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Every Other Thursday

Every Other Thursday: Stories and Strategies from Successful Women Scientists

Ellen Daniell
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Every Other Thursday
    Book Description:

    This book tells the story of a professional problem-solving group that for more than 25 years has empowered its members by providing practical and emotional support. The objective of "Group," as Ellen Daniell and six other members call their bimonthly gatherings, is cooperation in a competitive world. And the objective ofEvery Other Thursdayis to encourage those who feel isolated or stressed in a work or academic setting to consider the benefits of such a group-a group in which everyone is on your side.

    Each of the high-achieving individuals in Group (including members of the National Academy of Sciences, a senior scientist at a prestigious research institute, and university professors and administrators) has found the support of the others to be an essential part of her own success. Daniell provides detailed examples of how members help one another navigate career setbacks or other difficulties. She shows that group support, discussion, and application of common experience bring to light practical solutions and broader perspectives. In an inspirational conclusion, the author offers advice and practical guidelines for those who would like to establish a group of their own.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13379-0
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Working Toward Diversity
    (pp. xv-xxiv)

    Every Other Thursdayfocuses on women scientists who created an association to help one another through the complexities and stresses of their competitive careers. In the 1970s, when the group started, choosing such a career frequently meant being the first or only woman in a department or research organization. Today, as the numbers of women in science and engineering have increased, such extreme isolation and obvious groundbreaking is less likely. Are the struggles of these women and the lessons they learned therefore only of historical interest today? The answer is an unequivocal no, for several reasons. First, analysis of the...

  5. A Note on Confidentiality and Terminology
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  6. Part 1 Why Group?

    • 1 Every Other Thursday: A MEETING OF GROUP
      (pp. 3-16)

      It’s a Thursday evening in November and my turn to host Group! I leave work in time to stop at a deli on the way home. I wish I had time to cook, the way Helen does, but she’s retired and I’m not . . . yet . . . so the deli it is. I lay a fire; that at least is a homey touch. I try to slow down a little, to think about what I want to talk about this evening, wishing I had reserved a few minutes to write some thoughts in my notebook. I have...

    • 2 Evolution: HOW EACH OF US CAME TO GROUP
      (pp. 17-34)

      How did Group start and evolve to its present form? Each of the current members joined for different reasons and has benefited from the process in different ways. Invited several years ago to give a presentation at a national scientific meeting, we chose to appear as a panel, each woman telling her own story. I have transcribed these talks, which describe in very personal terms the terrors and obstacles that each person encountered in establishing a professional life and which demonstrate how useful Group has been in helping them overcome these challenges.¹

      Women in Cell Biology (WICB) and American Women...

    • 3 Facing Disaster: ELLEN’S STORY
      (pp. 35-68)

      This autobiographical chapter illustrates how Group functions in times of individual turmoil, in this instance the termination of my faculty position at the University of California, Berkeley, and the resulting need to reevaluate my life goals. I would surely have made different choices during this crisis had I not been in Group at the time. This was not because others directed my actions but because I was able to work through many possibilities and consider alternatives with their protection and critical feedback. I ended up with a sense of choice and self-direction that contrasted sharply with the lost and helpless...

  7. Part 2 Group Work

    • 4 Accepting . . . Liking . . . Celebrating: APPRECIATING OURSELVES AND BEING ENTITLED TO SUCCESS
      (pp. 71-81)

      Among all the topics we address, those that have most engaged me may be the importance of asking for what one wants, taking credit for achievements, and feeling entitled to success. Learning to accept and forgive one’s own missteps is only the beginning. We encourage each other to move beyond self-acceptance to self-appreciation and from there to celebration of our accomplishments. Celebration requires a sense of personal entitlement, a belief that we deserve to be happy, to succeed, and to have what we need to survive. It is hard to rejoice in achieving something if we don’t believe we are...

    • 5 A Serious Mind and a Light Heart: RESPECTING INSTINCT AND PERSONAL GOALS
      (pp. 82-90)

      The urge to please others at the expense of what matters to us is a constant impediment to honoring our own style and instincts. The impulse to look excessively to others for direction and approval affects our professional choices and our behavior with friends and family. In my experience, the desire to please sneaks up, so that I find I am working from an image (often inaccurate) of what others want. The work described here is closely tied to issues about making choices and celebrating who we are. The last part of this chapter looks at how respecting one’s own...

      (pp. 91-100)

      I came to Group one night tired and stressed, asking, “Why do I move so fast, keep working all the time?” One explanation was “to avoid the stuff you don’t want to think hard about.” Another was “habit—being busy is what we do. If we aren’t working, we must be depressed.” For me and for others in Group busyness often seems a way of ignoring deep dissatisfactions, of avoiding the need to solve big problems in life. That night I made a con- tract: “I will make sure I have some amount of time withnothingto do.” This...

    • 7 Flying Furniture: CHOICE AND CHANGE
      (pp. 101-107)

      “The furniture is flying about the room, and I know that when the wind dies, it will all land somewhere, but I don’t know where.” I love this metaphor for change and refer to it when I’m describing turmoil in my life. Suzanne elaborated on the risks: “You might have liked it better the way it was to begin with.” I countered with “But you must have doubted that, or you wouldn’t have opened the window.”

      We frequently remind one another that change, no matter how positive, is stressful. Helping members through times of change is a basic function of...

    • 8 Best Friends, Harshest Critics: WORKING WITH OTHER WOMEN
      (pp. 108-117)

      I still find it odd to hear Group referred to as “a women’s group,” although we are, incontestably, a group of women. I react this way partly because at the time I joined, the fact that men and women had established Group together was a defining element. I perceived women’s groups as involving a certain amount of sitting around and complaining about put-downs from men and the hard lot of professional women. Although this perception may have been unfair, our determination not to follow that path has probably helped us to maintain a positive problem-solving focus and to avoid blaming...

