There’s a very thoughtful post by drmsscientist at Tenure She Wrote about the gendered nature of being asked or otherwise expected to take notes at meetings.
Here’s the set up:
I take a lot of notes. I take them every single day, in both research and in meetings. Depending on what I’m doing, these notes are electronic or handwritten. When I meet with my students, I take notes on what they are doing, then transcribe my own action items to a separate “to-do” list and file that note page away. When I’m in meetings with colleagues, I’m usually taking notes on my computer or iPad. Some times these notes float away into the ether, but in general, I find my notes super useful, in so many ways. I’ve used them to jog my memory about what else happened in the meeting, to figure out who made a specific comment to follow up on later, sometime even just to provide context to my overall day. They are also, it turns out, also useful to my colleagues and in general, I will happily send my notes along if someone requests them*.
But recently, I’ve been involved in a few groups where the gendered nature of note taking was almost laughable.
And later she asks:
But what to do about the gendered aspects of this? I don’t want to stop taking notes since it’s useful to me, nor do I want to not make those notes available if they can be helpful. And really, it’s not that I shouldn’t be taking notes, it’s just that everyone in the room should also be taking their own instead of relying on me or those like me. More sets of notes on the same topic is never a bad thing since people note different things. This is where I hit up against a wall. I have control over my own behavior but not over that of others. Do I subtly try to encourage EVERYONE at the meetings to take notes, then send them to me for compiling? The first might be good, but the second is just another form of housework. Do I simply say “no” when asked whether I can take notes? This doesn’t work because I often already AM taking notes and it’s difficult to be surreptitious about it. Do I laugh it off and say I’m terrible at it and they’d better ask someone else?
Here’s my suggestion: I think it would be perfectly reasonable to respond to an unwanted (or even wanted) request to take notes, “The notes that I routinely take are very informal and just for jogging my own memory. If we agree that it would be useful to have authoritative notes taken at our meetings, let’s discuss a formal mechanism for getting this done.” This way you completely prevent your taking notes from becoming the path of least resistance for the group. And you also force recognition that taking notes is valuable work and should be acknowledged as such.