Thursday, October 14, 2010

Many Many Men

Sometimes it seems like I could write a blog post about how much I like pistachio ice cream, and I would get comments like "Why do you hate men so much? Why are you always writing about sexism? Why do you always twist things to be about gender?".

I have no good answer to those questions, perhaps because they are not sane.

Yes, I know, I should just do my work. I would be a better scientist (like the men!) if I focused more on Science and less on my actual life. I work 60 hours/week, as I just informed the NSF in their boring biannual survey of randomly selected Doctoral Recipients, but clearly I should work even more (like the men?).

Anyway, the various discussions of this week got me reminiscing about my distant academic youth, back in the days when there were so few women in my field that it was very easy to go through undergraduate and graduate school without ever directly encountering a female science professor.

That was my experience as a student, although after a couple of rather harrowing years in graduate school, in which I was routinely yelled at, pinched, and grabbed by a rather nasty old professor whose loathing of me was exceeded only by my loathing of him*, I started looking around for another graduate program, preferably far far away from my original one. I decided that I would try to find a female adviser, on the assumption that a female adviser would be less likely to abuse me physically.

I looked around and found two possibilities -- two women scientists in my field, both doing extremely interesting work at excellent universities. I wrote to them, describing my research background and interests and asking if they were taking on any new graduate students in the near future.

They wrote back. One was going to be denied tenure and was not taking new students, and the other was a research professor who had never advised a student before. When she got my message, she asked her department chair if she could advise a student, and he said no. She told me years later that it upset her greatly that the department did not respect her enough to let her advise a student although she was a senior researcher with her own grants; she had always assumed that she could advise a student if she had wanted to.

So that was depressing. Fortunately for me, though, the evil pinching professor was soon out of the picture, and my situation improved enough that I decided to stay on in graduate school.

Although my field of Science is still male-dominated at the professorial level, I would certainly have more options today if I were a student specifically seeking a female adviser, or if I just wanted to be in a department that had some female faculty. There's no way to know of course, but, if I were a student today, I think I would choose an adviser based primarily on scientific interests. A major component of my decision about graduate programs, however, would include consideration of whether a research group or department had at least some other women.

I don't feel any regret about the fact that I never worked with a female professor in my field during all my years as an undergraduate or graduate student. I had many excellent professors as an undergraduate Science major and as a graduate student, and some continue to be my friends and mentors to this day. Nevertheless, I am glad that it is more difficult to go through one's student years today without encountering a Female Science Professor.

To my young readers who are or were science students (you decide if you are young or not): Have any of you never taken a course from or been advised by a Female Science Professor?


* Note: I did hate this particular man. It would not be very scientific to conclude that I hate all men, but you can safely conclude that I hated this man.

80 comments:

Anonymous said...

The answer to the question asked is no, not never, but close enough that I feel I should chime in with my anecdata: I'm a 1st-year (male) grad student with no adviser yet. I did have a female adviser for a summer research project (she didn't get tenure though), and my freshman/sophomore adviser was a female non-TT chemistry lecturer. But as for undergraduate courses though... not good news at all.

Chemistry: 0 of 9 (the only female senior faculty are one professor emirita and one professor who's on the department website but teaches engineering, though 3 of 5 recent TT hires are female).
Physics: 0 of 5
Biology: 2 co-taught courses with a female professor for half the course, out of 5 total
Math: 1 of 5
CS: 0 of 3

Anonymous said...

Hi FSP. I'm a male post doc working in the field of Materials Science but have a major in Physics. I don't think your posts are only about sexism at all and I do enjoy reading them every single day. It has been so educational to me concerning faculty life, especially for someone longing to make a career on academia. Please continue posting your thoughts about whatever you want because they are helping a lot of people like myself. Thank you!

Enginerd said...

Ehm, I took courses with a female science professor, a female science fiction professor, and a female mathematics professor, (1 each), but I've never had a course with a female engineering professor during my 5 years of engineering. I briefly mentioned seeking advice from the female professor in our department, and my supervisor's reaction was, "Why, do you hate me!?!?"

Anonymous said...

I'm in my mid thirties (I'll let you decide if that is young). In my undergraduate engineering degree I had just one female professor (and she was from another department). About five years after I graduated I returned to the same department to do a PhD, at which time they had one female professor, however she left for another university soon after I arrived as she was not able to switch to part time after her second child.

I don't think that I suffered at all for having not had more women around, however I definitely see the male domination as a part of a broader problem with that department, which I found to be very old fashioned and rather stifling (much of the research was incremental, and resistant to new ideas).

Interestingly, the two research institutes that I've been at since then have had much more interesting and dynamic research activities, and both have a decent quota of women (including in senior positions). So I don't really regard a lack of women as a problem in itself, however it may well be a sign of other problems.

Anonymous said...

I am a tenure-track assistant professor so I'm not sure if that counts as young (for the record I'm 30 years old). I have never taken a class from or been advised by a Female Science Professor.

