Despite the growth and success of feminist archaeology, women in archaeology still face issues not necessarily encountered by their male counterparts in the 21st Century. Legacies of past discrimination, particularly the perceived and/or actual demands of family life, have resulted in disproportionate fewer women working at research institutions in many disciplines, including archaeology. This disturbing trend has profound implications for not only the direction of current archaeological research, but also the training of future scholars.

This blog is a forum for advocating for women archaeologists so that we can move beyond legacies of inequity to a future that strengthens a feminine voice in archaeology and a feminist perspective. We contend that the very practice of archaeology is skewed towards a masculine and hierarchical perspective that excludes consensus building and “minority opinions” when interpreting the past. We argue that the feminine voice brings unique and necessary elements to the discipline of archaeology, through values such as mentoring and collaboration. We also clarify that a feminist perspective is not limited to any one gender, class, race, ethnicity or sexuality. Rather a feminist perspective is a radical point of view; one that recognizes that women’s success professionally and personally is integrally tied to larger socio-political movements dedicated to the eradication of homophobia, racism, and androcentrism.

Our hope is to solicit advice, perspectives, and experiences from all realms of the archaeological profession- including tenure-track and adjunct faculty, CRM professionals, and those not currently employed or underemployed. The ultimate goal of the blog is to shift the realities of power experienced in the daily lives of women archaeologists by discussing, inventing and offering solutions to the challenges of professional life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

AAA 2012 - Bring your heart to San Fran

One week from today I will be on a plane to San Francisco for the American Anthropological Association conference. That means the AAA session that "gave birth" to this blog was a year ago.

I searched this year's program for "women" and "femin*" and came up with over 400 hits, most of which are not explicitly archaeological. Below are some results I thought were most relevant.

Saturday, November 17, 2012: 9:15 AM Debra L Martin (UNLV) and Ryan P Harrod (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)

Organizers:  Jennifer J Patico (Georgia State University) and Susan Harper () Introductions:  Jane Henrici PhD (Institute for Women's Policy Research)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012: 8:15 PM Keiko Aiba (Meiji Gakuin University) 
(OK, this has nothing to do with archaeology but it sounds awesome)

Sunday, November 18, 2012: 9:00 AM Aivita Putnina (University of Latvia)

 Wednesday, November 14 012: 4:45 PM Katrina C. L. Eichner (University of California, Berkeley)

Saturday, November 17, 2012: 2:00 PM Heather A Walsh-Haney (Florida Gulf Coast University) and Victoria Sanford (Lehman)

Thursday, November 15, 2012: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM 

Sunday, November 18, 2012: 8:45 AM Vibha Gokhale (Rice University) 

The Meg Conkey session looks like it is the closest thing to Misty and Sarah's session from last year. But we can still gather informally if there is interest in doing so. 

A closer look at the schedule came up with this session that I plan to attend. 


Reviewed By: Archaeology Division
Wednesday, November 14, 2012: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM
Abstract not available in preliminary program.
Organizers:  Sabrina C Agarwal (University of California, Berkeley) and Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley)
Chairs:  Sabrina C Agarwal (University of California, Berkeley)
Discussants:  Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley)
4:00 PM
Becoming Children: Life and the Life Course of Roman Children
Patrick Beauchesne (UC Berkeley) and Sabrina C Agarwal (University of California, Berkeley)
4:15 PM
4:30 PM
Households and the Everyday Negotiation of Gender Ideals
Kim Christensen (University of California, Berkeley)
4:45 PM
Sex Materialized: Archaeological Perspectives On 19th Century Women's Health
Katrina C. L. Eichner (University of California, Berkeley)
5:00 PM
Ties of Intimacy and Bonds of Responsibility: Family In 19th- and 20th-Century Nantucket
Teresa Dujnic Bulger (University of California Berkeley)
5:15 PM
Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley)
5:30 PM
If anyone is interested in an informal discussion on feminine archaeology, get in touch with me and maybe we can get a group together to meet before or after the Women and Children session. I can't make it to the Meg Conkey session but if several readers can feel free to use this blog to organize an alternative meeting time/place before or after that session.

