“I blame women for not being more confident” and other things that you should not do

Yesterday one of our very accomplished adjuncts and alumni and I were having a conversation about how different the male and female students were as presenters during their comp exam. We had young women with really great work who undersold it so that it looked merely adequate, and young men with acceptable work who acted like they had just invented the internet. Now, I am proud of all of my students, and my characterization here is a generalization. But it happened enough during the day that my compadre noticed it.

We discussed how lack of confidence affects young women’s careers in consulting. In my case, it lead me to stand behind a much more voluble man for years while I produced analysis after analysis for him. I never learned to sell myself the way he did, and as a result, people credited him with the originality and technical skill that I had actually contributed.

This obviously has consequences for pay, and my compadre said to me, as we were drinking coffee, “You know, I think the pay gap is really women’s fault, for not being more confident.”

Um, no.

You can’t just expect somebody to be confident when they are told from the minute they enter this world that they can’t be any good at anything besides being pretty, taking care of other people, deferring, or being nice. And you can’t expect them to be assertive when every time they are assertive, they are punished either socially or professionally, and usually both.

On not meaning to undercut women’s leadership and doing it anyway

I had a Thing happen this weekend, with the usual conditions in play: very nice, well-intentioned men who outrank me making decisions on my behalf, trying to be helpful, and, in the end, sending both me and all the young women involved the message: women can’t lead.

So it involved a voluntary service task whereby I and another senior, male faculty were assigned to lead PhD students. It was a three-day commitment, and my faculty partner was unable to come the second day, and so I went in, thinking that I would handle the students on my own, only to walk in to find the leader of the effort had, simply, reassigned the students to different groups and taken all responsibility out of my hands.

The message: you can’t be trusted with students on your own. You can’t lead. I was annoyed. I could have slept an hour longer, dude!! UUUUUH???

But I just went to my office and worked on my own stuff. It’s my standard response to the Planning Patriarchy when it rejects my attempts to Do Things and Participate: Look, if you aren’t going to use my human capital for your benefit, I shall use it for mine.

I’m sure the person in question thought he was being nice–he apologized later, and said he intended to save me work, and truth be told, I think students should ideally work with multiple groups of faculty and fellow students. And I got a lot of work done. So for all practical purposes, it was fine.

It did, however, demonstrate a pretty bad model for all the young women in the room. I should, I guess, have been more assertive in saying that no, I can lead a group on my own, and stood up for my right to have been included in the decision involving my own efforts. Had the guy asked, I would said, sure, no problem, I’ll stay home and work, reassign the groups.

But I was flustered, and I am shy to begin with, and to be dismissed like that in front of an entire room of students was…awful.

There comes a point where, when you say to somebody “you can’t lead” enough times, that they begin to believe you.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #14: Deike Peters

Deike Peters is assistant professor of environmental planning and practice at Soka University of America. I first encountered Deike when she very kindly taught a planning studio for us at USC. She has an interest in land development around stations, and she has worked extensively trying to understand the land use conflicts at high speed rail station areas. She co-edited a special issue of Built Environment on the topic, Volume 38 from 2012, Number 2. (As an aside Built Environment is one of those journals that doesn’t get the attention it should.)

This is the paper I’m reading:

Peters, D., with Novy, J. (2012) “Train Station Area Development Mega-Projects in Europe – Towards a Typology” Built Environment, 38:1, 12-30

In this manuscript, Peters and Novy draw a distinction between transit-oriented development (TOD) and train-station area development (TSAD) as they look at the land development resulting from European high speed rail projects, where TSAD is looking to develop an area broader than a general TOD. They discuss the possibilities for TSAD as part of sustainable development, where redevelopment generates higher quality, and more, pedestrian possibilities surrounding the station following changeover in land uses away from industrial use. (This strikes me as interesting; plenty of high speed rail companies are also hauling freight as well as passengers, so at least some of the station areas have to be in warehousing and distribution use. There’s really no reason, other than scale perhaps, that these uses can’t be integrated with pedestrian and other uses, though.) Right along with the intention for sustainable development also come the same same growth machine aspects that development in cities always have, but with a 21st century, neoliberal twist. Peters and Novy place the redevelopment project in the ongoing history of urban place competition. They look at the European projects:

Combing through a list of over 500 rail station sites in 437 cities, the sheer number TSAD projects already built or currently underway proved impressive. We identified 136 projects with investments of €100 million or more, including fifty-two with total investments of €500 million or more. Projects proliferated in cities of varying sizes across a whole range of nations, including countries with comparatively less developed rail networks such as Portugal or Bulgaria. Our inventory recorded both the highest number and the largest investments in Germany and Great Britain.