During my Physics undergraduate in Canada I never encountered a female physics professor. During my Masters in the US I never encountered a female physics professor. During my PhD in Sweden I encountered many more people in total, and I did meet a few female physics professors (in other divisions, at conferences etc). But there were none in my own division, I did not take a class from any or work on research with any of them.

Looking at my research subfield as a whole, there are definitely some female professors around, but scattered around the world so the chances of an undergraduate student encountering more than one would be pretty slim.

For what it's worth, I am the only female faculty among ~20 at my current research division. I encounter plenty of students though so I suppose there are many who can now say they have taken a class from or worked with a female scientist.

kamikaze said...

I am a first year post doc, and I have never taken a course in my own field taught by a woman. My supervisors have also all been men, but I currently have a senior collaborator who is female, and she takes a sort of supervisor role in the part of the project where she is the expert (I do interdisciplinary research).

As a student I really missed having female role models. As I got older and lost my patience (and met some very competent female role models who just weren't my teachers) I started feeling more at ease -- I think much because I got sick of being small and invisible and started taking more space and it turned out people accepted that just fine.

Mathias Ricken said...

Only three of my science courses were taught by women. There were a few more female professors in non-science classes, but even those were predominantly taught by men.

I love pistachio ice cream too!

lost academic said...

I was just musing about this last night. In my department - which covers several disciplines, only lightly overlapping depending on what you've chosen to study - there are women. The dean is a woman and, as is widely known, keenly interested in recruiting female students and faculty. Not counting her, since she really doesn't advise students, there are 5 women and 20 men. None of the women are in my primary field, and I do not expect to ever have a class from them. In a related department with crossover, there are no women I can think of at all. I did not include purely research faculty, since they do not teach and unless they are attached to your research group, you probably wouldn't see them or receive advice, but the ratio there is worse.

It would be nice to have a female advisor or professor. I do not anticipate ever having one....

Epiphron said...

I've never advised, but I've certainly taken courses from female science professors, and they were some of the more enjoyable courses I've taken.

As for men commenting on your sexism, I'm a man, and I don't find what you right to be sexist against men at all. It sounds as if you've been getting a lot of that recently so I figured I would lend my support.

Anonymous said...

I am tenure track, and I did not have a female prof in my field, in fact I think I may be the only one in the US in my field, most specifically defined. However, there are a few at my and higher levels in closely related fields and many in my field in industry. I did have female science professors (two of them) as an undergrad, but I knew of only one female professor in anything remotely related to my field until I was a postdoc; I encountered none as a grad student. I had great supportive mentors and didn't really think a lot about it until I started thinking about kids. I now know more FSPs than I can easily count up, in fields related to mine, but still many fewer than the men, which is why I love FSP (who was the first FSP I found with offspring)!!

keri said...

I am currently a science graduate student (although more in line with biological than physical sciences, which is admittedly a bit different). I've worked with 3 female PIs and 2 male, but have spent most of my time under my current, male, PI. Perhaps it's my field (which is less male-heavy than most STEM fields), or perhaps it's my institution (which has around 40-50% female faculty and 75% female students), but I've very rarely had negative experiences with male advisors or course instructors. I haven't ever chosen a female advisor just because I'd like a female advisor - but I have definitely considered the attitude of the PI towards women when choosing a male advisor, and I made sure to have a good balance of male to female on my thesis committee as well.

Katie said...

At my small PUI, only 1 out of ~12 professors in my department (chemistry) was a woman, so not surprising the courses I took were all taught by men. I did have female science professors for courses taken out of my department, however (biology, physics). I think what you would find particularly interesting, FSP, is that both my graduate and postdoctoral advisors were/are women. I did not specifically plan it that way, it's just how it worked out. (hopefully, this will not get me labeled a man-hater, too)

unlikelygrad said...

I did my undergrad quite a few years ago and not a single one of the courses in my major was taught by a woman. There were women in the department at BigStateU, but they either taught the upper-level courses which were not required or the lower-level classes for non-majors.

In grad school (16 years later) I got to take one (yup, just one of the 6 required courses) class from a female prof. I liked her so much that I chose her for my advisor.

Anonymous said...

Let's see... in undergrad (I'm a senior grad student now) the only FSPs I had were in my major, astrophysics, for which I had two. None in physics, none in chemistry, none in math.

My "advisor" in undergrad was a third FSP, but she was very scattered, and probably senior to the point where she should have retired or been emeritus, so I usually got my advising through my summer research project supervisors. I did three summer research projects, 2 of 3 were with men, 1 (also became my senior thesis) was with one of the same FSPs who taught one of my classes.

In my graduate program we're joint physics and astronomy, and there are a few FSPs, though none of them have taught me any classes (I don't think any of them teach any of the graduate course... maybe upper level ones in their specific sub discipline which I would never pay attention to?), and none are in astro (though that only occurred right before I arrived, and will be remedied before I leave).

Anonymous said...

I was a undergraduate student in humanities where there was a pretty even mix of male and female professors, 1:1.

I was a masters student in a science/clinical program where the ratio of male to female professors was about 2:1.