A simple google search should turn up several valid email addresses for me. I hope to see some of you in San Fran. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Women Leave Academia

Readers may not be aware of a couple of articles, which I found very exciting, thought provoking, and in line with this blog’s interests. The first was published in the The Guardian’s Higher Education Network section/blog and is entitled “Why Women Leave Academia and Why Universities Should Be Worried,” (see While this post comes from “across the pond,” that does not diminish its value in my view. I suspect the findings discussed in this post (which are myriad) are likely at play here in North America. Among them are issues relating to relative lack of self-confidence, a lack of available role models, the overly competitive nature of academia, and the fact that the pressures are not congruent with the desires of many women for raising a family. Granted, the discipline on which the article focuses is chemistry, however, in my experience anthropology is not necessarily or appreciably different in its demands.

I would also like to point out that the comments posted at the bottom of the article are equally intriguing. Those posting, including male readers, also point out the role that class is playing in discouraging students from continuing into academia. I would like to assert that I believe this also remains an issue here to at least some extent. Within my admittedly limited observations I’ve noted that those coming from backgrounds in which the parents are professionals, sometimes even professors, and/or are of greater economic means are also the same ones who find themselves not only in academia but at more prestigious institutions both as students and later as professors.

The second article is related to the first in that it notes the opening of a permanent exhibit at Cambridge honoring archaeologist Dorothy Garrod, the first female professor at that institution in 1939 ( Her appointment came at a time when women were not admitted as students and were not allowed to be full members. When senior members of the university elected her to the Disney Professor of Archaeology it presented them with a quandary, which they solved by referring to her in all correspondence “he”. Her struggles with discrimination helped pave the way for women students to enter Cambridge as equals in 1948. But article also mentions two other points that I found relevant. Her fiancĂ© died in World War I, and she never married. In addition, some perceived Garrod as formidable and even terrifying, as one woman related of her childhood encounters.

These comments remind me of one of the quotes in the first article stating that “Successful female professors are perceived by female PhD candidates as displaying masculine characteristics, such as aggression and competitiveness, and they were often childless.” In pointing out these observations I would not in any respect wish to take away anything from Garrod’s accomplishments, which were many and made at a difficult time for women in science. I simply want to highlight the place mentors have in making a field attractive or feasible, or not, to those who come after or along side of us. I have seen childless women in archaeology that I, too, considered to be formidable, but fortunately there were those who were kind and approachable and had children, making it appear possible to do the work and have a life that includes family beyond archaeology or academia.

I would welcome comments and stories from others as to how they approach the challenge of balancing family and work, whether in academic or non-academic positions. I realize for some this is not so much an issue if the choice to not have children has been made. But for those who have traveled this path, it may be useful to share our support and experiences. I for one have a very supportive spouse, but I also only have one child. Having a child while in graduate school did indeed slow my progress considerably toward the degree. In recent years, since my son turned four, I have often taken him with me in the field where he sometimes screens soil or back fills shovel tests (when he’s not looking for insects or non-artifact rocks) and to public presentations for children where he has actually been quite helpful. I look forward to, hopefully, a few more years of this until mom and her work are no longer ‘cool’.
                                         My son, Alexander, and I volunteered on a project 
                                         of Sarah Surface-Evans' in Emmet County, Michigan, 
                                         August 2012.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reflecting on Fieldwork

Inspired by Kisha Supernant's excellent post "What Would Feminine Archaeology Look Like?" I consciously thought about how I wanted to conduct fieldwork this summer and reflected on ways to promote "feminine" approaches. I am fortunate to have organized two different field projects this summer. Both projects epitomize what feminine archaeology means to me, although in different ways.

