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Assertive vs. Nice. Guess who wins?

I have been slowly working my way through the incredibly great bunch of links provided by Scientiae Carnival #1, which included this excellent post by Jenny F. Scientist about her personal road to assertiveness.

The part I want to focus on is this:

I still see people get run over. It especially frustrates me when young women do it. I want to shake them and cry "Don't put up with it! Grow a spine!" But I remember I was once like that, and they must learn. They must want to be assertive more than they want to be nice. [Emphasis mine.]

I want the world of science and academia to be a welcoming place that helps newcomers find their place and learn the customs gently over time. I want people who don't already know how things work to be able to learn how they work without getting stomped on and run over. I also want a pony.

This is not specific to women in the sciences, but it's a common issue that may impact women who are pioneering the way as still-underrepresentated populations in many scientific and academic fields. Women are explicitly and implicitly told that we should be nice and sweet and feminine, and it can be a huge challenge to stop doing that, because it's so closely linked to how we envision ourselves as people.

What to do? Practice being assertive, day by day. SciMom has some tips on speaking up and speaking out to get us started.

Now, about that pony...