Now as a PhD student (female) in a basic science research program I have experienced a ratio of 3:1. And the ratio in my current lab group (where the PI is male) is 2:1. I don't want to make any broad conclusions, but one could argue there is a trend re: level of education and discipline.

Female Postdoc said...

I have had three post-college female PIs. My first I DEFINITELY respected, but she did not have the life I saw myself leading. My grad advisor I definitely did NOT respect - she lied and threw another (female) grad student under the bus more than once. My post-doc PI? She is absolutely the perfect role model for how I see myself in academia.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a life science. As an undergrad and MS student, all of the profs in my emphasis were male. I had female profs in other areas. For my PhD there was one female in my emphasis, but my advisor was a male. Although it's not the only reason I chose the postdoc I did (it's a great lab), I was initially drawn to the position because my mentor is a female (interestingly, I am the group's first female postdoc).

For my PhD I had three choices of schools, and two would have been with a female advisor. However, I was really drawn to the research and univ of the place I chose (which turned out to be quite male-dominated, but my advisor was aware of this and was great).

cherishthescientist.net said...

I had never had a female science (or engineering) professor until this past year when I took a class from a female professor in engineering and switched to a female advisor. When I did my undergrad, there were no women in the math or physics departments, and during my MS, there was a single female professor in the EE department, but she was in a field very different from mine. She and I did get to be friends, however, as there were so few women in the department that we all stuck close.

Tim said...

So you had a dirty creep advise you, and therefore you went out specifically to find a female advisor. And sexism was the reason you found none. So, you are basing your judgment on that one man that ruined it for you, early on.

StatsGirl said...

I'm in the field of statistics. As an undergrad all of my profs in math were men. In my PhD program (a research university), I've had 3 FSP's total, all junior faculty members. My adviser is a man. My biggest gripe, however, has been that between 90-100% of departmental speakers are men (depending on the year).

SBF said...

I'm a female TT prof in Engineering (30 y.o.). I was taught by two female Professors as an undergraduate, co-supervised by one for my Master's research and chose her as my PhD advisor (based on the unique research opportunity - never even thought about her gender). I didn't notice the male/female ratios among faculty or any gender-related issues particularly until I started on the Tenure Track myself. Somehow it wasn't until I hit the postdoc/faculty level that people started reminding me in little ways that I am a woman (and a minority to boot!). This also correlates with when I returned to the United States (University educated in the UK). I just stubbornly keep forgetting that this apparently has a relevance to my professional performance...

Just thought about it and realized that my engineering discipline was probably quite different from the other engineering departments at my undergraduate institution. I don't recall meeting any female profs from the other departments.

Anonymous said...

Current male PhD student in engineering here. I had several female professors as an UG, and more since starting grad school at a large research university. I'd estimate 4:1 (M:F) in all courses I've taken.

MS committee was 3:1 (M:F), while PhD committee is 1:1. Both primary advisers are male, though I believe this is was based on research interests.

I wonder if the ratios on grad. committees are representative of the distribution of professors, or if women are preferentially selected (or not selected) for these roles?

Pharm Sci Grad said...

Biochem BS, 5th year Pharm Sci Grad.

Undergrad: We had two female chemistry profs on TT, none yet tenured (out of ~20), but many of the non-TT instructors were female.

Grad School: We had three tenured FSPs (one left) and have 4 more on the TT in our rather large and diverse department. I was taught by multiple FSPs from various departments, including my own, but we'd have around 10-15 instructors per class (I took 3 courses that way).

In my smaller subdivision of the department, there are no FSPs - I go out of my way to make sure I spent time with FSPs because it is important to me (the one who was on my committee left). There are just some things my boss won't discuss/doesn't understand about being a female in science (although he's very supportive on the whole of females).

I also like pistachio ice cream and your blog posts - thanks for being another FSP for me to look up to!!! :)

Anonymous said...

It is an interesting question. There were female science professors in the department at my undergraduate institution but I had a male adviser and all male lecturers. Same is true in graduate school. There are female faculty members however my adviser is male and the courses have been taught by male professors. I had one course co-taught by a female engineering professor.

Anonymous said...

I am a Biochemistry PhD and my advisor was a woman. She is very respected in the field and in the department though she does have axtra work from being the token female on several committees. She has had a lab for about 13 years and in that time has trained about 25 graduate students all of whom are successful scientists.

prodigal academic said...

Sadly, I have never taken a course as an undergrad or grad student from a Female Science Professor. In both my undergrad and grad departments, there was one FSP, and she worked in an area very distant from my interests. I also never had an FSP in any of the science courses I took outside my department.

I do work in a male-dominated field, but I am still less than 10 years from my PhD, so this is pretty pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I am in Computer Science, and I did my undergrad in an engineering school in an Asian country. I have taken math and statistics classes in my undergraduate from an FSP, but not a single course in my field from an FSP, whether during undergrad or grad school.

In fact, before I went on the job market, I realized that I had never actually seen any woman interview for a job in all my years of grad school and postdoc. I had to seek out and ask a FSP in a different department what women wore to such academic job interviews.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Biology.