The first project was conducted in cooperation with a descendant community. I spent the last year forging relationships and gaining trust in order to assist the community with their goals: 1) to learn more about a piece of property that they recently acquired (the former Michigan Indian Industrial Boarding School) and 2) to use this knowledge to nominate the property to the National Register of Historic Places. This research was carried out as an archaeological field school for Central Michigan University. Students were not only taught archaeological field and laboratory methods, but also learned a great deal about the culture and traditions of the descendant community we were working with and about how the past can be sensitive and emotionally charged. Even more importantly, several of my students were from the community and had family members who had died at the Boarding School. Their participation was an act of healing in addition to education. I feel very honored and fortunate to be able to take part in such an important project.

What makes this feminine archaeology? For me it is several things:
1) The notion that one's research should be done collaboratively & cooperatively.
2) The idea that descendant communities should be involved in and even direct the nature of research.
3) That archaeological education also involves cultural education.
4) That a field school should be a place where students feel comfortable speaking about what they are finding and their interpretations.
5) That members of descendant communities participate in the research and feel comfortable visiting in the field.

While these things are not new to archaeology and may not be distinctly "feminine", this type of collaborative approach tends to be much more common among female or indigenous researchers. Collaborating with descendant communities is still far from mainstream practice in archaeology and is not generally regarded as highly within academic circles as solitary research. However, our discipline is greatly enhanced by collaboration and inclusion of minority voices in examining the past.

CMU students & staff and tribal members participating in a smudging ceremony.

The second project that I conducted was also a cooperative venture in which my students and I volunteered our time to help several public organizations develop better heritage management plans. In the spirit of public service, we conducted investigations at the McGulpin Lighthouse and Heritage Village Park in the Straits region of northern Michigan for the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, the Mackinaw Area Historical Society, the Village of Mackinaw and Emmet County Parks.

At the lighthouse, there were plans to reconstruct a former barn structure, however, they were unsure where the barn once stood or whether there were any significant archaeological deposits associated with the former barn. Our investigations identified where the barn once stood and determined that there were significant materials in the vacinity of the barn. Through our work, I was able to help the county make plans for reconstruction that would not impact the archaeological integrity of the site. During our work at the site, we had hundreds of visitors, vacationers and locals alike. This project gave us an excellent opportunity to reach out to the public and share the importance of archaeology and preservation.

CMU student, Megan Bauerle, interacting with a family visiting the MGulpin Lighthouse.

We did similar outreach work for the Heritage Village Park. At this site, a French Era site was being looted. We came to assess how badly the site had been damaged and to develop a plan for protecting the site. We also surveyed other portions of the property to help the park plan future development projects without damaging other archaeological sites on the property. Like the McGulpin lighthouse, we had ample opportunities to interact with the public and school children who volunteered at the park.

CMU student, Patrick Lawton, teaching local elementary students how to screen dirt and look for artifacts.

Neither of the Straits projects were particularly deep theoretical or intellectual ventures. While some might see this as a deficit, I feel that such projects are significant and DO increase our knowledge of a region. In fact, these projects were extremely important to helping this community make preservation-conscious decisions, to raising public awareness of archaeology, and to making archaeology something that matters to everyday people. We, as a discipline have been miserable at communicating to the public about what we do and why. I consider these projects "feminine archaeology" because they promoted education, outreach, and heritage planning. These aspects of public archaeology should be appreciated and rewarded more within the academia. If our discipline is to survive and thrive, we need to make our research relevant and important to the public.

~Sarah Surface-Evans

What projects (in the field, lab, or elsewhere) have you done lately? How do they embody aspects of a "feminine archaeology"? Please share.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Contributors Needed!

We are looking for contributions to the blog. We welcome the sharing of experiences and photographs that help us define feminine/feminist archaeology and explore the issues affecting our community. If you would like to become a regular contributor or even just write one post, please email us at:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Welcome Back to the Classroom!

Many of the struggles that female archaeologists are facing today are embedded within larger social and economic trends. One such trend is the growth of the temp industry, as described in this NPR story from July 26th. Not only is the temp industry booming, fewer temp positions are becoming regular, fulltime employment. The academic equivalent of a temp job is an adjunct teaching position. When I heard the NPR story, I immediately reflected on my own experiences with searching for academic jobs both before and after I completed my PhD.

