Friday, July 21, 2006

A Changed Man

I should mention the second conversation that I had with the professor who, when I was in grad school, asked if I was doing a Ph.D. because I couldn't find anyone to marry me. The first was the can't-find-anyone-to-marry-you conversation, and then there is a gap of about 20 years until the second, which occurred very recently at a conference. This professor walked up to me (surprising me greatly that he knew who I was and was interested in speaking with me) and started talking about the importance of encouraging young women to be scientists and how great it is to see so many women at conferences these days and how it's very moving for him as a professor to see women progress from student to professor. My jaw must have dropped to the floor, I was so stunned. After he walked away, a colleague who had heard the conversation explained: "His daughter is getting her Ph.D. in oceanography." Hooray for his daughter (and daughters in general) and for him for 'evolving' and supporting his daughter in her career choice.


ScienceWoman said...

It's nice to see someone who can realize the error of their old ways. If only there were more.

Anonymous said...

Some of the most supportive mentors I have had (all male -- I am in a very male-dominated field) have been the fathers of daughters and daughters only. My own father says that it was only having me and my sister that opened his eyes to the pervasiveness and real impact of sexist language and assumptions in our culture. I think it makes a real difference and I hope that it will continue to make a real difference.

Flying seagulls: sez you! Troll.

Anonymous said...

Wait, there's a third type of conversation, one that I had with my second chairman (the first left - was terminated - shortly after I arrived). I was asked to come into his office, before he would sign off on two doctoral students 'officially' joining my laboratory:

Chair: I'm not sure that I can sign off on your being the advisor for these students.

Me: Excuse me? (Background: two new federally-funded three-yr grants, each with a doctoral stipend available for a student)

Chair: Well, how do I know you are not going to meet a man and run off and be with him?

(I kid you not, he said that).

Me: You don't. But how do I know that you aren't going to meet a man and run off with him, and abandon the department?

(He didn't think it was funny - but he signed the forms.)

Anonymous said...

Pam: That's insane. What year did this happen, by the way-- was it recently?

BTW, sometimes fathers of daughters can come around to equality for the sexes yet show no improvements in the racial equality department, unfortunately.

Maxine Clarke said...

Hello, I have just discovered your blog via Natalie Bennett at Philoblon. I love your entries and the comments - well, a mixture of enjoyment in reading and pain on what you are identifying.
I am an ex-scientist and have been an editor at Nature for many years. I have added your blog to my Bloglines subscriptions and will be back! All my very best, your blog is excellent.
Best wishes
Maxine (aka Petrona at

Maxine Clarke said...

Sorry for the typo. I meant Philobiblon.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Shellie: It was a conversation that occurred about 9 years ago. I was in the 2nd or 3rd year of my first tenure track faculty appointment - and it was at that 2-yr mark when students fill out the official forms for designating their faculty advisor.

I had numerous conversations that were equally appalling.

I'm a Ph.D. in a medical school in the south - I don't like to make broad generalizations - but my experiences have been pretty eye opening down here. I'm still here (and in a better situation thanks to an excellent attorney) - a new department and a new chairman. Issues related to women in science are 30 yrs behind many other places - that are already behind as well.

Interestingly, on the subject of daughters - one of our building's staff engineers, who can be difficult to deal with (and who still probably doesn't think I'm a "real" scientist) - has been nicer lately because his daughter, who just got her BS in Biology, desperately wants a position in my laboratory. It's softened him for sure - I'm waiting to see if that translates to him being more responsive to my laboratory's building requests!

Anonymous said...

I mentioned Pam's story on another blog. Feel free to stop by to see some additional reactions.

Q said...

Aww, cute. Also, the male professor apparently found someone to marry him.