As an undergrad in a small PUI, half of my profs were female in my dept, and about 1/3 of my profs in chemistry (which I had a minor in) were female. Plus, my undergrad research mentor was female.

In my broad dept now, there is a problem with lack of female faculty and it seems to be field specific. In one broad field, the ratio is near 1:1, but in the other broad field it's like 1:10 (even though among grad students the ratio is almost 2:1 female:male).

So anyway, leaky pipeline, yadayada...

LMH said...

I am 33, female and I went to large state universities for undergraduate (chemistry) and graduate work (chemistry), and a government lab for postdoc (polymer chemistry). I will soon start a job in industry (large chemicals manufacturing company).

I had no female physics professors, but I did have 3 female chemistry professors, 2 math instructors, 1 biology professor who were female in undergraduate. In graduate school, half my lab was ladies(8/17), I took classes from 2 female professors, and am currently advised by a woman in my postdoc (although she's 1 of 4 permanent staff with a PhD in a large division, the rest of us ladies are postdocs or technicians).

In my future industrial job, I met no female PhD holders at my interview, samples size = 15 people.

It was depressing me that so many people responded that they had no female mentors. I had to chime in with what seems like my abundance of female mentors.

Jen said...

The biology dept. at my undergraduate university was 50% FSP, and my senior research advisor and academic advisors were both (very influential) FSPs. My Honours thesis advisor was male, but my immediate supervisor/mentor was a female staff scientist. My graduate and postdoc research mentors are male. My postdoc mentor is an excellent advocate for work/life issues, especially family leave, child-care issues, etc. I feel lucky that I have had such great advisors, male and female, at all stages in my education and career (I'm now in my late 30s, and looking for a TT position at a PUI).

old(?) white male science professor said...

I'm not so young anymore... but I'll chime in anyway.

I don't recall taking ANY courses as an undergraduate that were taught by female professors, never mind courses in my major. I did have some female graduate TA's though (in my science major courses, even).

As a graduate student, I did take at least two courses from two different female profs, one of whom served on my advisory committee, and for whom I worked as a TA. There were quite a few female graduate students in my program as well.

Jaraxle said...

I am a male postdoc in chemistry. I did my undergraduate and PhD research with outstanding female professors. In fact, my postdoc is the first time I have ever worked directly under a male boss/advisor.

Anonymous said...

I'm a female 32 year old PhD in chemical engineering. I earned both my BS and my PhD from top ten programs. I only took one course from a female science professor - an undergraduate biochemical engineering course that was team taught by three faculty, one of whom was a woman.

There were a few women faculty around (1 in my undergraduate department, 2 in my graduate department, and a handle in each chemistry department). All of the departments have hired additional women in the past ten years, but the representation is still 10-20%.

I had a pretty good undergraduate experience, and the terrible time I had in grad school was unrelated to sexism. (It's always a risk to be someone's first student...)

I originally went to grad school because I thought I wanted to be a professor. I decided pretty early on in the process that while I still liked the on-paper description of professor, it was not the job for me in practice. I don't know if having more female role models would have altered that view or not.

Anonymous said...

I'm mid-30s and an engineering professor. I had one female math prof/adjunct (non-PhD) in undergrad, and one female engineering professor co-teach a biology class in grad school. No other female course instructors! I knew three female faculty, but never had a class with them, nor were they on my committee. However, one of these women did talk about her career/life balance with me.

When I was in undergrad, I looked at the PhD students and thought "Half of them are women" - by the time I am a professor there will be lots more of us! I had not heard of the leaky pipeline at that point!

Dzon said...

This is beside the point, but I have to say that the "OMG you hate men!!!" rhetoric really bugs me. The man-hating thig is used as a kind of warning to hapless women - as if a "man hater" were the absolutely worst thing that a woman could be.

Yeah. I don't "hate men" and most women and most feminist do not "hate men". But this I have to say: the people who do and always have done most evil in the world - are men.

So, hating men - really not at all illogical.

Amy said...

I am not so young any more, but was never formally advised nor taught by a female prof. However, just before I defended my thesis, our department hired a young woman whose expertise was relevant to my thesis project, so she ended up on my thesis committee and has been a trusted advisor and friend ever since.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Pistachio? FSP, why do you hate chocolate so much?

I'm not a SP, so I have to dodge the post's main question, but I did want to speak up on the constant attacks by trolls (anonymous or otherwise). The fact that they bother to attack you means that your call-outs of institutionalized sexism is touching a nerve.

I used to wonder why, with comment moderation set up, you didn't just delete the trolls. But I now think it makes sense: if leave them out there, your readers can see what you/we are up against.

Blech.

Anyway, thanks for keepin' on, even in the face of shouty ignorance.

(and by the way, my word verification this time is "grantl" -- is this an omen of good things to come?)

femalepchemist said...