I was encouraged by my dissertation committee to begin applying for tenure track positions as soon as I had my first few chapters drafted. These well-meaning mentors seemed to think that the label of ABD, was just as golden as PhD in the eyes of search committees. But my numerous applications seemed to disappear into a blackhole. It became discouraging. I even had one colleague, who was already safely ensconced in a tenure track position at an institution that I applied to, tell me that I would have had an interview “if only I had my Ph.D.”. In the meantime, I was fortunate enough to land an adjunct position to pay the bills and get some experience while I completed my dissertation.

My experience is not unique. Many of my colleagues from graduate school encountered similar situations. I watched as many in the cohorts ahead of me often worked two or three adjunct positions while completing or shortly after completing their PhDs. We often joked about how we had to “pay our dues” by working that adjunct gig at a community college or small state school on our way to something bigger and better.

By bigger, it was implied that we would get offered tenure track jobs at R-1 institutions or esteemed private institutions. By better, it was assumed that these schools would be the sorts of places with low teaching loads and high prestige where we could further our research goals. Better also meant no longer worrying about your job future every time your contract came up and finally receiving pay and benefits that made that decade of graduate school debt worth while.

This secure, prestigious, and well-rewarded tenure track position was the dream that our mentors had prepared us for. There was never any talk about alternative career paths: such as working for the government or private sector in Cultural Resource Management, or for small museums or county governments to develop public outreach programs for school children, or teaching gen-ed requirements at a community college.

I rather naively thought that once I had those magic letters behind my name that the job search would become easier. After all, I was passionate, doing cutting-edge research, and I had worked diligently to gain experiences, skills, and publications that made me a valuable hire. Of course I never imagined that I would complete my PhD. in the midst of the first recession of the 21 Century. A recession that strangely mirrored the housing crisis of the early 1980s that severely impacted my family’s well-being when I was a child.

I noticed that those tenure-track positions were becoming something of an endangered species. Year after year, more of the positions available read: “1-year visiting position”, “visiting lecturer”, “adjunct lecturer” and so on. Prior to the recession, some of my colleagues managed to find their way into a tenure track position after spending a few years as an adjunct.

Adjunct positions once were often viewed as a stepping-stone by myself and the cohorts that preceded me. Now adjunct positions may be your only option in maintaining an academic career in archaeology. There is an undeniable financial and psychological impact for PhDs who may spend their entire careers working multiple low-paying jobs, ostensibly as a “teacher”, but still expected to (and wanting to) contribute to scholarly research.

I have worked as an adjunct for three different colleges or universities. Other than teaching similar courses, the only other similarity between these institutions is their overwhelming mistreatment of adjunct faculty. Not only are adjuncts paid less, given few to no benefits, they are often treated as second-class citizens by their own departments, as though we are in these temporary positions because of inferior teaching, research, or work ethics. However, my adjunct colleagues are often extremely hard working and highly qualified individuals, despite having fewer resources than their tenure-track counterparts. For example, adjunct faculty are often barred from applying to internal funding resources for research or travel at universities.

While the economic woes of the past few years have certainly intensified the increasing reliance on adjuncts, this trend it is part of a substantial shift in higher education in the United States. This August 20th article by anthropologist, Sarah Kendzior, indicates that the majority (nearly 2/3rds) of all teaching in the US is done by adjuncts!

I write about these issues here, not to complain about the unfairness of the system, but to bring awareness to graduate mentors so that they can more adequately prepare their students for careers outside of academia. I also want those in the protected tenured positions to wake up and fight back against what I see as an attack against higher education. Adjunct faculty do not have the same rights and securities as their tenured counterparts. We are not able to speak out against injustice. We are less able to pursue or publish research that might be considered controversial or political. We are virtually powerless.

The tenure system is there for a reason, to protect academics from fear reprisals if their research is considered “dangerous”. The loss of tenured positions to the adjunct model of higher education is an erosion of academic freedoms. Those with the power to protect academic freedom must fight for all of us!

