Each fall, our department has a career forum for students (undergraduate, graduate) and anyone else who wants to come. There is typically a panel with representatives from various types of academic institutions (small colleges, research universities, medium-sized universities), from industry, and from government agencies. The panel members speak briefly about their jobs and then there is a lot of interactive question-answer time with the audience. After,there is informal social time for additional interaction between students and the panel members. It's a great thing, and it's organized by a female assistant professor in my department. What's not to like?
One of my senior male colleagues approached me to discuss his concerns about this forum. I don't know why he came to talk to me. I have nothing to do with the organization of the forum. All the credit for it goes to my junior colleague, who initiated it and organizes it.
He was concerned because the forum is "female-dominated". Most of the speakers are women, and of course the organizer is a woman.
I asked him: "Why is this a problem?" Apparently it is obvious, but he spelled it out for me, since I was having trouble understanding: Male students might feel "excluded" from the forum because there are more women than men involved.
This is the point at which I stared at him, stunned. And then I laughed. There were so many possible responses, and not all of them nice.
Opting for nice (as usual), I said: "If I refused to attend departmental events because they were dominated by the opposite gender, I would never leave my office."
He said: "But that's different." End of conversation.
5 months ago