When I attend talks in my department, my preferred place to sit is near the front, as that's the best place to be for asking questions. In my department, faculty tend to sit at the front of the room and students tend to sit at the back (postdocs sit anywhere), but the completeness of the separation didn't really strike me until I sat at the back of the room for a talk this week. [My daughter was playing on a computer in a room nearby, and I wanted to be near the door so I could keep an eye on her and be accessible if she needed me.]
The room is tiered, so I had an unobstructed view of rows and rows of men in front of me. I was surrounded by women (students) where I was sitting, but the front of the room was devoid of them except for one lone female professor. It brought back memories of my own grad days, sitting in the back with my fellow students, with a view of dozens of male professors in the front. Back then, I thought that by the time I was at the front of the room, I'd have lots of female company there. I am of course well aware of the continuing lack of Female Science Professors, so my view from the back of the room this week wasn't a realization, just a visualization. I wondered what the students sitting in the back think about the view. From conversations I have with students, it seems that women students today don't have the (delusional) optimism that I had as a student. Perhaps the pipeline has been leaking too long for them to believe it will change. Even so, I would hate to think that they sit back there and feel completely pessimistic.
1 year ago