Monday, April 23, 2012

What archaeologists look like

This is fieldwork at Port Tobacco, Maryland, with three of my most dedicated volunteers. It feels wrong to call them volunteers when these ladies are quite knowledgeable and capable archaeologists in their own right. Carol, in the red, recently published a peer reviewed article on Port Tobacco. 

Most of my archaeological research takes place "in the lab" as I am more interested in data than in finding pretty things. Here I am working at the State Museum of Pennsylvania while on a Scholar in Residence Fellowship.

There are not many photos of me excavating because I am usually the site photographer. When I was in this rather deep unit someone stole my camera.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Opportunities at the SAA

For those attending the SAA 77th Annual Meeting in Memphis, there are a few events on the schedule that you should think about attending:

The Committee on the Status of Women in Archaeology (COSWA) will be meeting on Thursday, April 19th at 4:00 - 6:00pm in Heritage Room I-II.

The Women's Networking Reception will be held at 5:30 - 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 19th in Heritage Room IV.

The business meeting of the Women in Archaeology Interest Group is also Thursday night from 7:00 - 7:30pm in Heritage Room IV.

A symposium, REFLECTING ON THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN ARCHAEOLOGY, sponsored by COSWA will be held on Thursday morning from 9:15 to Noon in room L-3.
9:15 Linda Stine—A cultural negotiation: gender, class, preservation law and opportunity
9:30 Janet Brashler—Working at Archaeology in Government, Academia and CRM: A Cross Cultural Perspective on Gender in the Archaeology Work Place
9:45 Jackie Lillis—One Discipline, Two Degrees, and Two Careers: Lessons Learned Over 15 Years by a Female Indiana Jones
10:00 Dorothy Lippert—The Work of Beloved Women: How female archaeologists restore the world through repatriation
10:15 Marcia Bezerra, Caroline Fernandes Caromano and Leandro Matthews Cascon—‘Modern-day Amazons’: The historical construction of Amazonian archaeology by woman’s hands, eyes and minds
10:30 Maria Bruno, Nicole Couture and Deborah Blom—Challenges and Accomplishments of Multi-disciplinary, Female, Co-Directorship at Mollo Kontu, Tiwanaku, Bolivia
10:45 Cherrie De Leiuen—Where is gender in archaeology?
11:00 Katie Kirakosian—Discussant
11:15 Astrid D'Eredita—Donna e archeologa: an Italian perspective
11:30 Silvia Tomaskova—Discussant
11:45 Ruthann Knudson—Discussant

If there is anything else that I've missed, (and I am sure that there are) please add them in the comments section.

See you in Memphis!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What would a feminine archaeology look like?

As a new female archaeologist working within the academy, I am concerned with the possible barriers I may face in my career or the roles I might be placed in because of my gender (in my current department, much of the administrative burden falls on my female colleagues). For many years, it never occurred to me that I might face discrimination, often invisibly embedded in structures of policy and power, that would influence my ability to be a successful, productive researcher and teacher. However, as I have moved through my career, I have recognized, with increasing concern, the elements of myself I am forced to mute or transform in order to 'fit in' to expected roles as an archaeologist and academic (an identity still all too often associated with men). I admit to being concerned about when I decide to start a family, which will add an inevitable layer to the various ways the academy and other institutions fail to support women's choices.

At the same time, I acknowledge that the challenges faced by women academic archaeologists have, in many ways, transformed archaeology over the past 20 years. The doors are more open than they have ever been, thanks to the pioneering work of so many. Many of the fundamental issues that face women in archaeology and in the academy, however, remain the same but are more insidious, cloaked in a veneer of political correctness or the "just joking" mentality.

