault, their fate is more likely to be sealed by their encounter with the male environment, and by the manner in which they are tossed about by it. She aims to help women avoid self-blame and understand the real sources of their problems. Readers will find the information about the mine-field of academia for women infuriating, but the means of telling it highly entertaining.

Women account for more than half of all undergraduate students in the US and Canada, yet they make up only 10 per cent of faculty members at the level of full professor. What happens to women between freshman level, the tenure track, and the ensuing following professional years that keeps them out of the highest levels of academia? Paula Caplan is herself a veteran of the academic career struggle, and she sets out to explore this question with not only her own observations but also those of many women whom she has interviewed, and with a strong backing of established research. With these tools she provides a clear-eyed assessment of what women who have embarked on an academic career, and those who are considering it, may expect.

Forewarned is forearmed, and Caplan presents a list of the forms that the maleness of the environment take: two of these are the conflict between professional and family responsibilities, and sexual harassment. In addition, her book offers advice on practical techniques of how to prepare a curriculum vitae, how to handle job interviews, and how to apply for promotions and tenure. A final chapter is a unique checklist which serves two purposes: to provide guidance in a search for a woman-positive institution and to give suggestions for ways individual women, and women in groups, can work to improve the situation at their own institutions.


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I am getting "reamed" at Stanford University in the Infectious Diseases Dept. This book is really excellent for me, since it articulates what I am going through.
I am attempting to get research I
did 3 years ago, published. The most recent happenings are this--a year ago, my boss told me I sent him a version of the article I had written, but I had not. I had not sent him anything for 7 weeks prior, but he would not investigate it. Instead, he maintained that "I sent him a version of the article." Next, he and another professor (in psychiatry) decided to rewrite the article without telling me. When they finally did tell me, my boss had made the psychiatry professor lead author on the article, giving him all the power. Since these two know very little about the subject matter, the article was full of error, and rejected by 2 journals. Of course, now they are saying that is my fault.
I will solve this problem, since I have an intellectual property attorney. I am telling this story because it aligns with the book. I thank the author, publisher, and others connected with the book for publishing it and writing so clearly about this subject.


Why Cant a Woman Be More Like a Man?
The Myths
Damned If You Do Damned If You Dont
Suggestions for Specific
Checklist for Womanpositive Institutions
The Maleness of the Environment
Suggested Guidelines for Hiring Promotion

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About the author (1993)

Paula J. Caplan is Professor of Applied Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

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