    • 9 Life Is a Limited Resource: TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES
      (pp. 118-126)

      “I am entitled to take care of myself.” Nowhere is the concept of entitlement more appropriate than in this context. It is a constant challenge to pay appropriate attention to our health and our bodies. And when we are going through difficult times, we need to give special consideration as well to our emotional selves. Many of us have neglected self while attending to other people and responsibilities and have had difficulty asking for help that might sustain us. Yet physical and mental well-being should be a top priority in our lives. It often appears that we say to ourselves,...

      (pp. 127-137)

      We use Group to describe and experience difficult feelings. Sometimes one of us starts with the objective of understanding how she feels about a situation; other times unexpected emotions surface in discussion of a practical issue. The key lessons are that we have a right to our feelings and that disregarding or denying them is counterproductive in the long run. Honoring our feelings is complicated by the existence of circumstances in which it is better not to share them—a tension we continually recognize and evaluate. In the early days of Group, I was obsessed by a sense of inferiority...

    • 11 Boss, Mother, Friend, Role Model: WORKING WITH STUDENTS AND EMPLOYEES
      (pp. 138-148)

      Many Group sessions have been devoted to our relationships with the students, postdocs, and technicians who work with us. Maintaining a committed, interested, and well-functioning staff in a laboratory is as challenging as developing a research program and building a scientific reputation. When I left academia, I found that many issues arising with students apply in other contexts as well.

      We frequently ask, “What do our students want from us, and if we knew that, would it be what we can and ought to give them?” Several of us undertook our faculty responsibilities with a goal of having a supportive...

    • 12 Putting It Out There: WRITING AND GIVING TALKS
      (pp. 149-160)

      For most of us, formal communication is an essential part of the job, and we are rewarded for doing it well. Communicating effectively is difficult, however, so Group work frequently focuses on writing papers and giving research presentations. Sometimes the issue is confidence, in that speaking and writing call up the question of whether we believe in ourselves. But the challenge is also organizational and, almost always, motivational.

      In 1981, I reported trying to write a paper and “thinking so much about what others think that I can’t remember what I have to say.” This response is not unique to...

    • 13 Nobody Taught Us This in School: INSTITUTIONAL POLITICS AND STRATEGY
      (pp. 161-176)

      Many of the problems affecting our professional lives are political, in the sense that they are about career management or maneuvering for power and influence. Although most of us think we would prefer to avoid politics and “just do a good job,” invariably we find situations in which our success, or even survival, requires that we understand the political structure of an institution.

      “There are no politics as vicious as academic politics, because the stakes are so small.” We often quote this witticism in that it captures the absurdity of many hotly contested issues and casts a humorous light on...

    • 14 Anticipating Changes: GROWING OLDER WITH GRACE
      (pp. 177-183)

      The adventure of aging has become increasingly absorbing to Group as we anticipate this later stage of our lives. We find our attitudes changing, sometimes in unexpected directions. Taking the time to figure out what we really want becomes more important as diminishing time and energy become more acute.

      As the eldest, Helen is often our role model. One evening be- fore her sixtieth birthday she told us, “Sometimes aging hurts and I cry a lot. Sometimes it feels fine. The bad feeling doesn’t stay long.” The rest of us, all under fifty at that time, took note, as we...

      (pp. 184-198)

      Group discussions often concern spouses and families, both their impact on our professional lives and our preoccupation with their problems or their responses to ours. As the years have passed, our discussions about family have become more personal. The spouse whostillhasn’t seen a doctor, a child who is floundering, and a mother with hurt feelings are familiar subjects. Just as with professional issues, we have been able to draw on others’ experiences to get new viewpoints as well as practical solutions. When we talk about family concerns and frustrations, we demonstrate a level of trust beyond our formal...

  8. Part 3 A Group of One’s Own

    • 16 Pigs, Contracts, and Strokes: GROUP PROCESS AND HISTORY
      (pp. 201-226)

      Each of these statements includes a bit of jargon that Group has adopted. The termspigs, contracts, strokes, rescue,andparanoiahave their origins in Radical Psychiatry, a group therapy movement of the sixties and seventies that focused on the concept of selfempowerment.

      The discipline of Radical Psychiatry inspired the formation of Group. The “very smart and highly gifted therapists” whom Christine credits with helping establish Group were members of the Bay Area Radical Psychiatry Collective, who helped her determine a path to emerge from her depression. It is important to give credit to the influence this movement had on...

    • 17 Maintenance and Repair: WORKING TO KEEP GROUP WORKING
      (pp. 227-236)

      As in any important relationship, it takes work to keep a group going, and serious problems sometimes arise. Despite our commitment to the process and deep concern for one another, we have gone through times when we felt Group was failing or falling apart. I have reacted to these crises with pure terror. A reaction to “ fix it at all costs” kicks in, and I just want to make everybody happy and comfortable, even if that means sweeping unpleasantness under the rug. Fortunately, as a Group we’ve done better than that. Within any group, conflicts among members are probably...

  9. Part 4 Epilogue

    • 18 Another Change of Direction: LETTING GO AND MOVING ON
      (pp. 239-252)

      The biggest decision I have made with Group’s help was to leave my corporate job and dedicate myself to writing. This transition contrasts sharply with my departure from academia for the corporate world fifteen years earlier. Although that change also involved many choices, it was forced on me by a career setback that I did not control. Becoming a writer was my idea. In a way, I was preparing during all the years between the two events, as I learned to honor my dreams and follow my heart. Group was the context in which I could proceed with the right...

  10. Biographies of Group Members
    (pp. 253-258)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 259-262)
  12. Further Reading
    (pp. 263-266)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 267-268)