One of the areas of greatest concern for me is governance and how the institutional structures enforce masculine values at the expense of alternate voices, whether feminine, queer, or indigenous, to name a few. Whether we are academics working within university structures, consulting archaeologists working within state and federal structures, or somewhere in between, many of the hierarchical structures of government are firmly embedded in patriarchal values and modes of decision making. Issues around governmental structure in the US around women has recently been brought to the fore with ongoing debates about the rights of women to their own bodies and health care. There has been discussion in recent forums about the need for women to be in leadership roles in archaeology, but if those leadership roles remain in a masculine frame of reference, the issues of governance will change much more slowly than if we can define and implement a feminine model of archaeology to work alongside and transform structures already in place

With this in mind, I ask the question: what would a feminine archaeology look like? How would it be different from the practice of archaeology today in the classroom? In the field? In publications? In CRM? I invite you to engage in this conversation in the comments and at the upcoming SAA meetings.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Everybody has a story...

One of the founders of the blog asked me to share my story about how I became an archaeologist. I am happy to share my own journey, since I took a much more direct path than many in the current climate of archaeology. However, I only agreed to do this as part of a broader call for us all to share our stories, whether we personally deem them “successful” or not. Our personal narratives of the trials, tribulations, and successes we have faced as archaeologists are powerful. Sharing the diverse pathways by which we have become archaeologists helps to empower others, especially women working through graduate degrees and wondering "am I doing this right?" or "do I have a future?" We could all benefit from the storytelling of our fellow archaeologists at all stages of career and life. I, for one, am curious about the challenges faced by the pioneers of gender equality in archaeology, as well as the challenges faced today by women in archaeology. With this in mind, I present my own story.

Currently, I am an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. I graduated with my PhD in May 2011, almost a full year after I had taken up my tenure-track position (July 2010). I started my job at 29 years old, which led to some of the challenges I wrote about previously (see this post). Now, while this seems ideal (a job before you even graduate!), I would not recommend taking up a position before finishing your dissertation if you want to keep any sense of sanity. Nevertheless, the academic world being what it is today, I was not about to turn down or defer a job offer. 

Prior to starting my job, I had been in post-secondary education for 12 years straight - 5 years undergrad, 1 MA, 6 PhD - and right out of high-school. There were a few reasons why I didn't take a break throughout my schooling. First, I didn't want to do/couldn't imagine myself doing anything else. I could have taken a year off, but for me, that would have been a waste of time, since it wouldn't be working toward my ultimate goal. I regret almost nothing in my past (not because everything was perfect, but because I prefer to look forward and recognize that every difficult moment is a learning opportunity, even if it is challenging at the time), but I do regret not taking some time off between my MA and PhD. 

One question I am often asked is whether or not I had mentoring throughout my degrees and the role those mentors played in my journey. We all have mentors, and I have been lucky enough to have several people in the academy who were always very supportive of my career choices. If I needed help, I could always turn to them, and most eventually became members of my PhD supervisory committee. The majority of my mentors, however, were men. Throughout my undergrad, there was only one woman archaeologist who I encountered, and she was in a different department. I do remember taking a course with her and thinking "I want to be her when I grow up," attesting to the importance of having role models of the same gender.

My schooling did have some ups and downs. One ongoing challenge was finances. I received no monetary support from my family, so I funded my undergraduate degree by taking on student loans and working a part time job. I had first entered university with the goal of specializing in Near Eastern archaeology and much of my undergraduate degree was spent preparing for that career trajectory. Then, when I graduated, I didn't get into the one program to which I had applied. I was devastated, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me, in retrospect. I had already graduated with a BA but took a few classes that year and reevaluated my direction within archaeology. It also taught me that failure didn't mean the world was going to end – a very important lesson at any age. In the following fall, I began my MA in Northwest Coast archaeology at the University of Toronto, and I never looked back. I also made a pledge at this time - I was not going to continue in school if I had to go in further debt. I managed to get enough funding to survive until year 5 of my PhD, at which time I had to take on a job. 