I'm a first-year grad student in physical chemistry. I am a woman, and this post actually was the first time I reflected on the all-male makeup of the professors who have taught and advised me. Maybe I didn't notice the male dominance because there have always been a sizable number of female students in classes/research groups along with me?

My undergraduate tiny liberal arts school had no female professors but only 4 professors total; however, I took all of my advanced math courses with a female professor. No women in the physics department though.

So far in grad school I have not had any female professors, but I expect to next semester. My adviser is male, and there are no women in my specific area of interest at my school. There are several senior grad students in my group who are female and make great mentors, for which I am grateful.

Alex said...

So you had a dirty creep advise you, and therefore you went out specifically to find a female advisor. And sexism was the reason you found none. So, you are basing your judgment on that one man that ruined it for you, early on.

Tim forgot to add that he took Straw Combustion Techniques 101 from a female professor.

If commenters like Tim would just start purchasing carbon offsets for all of the straw-women that they burn in your comments, this blog could set up its own offshore wind farm with the proceeds.

STP said...

I'm a TT assistant prof at a PUI.

As an undergrad biochem major, I had two female bio profs, no female chem profs (there was 1 in the dept.) and one very awesome female math prof.

In grad school, I worked with a female advisor on a short-term project, but ended up with a male for my PhD. She's the one that told me I shouldn't get married because it would ruin my career.

At my current institution, the bio dept. is 50% female (3 of 4 last hires were female) and the chem dept. is 50% female (last 3 hires were female).

unlikelygrad said...

I should add that my current department has 2 females out of ~20 TT profs, which is a lousy ratio. At least my advisor teaches one of the required courses for majors, so all of the graduating seniors can say they've had one class with a female. (There is a female research prof, but she doesn't teach or advise students.)

This year both my advisor and the other female prof are on sabbatical, making the male:female ratio 18:0. Yippee.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed when none of the 4 finalists for an opening in the dept last year were female.

Anonymous said...

Notorious PhD
"but I did want to speak up on the constant attacks by trolls (anonymous or otherwise). The fact that they bother to attack you means that your call-outs of institutionalized sexism is touching a nerve."


IIEEEKK!. Just because they have a different opinion does not make it an attack. My goodness! You want only people that agree sexism is a fact?

Anonymous said...

Dear FSP,

While I don't find your post sexist at all, there is always some emphasis against sexism. I'm a male professor at a small women's college. Recently I got on the college shuttle bus and a few girls got on. One of the girls said "hi girls" loudly. Then she realized that I was on the bus, stared at me, and rolled her eyes. She seemed very annoyed by my presence. Such a sexist experience was a horrible experience. I can't begin to imagine how many such experiences my female colleagues have to endure. I just hope this blog sheds some light on this issue to some of my male colleagues.

To answer your questions, I have only had male advisors, but several female mentors. I wish there were more women in my field.

female science grad said...

4th-year physics grad student, never taken a physics class from a female professor. At my undergrad institution maybe 6 out of the ~50 professors in the department were women, and I did interact with them via women-in-physics events and had one as a research adviser in my final year. I had female instructors (post-docs/lecturers but not professors) in my math classes, and since coming to grad school I've taken one electrical engineering class taught by a female professor - all my other classes at this institution have been taught by men.

Anonymous said...

I just read in my alumni magazine of the death of a professor at my alma mater, the person to whom I owe, in many ways, my career. She was, I learned in the obit, the first female science professor at our top 50 liberal arts college, and was still, when I was there in the late 1970s, the only woman in Biology. Sadly, at the time, I didn't even think of that--I guess it was just natural that professors were men.

She was also one of only two people in that Department that had, in the recent past, been active in research, and was the only one, at the time, who was aware of the revolution happening in Biology, starting with the molecular biology explosion in the mid to late 1960s. Through a second-semester junior year course in Virology, she opened my eyes to a totally new world, and got me excited about studying cell machinery. She then taught a seminar course to three students in my senior year (the other two women)--all of us are still actively involved in biological work, and two are full professors at R1 Universities. She also, through her professional connections, got two of us jobs at the nearby major university, and launched both of our careers.

She is one of three people to whom I dedicated my thesis, and I, along with many other students there, remain very happy there was at least ONE female science professor.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

I didn't notice the complete lack of female professors during my graduate work due to an extremely comfortable environment and having had several female professors as an undergraduate. My postdoctoral experience, however, has been an eye opening experience and I am very glad I had the foundation of female professors and supportive advisers earlier in my career.

I also appreciate the posts on sexism because I am slowly realizing that my previous experiences were unusually good (and my postdocl may not be unusually bad).

girlsaregeeks said...

I'm in biology, which tends to be more well-rounded overall, although I do still find less tenured female professors (though many tt). I was also fortunate to have a female advisor, but she was chosen by field and research interests, not gender, I've since post-doct-ed with two men and done well. However, as an undergrad, my female advisor was denied tenure, and she was replaced with another female advisor who I believe left the school after I graduated, so I don't know what was up with that. My current department is male heavy for sure (3 women, 12 men).

As a female trying to be a professor and family breadwinner, I'm in for improving the numbers!

