Friday, March 23, 2007

Letter From (Medieval) Europe

One of my European colleagues has just relayed to me a description of an all-male search committee meeting he recently attended. With his permission, I relate some of the more amazing things he reported:

- One committee member remarked that he was glad a particular female candidate included her photo on her CV because it was good to know that she is ugly, so he didn't have to have any qualms about disregarding her application.

- A committee member grumbled about how applications from Americans did not include information about marital status even though this information is important in the job search.

- A committee member said that women can be in 'soft' types of science disciplines but certainly nothing hard, and that is why there are so few women in the physical sciences and why the committee didn't need to justify not interviewing any.

Certainly there are some members of this committee who are not outright hostile to women scientists, but I think a woman would have to be Marie Curie to get an interview at that place, and maybe not even then, depending on whether committee members found her sufficiently attractive.

13 comments:

Am I a woman scientist? said...

One thing that has really shocked me here in Europe is the prevalence of all sorts of overt discriminatory beliefs. I'm having a hard time deciding whether North America is truly more civilized than Europe in this respect (is that possible?), or whether the discrimination is just better hidden in NA. Particularly during national elections, politicians say things about women that I think would cause street riots in the States.

Ann Nelson said...

And yet here I am visiting the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid where around 50% of the profs and postdocs in physics are women. This seems to be a natural and unremarkable thing in Spain. Also the idea that Americans have that it is difficult to combine children with physics does not seem to be an issue here. It is normal that the there are good daycares, afterschool programs and social support for working parents. The northern European countries seem much less advanced, especially Germany.

Female Science Professor said...

I told my colleague that I would not mention the name of the European country, but that many readers would guess the general region anyway, if not the exact country.

Anonymous said...

Would I be correct in guessing that it is not France?

AnonymousWomanProfessorProbablyInThatCountry said...

Oh, the comments that search committee members make are scandalous - sometimes I long for the Scandinavian tradition of a completely open search process - all comments are recorded, so people keep their more stupid comments to themselves. Usually.

When I am the lone woman professor on these committees (usually a woman student is included to fulfill the equal opportunity requirement) I sometimes amuse myself by reacting to comments like this with "Well, this guy is really cute". That tends to elicit just a "What does that have to do with his qualifications?" - but I need one of those clue sticks to beat my message in. They just don't get it.

I defend the research of each and every women who applies and use the legal rules to force them to invite women (they have to invite the same number of *qualified* women and men, so they try to disqualify the women). Sometimes - surprise, surprise - they women are even not bad. But still no luck in doubling our number of women in the department.....

PA said...

Whoa - I cannot believe that this really still happens!

hypoglycemiagirl said...

I have worked in several European countries, including Scandinavia, and I am not surprised. We're very good on paper but reality usually sucks, as you might already know from several posts over at "am I a woman scientist?"

Dr J. said...

It wouldn´t surprise me if this were in Germany. I´ve experienced many similar things.

One department I was involved with had the secretary presort all applicants, so that the professor´s precious time was only bothered with male applications.

Photo´s with applications are considered mandatory and are a basic sorting criteria (ignore those that say it has no influence - they´re lying).

Germany is behind America/Australia in most things with equal rights - school´s run from 8am-1pm and then someone has to look after the kids and in West Germany there is childcare for only 1 in 37 under 1yr olds (East Germany is better).

agradstudent said...

Wow! I know nothing about science in Europe, but when I travelled for fun I definitely encountered the most sexism in Italy. I stayed with a bunch of Italian guys (all amazing cooks) who fed me profusely, but then asked why I didn't "take care of myself"... Their girlfriends, mothers, and grandmothers often would eat only fruit while the boys ate hearty meals! Gah!

landau said...

FSP, then I can safely assume that you are pretty since you claim you are a full prof?

Female Science Professor said...

No, I'm not, but fortunately I never put (or felt compelled to put) my photo on my CV, and I got my first tenure-track job in the pre-webpage era.

Reluctant Chemist said...

Wow...my jaw just hit the floor. I think the word "flabbergasted" applies here.

My vote goes for Germany being the country in question. I have met a number of German visiting scholars who's philosophy regarding the job search process reflect the anecdotes in your post.

Scary, scary, scary....

career said...

This attitude is really disgusting!!!!!!It's a scintifically proved fact that our intelligence doesn't depend on the sex. Or probably it does… remembering the stupidity of these men.