Alice and her friends answer questions that you don’t want to ask your preceptor, peer, or colleagues regarding your career in science. Send your question to Alice’s attention at .

Dear Alice,

Only when you are tenured and at the top of your profession do you have the luxury of extra service to your school and advocacy for women.

I have been an assistant professor at a top university for almost 2 years. It has been a hard slog to get my lab going and get everything done. I miss being a postdoc.

My problem is that I am one of only two female faculty members in my large department. My department chair has put me on three committees because he needs the diversity. Now, the dean has asked me to do a study on research associates at this university, the majority of whom are female, and determine their status: years post-Ph.D., productivity, and other important parameters that might help them be promoted. I would really like to do the study because I think I have some good ideas. Besides, turning the dean down could jeopardize my future. I wish I could do it all, but my lab work would definitely suffer.


Dear Inundated,

Many female professors have faced the problem you face. Department chairs should watch out for young professors without tenure and not overload them with administrative duties, but the need for (and lack of) diversity on committees puts them in a bind.

You should be commended for wanting to help other women at your university, especially those not on the tenure track. But once you’re tenured, you will be in a much better position to help them.

And remember, when you get to the top, don’t forget the women.


Elsewhere in Science, 3 April 2015

Biologist Engineer Brewer