Rosalind

Anonymous said...

My graduate advisor was a FSP who became a prof during a time when there were still few FSPs in her field. I think in some ways it made no difference for me to have an FSP advisor, since my field is closer to parity (I think ~30% of tenured faculty in this field are women on average) and about half the grad students in my dept were female.
She did once warn me not to cry in front of my committee, stating that they will lose respect for me if I do. I wasn't planning on crying and was somewhat offended that she would say something like that to me, especially since I'm pretty sure she'd never say the same to a male student. So, I think even FSPs can be guilty of treating women differently than men. Or maybe she just thought she was being helpful.
Generally, I think the specific Prof (and typically their age) reflect more whether they will treat their female advisees differently or not.
In terms of role models, though, it was nice to see her and other FSPs having children and also having very successful careers. It showed me that I don't necessarily have to choose between those two, something that I think those FSPs weren't sure was true when they decided to have kids.

eigenman said...

I wrote my undergraduate thesis while working under a female neuroscience professor. My two previous advisors (I had a long undergraduate career..) were both male. Subsequently I was a general-purpose RA in a rigorous social science at a Large Research Institution where two of perhaps 20 PhDs were female.

AppliedPhysicsProf said...

I am a late-30's, tenured female professor in a traditionally very macho enegineering discipline (i.e. very low representation of women). During my BS (physics), which was not in the US, there was one physics female prof and several TA's. My chemistry prof was also female. (The system is different than in the US -- BS studies are very focused, all the courses are either physics, math, or a bit of chemistry.) During my PhD in engineering in the US, I had only one female professor, she is in my field and we are good friends now. My PhD advisor was a man, we got along great and he has been very supportive of me. In my current department, there are 5 women out of 41 faculty, and we make sure all brochures and web materials emphasize what a large number of women we have and how family friendly we are. Kinda sad really, that 12% gets celebrated as extraordinarily high.

Anonymous said...

I had one FSP who team-taught (w/ a male prof) a science course in undergrad. When I started grad school, there were 0 women faculty in the department. When i graduated a year ago, there were 2 jr FSP. it still makes me sad. my major/ grad career was in earth sci.

Kea said...

The only Physics course I remember talking that was taught by a woman was an introductory astrophysics class. There was, I think, one female tenured academic at my undergrad institution over 20 years ago, and there are now only two tenured females at my postgrad institution. I have never done any research with another woman.

Mom, Ph.D. said...

I'm not an SP, but an SSP. Still male-dominated field, but not so much as the STEMs.

I took my son (10yrs) to a physics public lecture on campus. It was in a huge room--filled to capacity and almost all men.

My son noticed immediately. He respects physics immensely and was trying to wrap his head around why there were so few women. For him, physics = fascinating
physicists = brilliant
It now appears only men do physics
So .... women are not .... brilliant .... and can't do physics (since physics is so fascinating, women would do it if they could)?

He decided women can be brilliant and do other things. But he still isn't clear on why that room was packed with men. He says he's never been in such a "man-only place" (and with his mom, no less!).

I must say that after seeing that audience, I gained new appreciation for women in the sciences.

Anonymous said...

I never thought about this before; thank you, FSP, for the interesting question.

I went to Catholic high school and a Catholic college, and throughout, I was taught math and science and other subjects by many amazing professors, both male and female. Your question prompted me to think about the selfless and energetic Sisters who were a subset of my teachers. Indeed, these were my first mentors and role models. Catholic schools get some bad press, but I am grateful for the stellar educational experiences that I had. (And I'm not even Catholic...)

Now that I am a tenure-track prof, working all the hours, I actually kind of live like a nun, too.

Anonymous said...

I am a 60-year-old academic physician. I had zero female profs in science/math in college. I had zero female profs in the basic sciences in med school. The only female profs I recall were in pediatrics, obstetrics, and psychiatry. My med school class was about 10% female.
Times have changed - for the better.

Anonymous said...

FSP, why do you hate sexism so much?

I wasn't going to respond to your question because I am in biology, in a subfield that has had many prominent women since ... oh early 20th C, I suppose. But then, through the day I started thinking about my professors. I may have had one female prof in a team-taught course my freshman year, but that was it. There were female profs around, for my BS and PhD, but not many and I never happened to take a course with them. But there were many non-TT women and many female TAs who made me feel very comfortable in the sciences. I guess I was pretty clueless back then about the implications for all these female lecturers.... What the hell: Hurray for cluelessness! (Of course, now that I am TT myself, I see things a wee bit differently.)

Anonymous said...

I'm a 30-year-old tenure track mathematician at a research university. I had no FSPs in college or grad school, and in both cases the math department had no women with tenure at all.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently a third-year grad student in physics; and as an undergrad, I had one female instructor for an intro astronomy and one for a physics lab (aand one of my classmates laughingly pretended to grab her behind in the first week ...). I've had 2 out of my 10 courses in grad school taught by female professors. My advisor is male, and all of the profs in our smallish (~50 people) collaboration are male (one of whom refuses to believe that I can handle a drill -- sheesh).

a physics lurker said...