My only true moment of doubt about my future in archaeology occurred just after that graduate school rejection letter, where for two hours I seriously considered becoming a second-grade teacher. I don't mean to imply I didn't get discouraged at any other point in my career, but this was the only point where I spent any time and energy focusing on another path in my life. People have often asked me to explain how I was so sure this was the path for me. Honestly, I don't know. I had an unusual and difficult childhood and was home-schooled for six years, during which time I developed a fierce love of learning. My life was quite unstable during those years, but I found solace in written work and in the imaginative abilities of my mind. Going back to public school was a social shock but an easy academic transition. Learning was first a refuge, then a passion, and I have always loved being in an educational environment. September remains my favourite month because it represents the start of a new school year.

I also credit my mother with instilling a strong sense of independence in both myself and my sister. Neither of my parents graduated from university, although both had attended in the early 1970s. Nevertheless, they were both active learners and my mother in particular encouraged us to think outside the box, even in high school. As a teenager, I was convinced I could do anything I wished, as long as I was willing to put in the hard work. Once I set my mind to becoming an archaeologist, I was not going to be gainsaid. In high school, I read a small piece by Brian Fagan, entitled "Archaeology and You", and in it, he stated that a graduate degree was required to become an archaeologist. At that moment, I said to myself and anyone else who would listen, "I'm going to get my PhD in archaeology." Later, when in graduate school, I decided I was going to get a tenure-track position by the time I was 30. I don't know why I decided 30 - I guess it sounded good at the time - but four months shy of my 30 birthday, I began my position at the University of Alberta.

Many people who have seen my journey as it unfolded have suggested I am lucky. I feel blessed every day to be in the position I am in, but calling it luck is a bit of a cop-out. I believe we make our own luck. If I could sum up what I see as the key to my success, I would say it is the power of positive thinking and confidence in my ability to make my dreams a reality (cue inspirational  music). I knew exactly what I wanted, I believed I would achieve it, and I never let doubt from within or without undermine that belief. My biggest challenge today is articulating what I want in my life in the future, but I have no doubt that I will be able to create that life, no matter what. 

And that's my story. I invite you to share your story in the comments below. We all have different paths and challenges, but every story has great value.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This is What an Archaeologist Looks Like

Thanks to the wonders of social media, I recently encountered two things in the web-sphere that caught my attention and gave me an idea for this blog. First, was this story about the importance of role models in encouraging girls to pursue careers in the so-called STEM disciplines. Second, was this tumbler called This is What a Scientist Looks Like.

Both of these websites epitomize the one of the core issues discussed at the roundtable that initiated this blog: How can we encourage more young women into the discipline when female role models in archaeology are completely absent in popular media and even scarce in scholarly publications and textbooks?

If we ever hope to change the perception of who and what an Archaeologist is or isn't (to paraphrase the Scientist Tumbler), then we must share images that combat stereotypes and demonstrate the diversity of this discipline. Let's begin here by sharing photos of yourself or your colleagues and students.

Most of my field photos are on slide film, but here are a few photographs that I had as digital images. Sadly, I have virtually no photos of myself in the field (because I am usually the one taking pictures).

Here is one of me operating a backhoe for deep-testing during a CRM project in a floodplain of the Wabash valley, Indiana, 2000.

In this photograph, I am hosting an informational table for Indiana Archaeology Month at Pokagon State Park, 2004.

This photograph of me demonstrating an atlatl was snapped by a reporter from a small town newspaper when I revisited a site I worked on when I was an undergraduate to lecture about Paleoindians and Pleistocene Indiana to a large group of school children in 2010.

Here are some photographs of my amazing female colleagues and students.

Leslie, Tammy, and Emily (from left to right), cleaning off a feature at a Late Archaic site, Clark County, Indiana, 1999.

Kim, taking field notes at a CRM project, Clark County, Indiana, 2000

Krysta and Kaitlin excavating an accidental discovery of a skeleton in the hardpan of Pinny Beach, Nevis, West Indies, 2003

Mariah, excavating a Late Prehistoric stockade wall in central Indiana, 2004

Laura and Jessica, excavating a shovel test for Field Methods, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, 2011

~Sarah Surface-Evans

Monday, January 23, 2012

'Are you a new grad student?' Coping with perception during career transitions.

