Thursday, June 17, 2010

FSP Check List

After writing about general academic issues in The Chronicle of Higher Education for the past year or so, I wrote a column specifically about being a Female Science Professor. Predictably, there are a mix of negative and positive comments, but most are positive, much like the comments to posts on that topic here in the FSP blog.

The first comment to appear in the CHE re. my column, however, was a classic one: men in other fields have it hard too, a woman has won a Nobel Prize in physics so women physicists "ain't all that rare", and I should "shut up".

In the column, I picked almost at random a few example incidents to mention about my experiences as a Female Science Professor. In the comments, there are examples of other sexist incidents, all of which I have also experienced. This gave me the idea to make a list of all the ones mentioned -- and ask blog readers to add to the list -- and then we can check off the ones we've personally experienced. Kind of like Sexism Bingo, but in list form.

Here's what I've got so far:

__ Someone who has read your papers and doesn't know you assumes the papers were written by a man.

__ Someone mentions that hiring/including women might involve a lowering of standards.

__ Someone refuses to believe a woman is a professor (extra credit if disbelief persists after being told unambiguously that a woman is a professor).

__ A particular person (student or colleague) routinely and aggressively questions the knowledge/expertise/authority of a female professor but does not do so with male professors.

__ Someone assumes that your co-author is your adviser rather than a colleague, even though you have been out of grad school for quite a while.

__ Someone says, contrary to the data, that in fact women aren't all that rare in your field because they know (or know of) at least one.

__ The men in your field are simply known as scientists or engineers or researchers etc., but you are typically referred to as a female scientist, female engineer, female researcher etc.

__ When you are in the department office, visitors assume you are an administrative assistant (extra credit if people, including students, command you to do a task for them without even asking if this is your job).

__ Someone tells you that you shouldn't complain about sexism because men have difficult lives too.


Anonymous said...

Your advisor introduces you to the only living equivalent of a Nobel prize winner in your area by saying that you're a great cook.

ScientistMother said...

_ someone tells you the claws are coming out when you speak your mind

_ someone tells you that if you were polite, these things wouldn't happen to you

Ann said...

someone tells you "we dont like to hire women because it is so hard to deny you people tenure"

someone tells you that the journals have lowered their standards and the reason is because "Its the women".

seminar speaker throws in some less serious topic "for the ladies in the audience"

Conference speaker notes that of 2 competing calculations, one was done by 2 men, the other, which fits the data better,was done by 1 woman "so we see in this case 1 woman beats 2 men" and the audience thinks this is hilarious.

Conference attendee assumes you are a spouse and it quite taken aback to find you are a physicist

Guy going on about not being able to understand how i can manage to do my job and take care of children (even though he is a parent himself)

Guy asking a women conference speaker after her talk (which was on space science and had absolutely nothing to do with women in science) "you seem like you have had a successful career and haven't been held back, so why are women always complaining about sexism?"

Guy making dinner conversation at a conference "so now that so many women have gone into science why is it that there no GREAT women scientists?" (this one I have heard on a handful of occasions)

Actually though, I must say these incidents are bizarre, not normal, and most of the egregious incidents are from older guys while I usually dont experience such wierd comments or behavior from younger guys. Also it seems to me that racial minorities, especially blacks, have it a LOT worse.

Rebecca said...

I have two good ones, one of which happened to me, one happened to a colleague:
* You are talking with another woman scientist and a man comes up and asks what you are plotting (because you couldn't possibly be talking about science or just shooting the breeze -- you must be plotting the downfall of men).

* Someone invites you to be on a proposal so that he can ask you out on a date.

Anonymous said...

- create an anonymous blog so you feel safe to complain about everything that goes on in your life/work.

Anonymous said...

My favorite one:
- Senior MSP: we did not get/ask any women for interesting job X because there are no suitable candidates (in my field, typically the pool of suitable candidates has 15% women)

JaneB said...

How about, when you answer the phone in your own office, i.e. on your own direct phone number, and announce yourself in your unavoidably female-ish voice as Professor Y, the caller asks if they can leave a message for the Professor?