I'm a grad student in physics and have never been advised by or taken a physics class from a woman. It seems likely that this won't change before I get my PhD. I did take a computer science class from a woman once.

outoftune said...

I did my undergrad in engineering, finished in 2008.

In each of the three sci/eng departments where we took most of our classes, there was a higher ratio of female:male profs than there were female:male students in my class cohort.

Anonymous said...

Did my undergraduate major in physics (finished in 2001) and never had a female professor. Department was ~25 professors.

Anonymous said...

I have been very lucky in having strong female role models, starting with a great great-grandmother, and continuing onto thesis and postdoc advisors who were female. I have had several male mentors as well, and yes I am in a male dominated field. Now I am the only female in my department and it gets lonely. So do keep up your blog. It helps men too.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a first year grad student in p-chem, but I went to a women's college for my undergraduate work. I treasured that environment while I had it. Now I'm happily in a co-ed grad program, but I did notice that I'm one of three/one of four women in my classes (class size ~20). Women are only slightly underrepresented in my cohort as a whole, so there's a clear difference in the p-chem track classes.

I had no lack of female role models in the professors there. My department was almost entirely female and there were many female professors in the other science departments...men, apply for jobs at women's colleges! We want you here! The three most recent hires in my department (TT, visiting, and lab instructor) were all women because very few qualified men applied. We do our first round of resume-sorting with names removed and very few of the male applicants have the credentials to make it to the interview stage.

Ann said...

Interestingly, i never did have a woman prof, advisor or mentor. I did have several very supportive, antisexist male profs and mentors though.

Anonymous said...

I'm female, just starting a post doc. In my undergrad I had 2 physical science/engineering courses co-taught by a female and 2/4 of the humanities cross faculty requirement courses taught by a female. None of the courses for my grad requirements were taught by a female.

From the advising point of view, my PhD supervisor is a male - and at least when it comes to male/female students he doesn't show any difference. Funnily enough his first 4 students (including myself) were all female - he began to wonder out loud if males didn't like him that much as many of the newer applicants were also female. Now there is an almost 50:50 ratio in that group.
My post-doc supervisor is female and the only one in my field at this university. As I needed to stay in the same place for sometime and she was the only one with a project that was interesting I signed on with her. I am yet to see if she will be a good mentor or not. I sincerely hope so as all my previous experiences with senior female researchers and my female peers in grad school have lead me to form a negative opinion about my own sex.

yse said...

Meeee! I'm in my last year of graduate school in physical chemistry. I am a woman. I have never been advised (in a research setting) by a woman, nor have I ever taken a class on the collegiate level taught by a woman in any of the following: math/physics/chemistry/computer science. I have had ONE female teaching assistant (Organic Chemistry).

I did, however, have a woman (who had a PhD!) teach me my first ever chemistry course in high school when I was 14. I also had an undergraduate advisor (for coursework, etc...) who was an older woman (she get her PhD during the depression!) who was fantastic. I credit both of these women for really inspiring me to continue on in science.

zed said...

Never thought about this before. My degrees are in biology/math and earth science (BSc, MSc and PhD) and through all that I've had 1.5 courses taught by FSP. But then, I'm getting old.

lauren said...

I'm not a scientist but I wanted to say thanks for posting this. I've found the responses to be dead interesting.

I love "Mom, PhD"'s anecdote about her son's trying to come to grips with the "man-only" environment of interesting physics!

Here's a more encouraging anecdatum: I work in a law centre. I was seeing a new client, and as we sat down in the office, did introductions, and started reviewing paperwork, the client's young (~4 yo) daughter looked curiously at me. Finally she stage-whispered to her mother: "Is she [me] a doctor?"

A happy sign that the "boys-are-doctors;girls-are-nurses" days might be receding behind us!

chemprof said...

I am a tenured prof (mid 30s so you decide if that is old or young) and have never been taught by or worked with another female prof. It was only when as a postdoc I really noticed the male dominated environment, but not in a negative way. I've been lucky to have always worked with supportive men, and found them easy to work with.
Having said all that, what I have reflected on is that I am the only woman ever to get tenure in my department, and we are an old school. What is strange is that this is somehow something we shouldn't talk about as it might look bad or something. This was particularly clear to me when I commented in a meeting that one of the reasons I like teaching undergrads is because they then see a successful, highly research active female prof. The others didn't disagree, but certainly were uncomfortable about it being pointed out.

Anonymous said...

Dear FSP,

Why do you hate vanilla ice cream?

If you're really a cat lover, why don't you just spend more time petting/photographing cats? And why aren't more of your posts about cats?

You spend so much time denigrating vanilla ice cream (the most popular flavor!) that it's hard to see how you could get any serious cat photography done.

Look, if pistachio ice cream was really as good as vanilla ice cream, I'd know (because I'm brilliant and have good taste). In fact, I've never even tasted pistachio ice cream, which just goes to show how rare your misguided preference for that flavor must be.