The author adorned in robes for graduation.
Last year, I engaged in a ritual transition from graduate student to Doctor of Philosophy. Garbed in ceremonial magenta and blue robes, somewhat reminiscent of clothing at Hogwarts, and wearing a truly absurd puffy hat with a gold tassel, I stood on stage and was hooded by the chancellor of my university. As an anthropologist, I could not help but stand outside myself, looking at a bizarre cultural moment of organized ritual. The moment, however, was highly significant in my personal journey from student to professor and signified a new phase of my life.

This post is about moments of transition we experience throughout our personal and professional lives and how transitions can bring out the assumptions and perceptions people make about us. Transitions can manifest in many ways - becoming a grad student, a parent, an administrator, a project director, a manager of a resource management company, a university professor, a spouse. Each of these moments can be associated with a set of social expectations and responses. Sometimes responses to transitions are overwhelmingly positive. Other times, however, transitions spark negative or discriminatory responses.

In my experience, negative perceptions come in two main guises. First is the condescending praise I have received from either junior or senior (usually male) colleagues. A good example of this form of response is when I completed my comprehensive examinations during my PhD program, transitioning from student to candidate. I had received a lot of positive feedback for my performance in my exam, and word was spreading around the department. A male professor near the end of his career, who worked in my region but who had ignored me up until this moment, due in large part to my gender, stopped me in the hallway to congratulate me on my comps performance. He followed this up by telling me how there were many good jobs "teaching at community colleges." Now, I believe teaching at a community college is a valuable job and respect those who are in important teaching positions. However, I was now a PhD candidate at a large, well-respected research institution who had aspirations for an academic job at a comparable institution (which I now have), and a senior scholar was implying that I shouldn't set my sights too high because I was a woman. Predictably, I did not respond well to this "damning with faint praise" response to my years of hard work.

The second form of negative response is more insidious and, for me, less easy to dismiss. It has to do with what people expect when they hear the words "archaeology professor." Pause with me for a moment, readers. What are the images that immediately come to mind when you picture an archaeology professor? I would guess the majority of you pictured a middle-aged, bearded, white male. Others may have had different images, but I doubt many (any?) of you pictured a woman in her early 30s (who perhaps looks to be in her late 20s). I do not fit the mold of what people expect. For the first six months of my job as an assistant professor, I did not go two weeks without someone either asking me if I was a graduate student or making a comment on how young I was. Now, many of you might be thinking I don't have anything to complain about and should be flattered that people think I look young. Indeed, this is the message I get from most women who I speak to about this, and even some men. I argue this perception, that I should be happy people think I am young and enjoy my perceived youth while I can, is part of the problem. When a supposed colleague suggests I am a graduate student, she unintentionally puts me in a certain subordinate category based on my appearance. Our tendency to judge people on their appearance stretches far beyond the walls of the ivory tower, as recent viral photos (such as this one) have demonstrated. In a society where youth is held on a pedestal and many women spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery and products to ensure that no wrinkles are visible, I am looking forward to the day where I look the part of a university professor. Or, to think about this a different way, I look forward to the day where the image of a university professor includes all shapes, sizes, ages, cultures, and genders.

How about you? What negative perceptions or assumptions have you faced at moments of life/career transition? How can we work to create an inclusive and supportive environment in archaeology?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Remembering Elizabeth Brumfiel

Sad news in the world of archaeology with the untimely passing of Elizabeth Brumfiel. Elizabeth tackled issues of economic inequality, class, and gender in the Aztec Empire. She sought to engender the past and deal with issues of broad social significance. Her work on social inequality and imperial domination was controversial enough for David Horowitz lists her as one of America’s 100 Most Dangerous Professors.

While I did not know her personally, Elizabeth Brumfiel has greatly inspired my research. Her research has made significant contributions in archaeology, particularly gender studies. By all accounts, Liz was a great mentor and loved to teach. She will be missed, but will certainly not be forgotten.

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Brumfiel
Liz Brumfiel Will Always Be Remembered