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with these more! I've definitely been mistaken as a student, mistaken for staff, and repeatedly been called 'Miss' rather than Doctor or Professor by students (even when they're in my office surrounded by evidence of my research and degrees).

Being told I shouldn't discuss sexism has shown up in multiple forms, including when I was told by a senior male professor that I was lucky that I only had to deal with aggression from male students. In contrast, he said, male professors have it much worse because they can be tricked by the feminine wiles of undergraduate students, and then later be accused of sexual harassment by the same student! I was left speechless.

Anonymous said...

___ You make a suggestion at a faculty meeting that is ignored, but when a male colleague makes it, it is hailed as brilliant

___ Difficult and sometimes less accomplished students are shuttled your way because "they just need a more nurturing environment to succeed"

___ It is assumed that you should be the person to lead any initiative that purports to make life 'better' for women in the institution because, after all, you're the one who is going to benefit from it.

___ Students assume that it is perfectly OK to come talk to you about personal issues like relationships with parents and the opposite sex when they would never dream of doing the same thing with your male colleagues

___ When you feel strongly about something, any passion you express is inevitably attributed to women being more emotional. Extra credit if someone suggests re-visiting the issue at "a different time of the month" to make sure your feelings haven't changed.

I could go on, but that would only confirm some of my colleagues suspicions that I am in the position I am in only because I'm female and I don't actually DO anything.

Anonymous said...

I've experienced 7 out of 9. But I don't take it personally. It doesn't mean that sexism exists, after all. It only means that everyone knows I would not have scored in the top 0.01 percentile on the math SAT, if I had taken it in seventh grade, which I did not.

Lighten up, FSP!

Anonymous said...

can I just say it is sad how much of this is true for women in academia in general? (and probably for women in all fields I would suspect) It just makes me sad that for all that we have come a long way, things are still this bad...

(being mistaken as an Administrative Assistant is the biggest one I run into personally given my particular job...)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add these to the list:

__ Colleagues and/or superiors questions the priorities and commitment to science of female students/faculty who had the audacity to become pregnant/have a child, but makes no such remarks regarding male students/faculty who become fathers.

__ Someone suggests that a pregnant student/faculty member would be better off having an abortion.

__ In a medical school, faculty and attending physicians simply assume that female students are not interested in any fields other than pediatrics, internal medicine, or ob/gyn. The corollary to this is the equally unfair assumption that men do not go into these fields.(Note: This is not to disparage medicine, peds, or ob, which are all great fields, but there are female pathologists, cardiologists, and orthopedic surgeons too...)

__ In a department where >50% of the students are female, there is only 1 (not yet tenured) female professor.

__ The response to a female receiving a department chair or higher-level position is "Oh, I guess she got the job because the committee had to choose a female."

__ There are clear and reasonable policies in place for those who need to leave school/work temporarily for other medical reasons, but no policy in place for maternity leave. And accommodations are made for events such as skiing injuries but not for pregnancy-related complications because getting pregnant was "your choice." (I guess the guy with the broken arm was sent down the slopes at gun point?)

Anonymous said...

Sad to report that all these have happened to me, as a PhD student or later:

_being told you're too pretty to be a scientist

_being mistaken for your advisor's assistant, not his grad student

_disbelief that you're a PhD student, not a MS student

_going to a conference where <15% of attendees are women (bonus points if the organizing committee was all men, and gee! They seem to have forgotten to invite women speakers)

_being told that "not many women have what it takes to be serious about research"

There are more, but those are the ones that anger me the most.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure this fits in your list, but this is what happened. (Or it might fit roughly under the office-job-request item.)

My (Female) boss scheduled a lab party for a Friday afternoon. I had already taken off that afternoon for an outside-of-work social services project. It's a monthly obligation for me. I was asked to find someone else to cover the project because I was required to be at the party - it was my duty as a lab member.

My (Male) colleague and I stood in the hall and stared at each other incredulously for a while. I asked him if he had ever been asked NOT to do something like this social services project.