Your obvious hatred for vanilla ice cream has clearly warped your perspective. I think you should consider some form of therapy to help you see past your prejudice and become normal (like me).

Sincerely (for certain unusual values of sincerity),
The Ice Cream Man

MathTT said...

Haven't read the comments yet, but here's my story: I'm both young (ish) and old (ish) academic-wise because I took over 10 years off between undergrad and PhD.

I never had a female professor in math. There was just one in my (very large, prestigious) undergrad dept, and I never had a class with her. There was also only one in my (much smaller, still prestigious) grad dept, and I never had a class with her either. When I joined my (small, not as prestigious) dept as a prof, I doubled the number of women in our ranks.

I started undergrad planning to do chemistry, and my very first chem prof was a woman, though.

American in Oxbridge said...

Never once had a female science or engineering professor, had one female math professor. Still look hard at the issue: recently chose to send no students on a short course where the lecturers were all male. When I chatted with one of them about it he seemed surprised--as usual it had not occurred to him to notice.

Anonymous said...

Undergrad, SLAC: 2 FSPs in a department of ~40 that covered bio/chem/physics. Took both their classes. One was great and tough as nails, the other was one of those ladies who goes along to get along.

Grad State U: 3 FSPs in a life science department of 12. Another tough-as-nails but did not teach any of my classes, other two thought that feminism was sooooo 1970s. Took a course with a CompSci professor not in my department, she was great.

Grad Private U: 3 FSPs in an eng department of 16. There used to be four, but one quit to go back to industry. I took her course, which was wonderful.

What was really valuable wasn't the role modeling though. What truly helped was female professors telling me explicitly that because I was female and working class, I was always going to have to work harder--they, and some of the truly enlightened male professors, insisted that we non-wealthy females take public speaking courses, learn to role-play with men in a way that somehow conveys an "older sister" attitude, learn to deal with the sexism straight-on. They didn't beat around the bush, they said "no one is going to give you a pass on this because you are female and working class. You need to be better than your male colleagues, you are going to be taxed on every tiny little stumble that would never be held against a man. In case you haven't noticed, life is not fair."

Jon said...

In my undergraduate career, I had no female profs teaching me math, physics, or computer science. None of those departments had women faculy until Physics hired one my final year (package deal with her husband, both top-notch individuals, as a matter of fact.)

In graduate school, I had a single course taught by a woman.

Anonymous said...

I am 4th year physics undergrad. I had two science classes taught by women, both - intro-level, none on them physics or math. There are two tenured women in the physics dpt. of my Big State U, both hired more than 20 years ago, and one woman was hired recently.

Anonymous said...

I have just done a university based course on graduate supervision without the issue of gender or culture coming up once. Hmmmm.

Bagelsan said...

I have just done a university based course on graduate supervision without the issue of gender or culture coming up once. Hmmmm.

Oh, don't worry about that stuff! A class I attended recently on how to pick a mentor did address gender, and when all the female students in the room stayed dead silent while the three male profs looked around to see if anyone had anything to say in response to "are there advantages to having a female mentor?" those scholarly dudes wisely concluded that it probably didn't matter to female students at all. So I think it's been resolved, that female mentors aren't really important. ;p

As for my experiences -- biology BA, current bio grad student -- I've just sort of happened upon female mentors for every step so far. My undergrad faculty was about 50% female (in the life sciences, at least) and my grad school faculty is definitely majority male... but my research interests have always happened to align with the FSPs more than the MSPs, so I've wound up in their labs, and even my randomly-assigned undergrad summer internship mentor was a woman (who was fantastic.)

Really, all of my female mentors have been fantastic so far. Sometimes having a FSMentor has been actively helpful to me, and I've never found it to be actively harmful (at least, personal relationship or quality-of-science wise. No guarantees on stuff like funding equality...)

Mike in Houston said...

I am just now retiring from a 42-year career as a chemical engineer. My interest in anything scientific or mathematical was started by a terrific women high school biology and chemistry teachers. Many of the math teachers in university were women, but none of the upper-level science and none of the engineering professors were women. During my career I have managed or mentored several VERY intelligent and qualified women in the chemical engineering profession, but they seemed to have a different set of "unspoken corporate rules" which they followed. The gulf between the genders is still enormous, but I can point to several senior level engineers, VP's, etc who are women.

GamesWithWords said...

My advisor and department chair are both women. In fact, I think there was only one man among the potential advisors I considered when applying to graduate school. Of my class in graduate school, there are 9 women and 4 men.

That is psych, which is increasingly female-dominated. Was was a math major in college; I believe our small department had two female faculty. I had two classes with one of them. I also had two classes with a female biological anthro prof. Of my two neuroscience classes, one prof was female. I only had one physics class (male professor).

Anonymous said...

I got my PhD in 2008. I took a gen ed biology class as an undergrad that was taught by a woman, and I had a couple female math teachers. But I can't remember any female physical science professors, either at the undergraduate or graduate level.

This is freaking me out now. I hadn't realized this before.