So they comb through and find the biggest. It’s not clear from the article why they choose the biggest, but I think it’s because those larger projects best mirror their concept of TSAD rather than TOD. From these, they derive four general types of TSAD types: strategic megaprojects, station renaissance projects, transport projects, and urban development projects.

Strategic megaprojects are those that are “big” and “bold”, though, as the authors point out, not necessarily beautiful. These draw on supra-regional rationales (often using “Europe” in project name to signal the elevation of this place within the hierarchy of places) and they usually involve a lot of money, an ambitious plan for multiple transport and land uses, and entail complex, multi-government governance agreements.

Station renaissance projects are just what they sound like: the chance to get an upgrade on existing, historic buildings by putting new services and amenities inside, drawing on the grand style architecture to enhance place experience in commerce.

Transport projects, too, are just what they sound like. They are designed to made an intermodal hub where the transport functions go first and the place functions take on a lower priority.

Urban development projects are the opposite: the main point seems to be to get in and do something with the land and the buildings, and the transport functions are coincident, but less a priority. These strike me as the HSR version of TOD, conducted on a larger scale.

The remainder of the discussion takes on emerging issues, and of those, I think the most interesting is just how large the projects are becoming–Peters refers to “Gigaprojects” and to community opposition that has arisen, particularly to the idea of local area development serving supra-regional interests, and the changes that opposition has enacted on building practices and development ideas.

This is a very nice discussion of the unfolding development of Europe’s HSR development; go read!

Mark Edmundson on campus rape

I’ve been reading through Mark Edmundson’s Why Teach this week, and this paragraph caught my eye:

Colleges are even leery of disciplining guys who have committed sexual assault, or assault plain and simple. Instead of being punished, these guys frequently stay around, strolling the quad and swilling the libations, an affront (and sometimes a terror) to their victims.

This is a chapter where Edmundson has described the consumer universe of the corporate campus. Grade inflation? Looking the other way for cheaters? Come on. When campuses look the other way for felonies, they aren’t going to worry much about the other contours of character formation.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #12 Kristen Jeffers, the Black Urbanist blog

We’re in the middle of commencement, and my next research entry is a book, so I am a little behind and I thought I was use this week to direct you to the very nice blogging of Kirsten Jeffers of the Black Urbanist. Her writing is accessible, and her relationship with things urban is delightfully personal. Here is the link to the blog so you can get over there and set it up in your feed: The Black Urbanist. And here are some of my favorite recent posts get you started:

Things that should never be in driving distance

Can we let people gentrify themselves?

This breaktakingly sensible post about cars: What Grinds Our Gears About Cars

Whose Suburb Are We Talking About, Again?:

But enough of this kind of snark. Let me get to the real shade. Urban is not a race of people. Suburb is not a race of people. Rural is not a race of people. Say it as many times as you need to. Then, if you write articles like this that either by accident or lack of inclusiveness, imply that only one race of person moves to and from the suburbs, don’t be surprised if they get interpreted as attempts to be nice about labeling races, instead of true analyses of migration patterns.

Go read and share.

Danielle Henderson on GoT, summing up why I refused to watch from the beginning

Danielle Henderson writes for The Gaurdian:

I’m exhausted by the triumph of men at the expense of women as a narrative device. It’s not only boring, but also a little too tied to my real-world experience as a woman and person of color for me to look at these shows objectively and give them a pass – not when the television industry is so criminally underdeveloped in hiring or telling the stories of minority populations.

Fantasy stories can be great. They really can. It’s also a genre that illustrates just how women-hating male fantasy can be. I read Martin’s first book, and rolled my eyes. If this is strong woman material (which it’s not), then when chewed through television writers’ minds, it was going to get worse. A lot worse. And it seems to have.