Stereotypes are bad. This is what we have been taught since grade school.
However, stereotypes are also accurate, hence why they have stuck around for so long.
In sticking with the rules of three in graduate studies: 3 people on your committee, 3 replications, 3 data points for a line, 3 decades of poverty, 3 heart attacks before graduation… I could go on… apparently there are only 3 types of women in science. I will explain them here.
The virgin- also known as the doormat. These are usually the young, naive, non-tenured women with stars in their eyes. They will do almost anything for anybody. They will take over planning the weekly seminars, begging anyone and everyone to participate, and even negotiating with you about when to give yours. These women will even do your research for you if you just step back and look sad enough. They are great because they are always “understanding” about things. Unfortunately, you never really learn anything because they are so eager to see you succeed that they do rather than teach. And, because they lack experience, usually they are pretty lame teachers. Don’t get me wrong- I love tests where the teacher tells you exactly what they are going to ask and what they expect as answers. But you don’t really learn anything, do you? No. You don’t. Men like the virgin because they can pawn the dirty work off on her. Though she will never rise above professor/researcher position, assuming she is tenure track at all. She will always be in the background, doing as she is told or what she perceives will maybe gain her respect, maybe, possibly? But lets be real girls- men may like the doormat but all it is there for is to wipe your feet on.
The mother- known as the mother. This is the departmental mommy. She makes great food, coddles you when you need it, is strict with you when necessary, but you will always be her baby. Generally she won’t do everything for you, but some sad eyes and you can get a little out of her. She is a fair teacher, but she seems to almost want to follow you home and tuck you in at night. A 5 minute conversation about work turns into a 30 minute conversation about work and family. And it is not just you- it is everyone. Everyone sees her as a maternal substitute. Which is great, I love my adoptive mothers. I usually like them more outside of work though. It took me years to train my mother to not call when I may be at work, and I do not need substitute mother at work. Usually these women are older, and childless (likely having passed up children for long work hours, or hey- maybe she just never met the right guy, or possibly its empty nest syndrome). The men love it because, well, men love their mommas. So it is likely that she will be in some type of administrative position. She can better run her household and look out after her babies as an administrator! There is nothing wrong with the mother, but she does not want to see any of her children upset at her so she will likely not always be the best person for conflict resolution. Not a bad position, but do you really want to be everyone’s mother?
Finally, the crone- known as the bitch. You know her. The balls to the wall, scarey, in your face, blunt woman who tells you like it is and will tell you and everyone else where to go. These women rise to power fast when they want, or just sit secure in their tenure position. They get what they want, and it is ill-advised for anyone male or female to get in their way. If you are on good terms with them it is great. They make awesome human shields. However, if you take one wrong step they can make your life a veritable Dante’s inferno, and will send you through every level before you are finished. I would recommend caution when proceeding with this woman. Keep her close enough for potential job recommendations, and far enough away that she can’t adversely effect your graduation. If all you want is to make it up the administrative ladder, then this is your woman. However, remember that fear is not respect and the minute someone has a chance to screw you they will. And the rest of the people will likely be singing “Ding-dong the bitch is dead”. You have to always be one step ahead, because eventually a new bitch will come along, or Beaudros best golfin buddy from the club for those schools that favor extreme nepotism, and you will be turned out and not missed. It’s good while it lasts, and if you can climb the ladder high enough (or collect enough blackmail information) you can always jump institutions and keep your position. But do you really want to have to act like some female hyena to keep your day job?
(Of course, a word of warning, it is possible to overshoot the bitch angle and just end up crazy bitch. This will likely ensure a short career at your current location and the only way I have seen it counteracted is to become the doormat.)
So, ladies, are the really only one of three? Or do women adapt to what they think the best career move is? In my current employment I can only think of one female faculty member who would not fit into one of the three categories. She seems to successfully navigate the three in any given situation. One out of many who does not intentionally or unintentionally fit the three archetypes of women in research.
So while women are allowed in the workforce, they are apparently only allowed to act a certian way. You must act like a lady, and must fit neatly into one of the three archetypes. If you don’t…well then…how will men know what to do with you? How will they judge you?
Remember, the only way to not be stereotyped is to not be stereotypical.