This post is not a criticism, it is mostly a question (just to start off on a defensive note..).
I sent an email message to a professor in Germany requesting a letter of reference for a candidate who has applied for a position in my department. I addressed the email to Professor Y and signed the email with my name and title (Professor). I have never heard of this particular person before, and he clearly hadn't heard of me.
He sent the requested letter of reference attached to an email addressing me as "Mrs. X". He signed himself as "Professor Y".
I was curious about this. I have close colleagues and friends (all men) in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and I asked two of them about it. One of them told me that this professor may not ever have encountered a woman professor in his field before, he didn't know what was the proper form of address, and he may have decided that referring to a woman as "Mrs." was more respectful than "Professor". The other colleague said that reference letter requests are sometimes sent out by the secretary of a professor, and this professor just wasn't paying attention to how I signed my email. Does anyone believe those explanations? I suppose I do, not knowing otherwise. Despite having lived in various parts of Europe for a total of several years, I do not completely understand the academic cultures.
I don't think I am particularly hung up on being addressed as Professor. Students (undergrads and grads) in my department call all the professors by their first names, and this is fine with me. However, I don't like the disparity implied by Professor Y's identifying himself as a Professor but not me.
Even so, I think that if there were more women professors, there wouldn't be any question about whether to address a woman professor by her title or marital status, these annoying little situations would become very rare, and I wouldn't be so (over)sensitive to them anymore.
9 years ago