Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Too Many Women

Each fall, our department has a career forum for students (undergraduate, graduate) and anyone else who wants to come. There is typically a panel with representatives from various types of academic institutions (small colleges, research universities, medium-sized universities), from industry, and from government agencies. The panel members speak briefly about their jobs and then there is a lot of interactive question-answer time with the audience. After,there is informal social time for additional interaction between students and the panel members. It's a great thing, and it's organized by a female assistant professor in my department. What's not to like?

One of my senior male colleagues approached me to discuss his concerns about this forum. I don't know why he came to talk to me. I have nothing to do with the organization of the forum. All the credit for it goes to my junior colleague, who initiated it and organizes it.

He was concerned because the forum is "female-dominated". Most of the speakers are women, and of course the organizer is a woman.

I asked him: "Why is this a problem?" Apparently it is obvious, but he spelled it out for me, since I was having trouble understanding: Male students might feel "excluded" from the forum because there are more women than men involved.

This is the point at which I stared at him, stunned. And then I laughed. There were so many possible responses, and not all of them nice.

Opting for nice (as usual), I said: "If I refused to attend departmental events because they were dominated by the opposite gender, I would never leave my office."

He said: "But that's different." End of conversation.


Amelie said...

Of course that's different. Because male domination is normal. Oh dear. Sometimes I'm shocked by your stories -- I had hoped these minds would emeritus by now...

Anonymous said...

I'm also shocked. Most of your stories make your department sound so discriminatory, it's hard to believe they hired you and gave you tenure.

saxifraga said...

And people wonder why the percentage of women in science is so low....Unbelievable! This is worse than anything I have experienced, yet.

Great blog by the way. I just found it today. I will come back.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the irony! You handled it well, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. Reminds me of that awful letter to Nature a couple of weeks back: but the committee was all women! Couldn't be right!

Lovely response though.

Anonymous said...

That last line is *priceless*.


Ms.PhD said...

It's not different. Was that really the end of the conversation?? Did he just walk away??

Great response. I just wish we were allowed to use sledgehammers to get it through their thick skulls.

Zuska said...

A sledgehammer would just bounce off granite like that.

Anonymous said...

oh. my. god.

Some people are SO thick. I have immense respect for you for dealing with them and not throwing them out the window!

(I can't remember how I found my way over here, but I'm de-lurking to express my disgust!)

Wanna Be Mother said...

WOW!!! I laughed out loud at that comment. Poor boys, that's so sad that they might feel excluded at one department activity. Did he ever apologize, or at least acknowledge how incredibly ironic that statement is, especially when speaking to an FSP?

Your blog is addicting.