His interpretation was that it reflected a bias held by our boss that female faculty spend too much time on events involving caring for family or others. (This is a bias stated explicitly by our boss occasionally.) Her anger that I would miss the party stemmed from this bias. He said he'd never experienced a similar incident from our boss. "But," he asked me, "How often have you been asked to move furniture? She asks me to move stuff all the time." I've never been asked to move furniture - although, ironically, I'm the one who usually rearranges stuff.

Anonymous said...

As a female engineering grad student, I used to be asked often (2-3 times a year, before I finally protested) to supply baked goods for department or research group events. I've never seen any faculty request homemade cookies from a male graduate student, and I've never given any indication that I particularly enjoy baking.

Alyssa said...

I got 8 out of 9.

Here are a couple more:

Someone tells you that you're taking things too seriously or you're too emotional when you try to discuss an incident involving sexism.

Someone says that it is unfair or discriminatory if there is an only-women event at a conference/meeting.

Someone asks why you bothered getting a PhD if you're "just going to have children"

DRo said...

__You attend a science conference banquet and old white scientist raises a toast "to all of our wives for their support"

__You are told that you won't be interested in a TT position once you have children.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

A student in your office addresses the male lecturer you share an office with as "Professor X," then in the same breath addresses you by first name.

Anonymous said...

This happened to me as a postdoc:

Your (male) advisor invites (male) out-of-town expert in your small subfield for seminar. Following seminar, there is small group meeting with out-of-town speaker, advisor, you, and another (male) postdoc. Out-of-town speaker spends entire meeting talking only to other men and does not acknowledge your presence with even so much as fleeting eye contact.

Rosie Redfield said...

Undergraduate students address you as 'Mrs. X', but address their male professors as 'Professor X'.

Anonymous said...

and I thought for a moment your writing for the Chronicle meant you had abandoned anonimity....

Great answer to the commenter in question by another commenter:

"You are correct, Maria Goeppert-Mayer won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963. You forgot Marie Curie, though, who won in 1903.

And Marie Curie (same one), Irène Joliot-Curie, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, and Ada E. Yonath each won the Chemistry Prize in 1911, 1935, 1964, and 2009, respectively.

Since 1901, there have been five (5!) female Nobel laureates in Physics and Chemistry. The rest of the laureates were men: 186 in Physics and and 156 in Chemistry. I'll let you do the math, which I hope helps you realize how rare we really are."

Love your list and the additions

Mark P

Anonymous said...

A colleague says to a young FSP "But I wouldn't want to hire a female graduate student since she'd just get married and have babies." Why does he think this way AND why does he think I'd be interested to know this about him?

Anonymous said...

Certain family members, despite having attended your thesis defense, "forget" that your appropriate title is Dr.

Anonymous said...

- You're queried why it is women seem to need female mentors more - after all "I never needed to see people like me in science to believe I could succeed" and "men just get on with it more and don't worry about that" - this said by a white, heterosexual man in a field that is ~90% white, 80+% male (at the professor level, grad school is closer to 55% female) WTH - everyone you see who is successful is like you on at least those easy to see levels
- being told that the best strategy when someone is aggressively arguing with you on a point where the data are CLEARLY in favor of the point you're very nicely trying to make is to "back down or they'll think you're a bitch" {note: I do choose bitch over doormat but what a choice}

Susan B. Anthony said...

____ "I know you got into grad school, but the job market in Science is bad right now. Maybe you should think about going into science education? Wife-of-male-student-who-got-into-same-grad-school-as-you is doing that."

____ "There aren't any women on the colloquium schedule because none of the female faculty members suggested anyone."

____ "You'll be great for this committee because it'll be good for our department to be represented by a woman." [at a time when I was the only female faculty member]

Anonymous said...

I submitted the anon list by the physics Phd student. I would like to add two more (the first happened to me, the second happened to a grad in my dept):

___ Your advisor and other professors ask you to babysit their kids. Extra points if female PhD students in your dept actually do babysit for their advisors.

___ Your advisor asks you to do something humiliating in order to agree to fund you, e.g. at a conference, to go flirt with an ugly other scientist.

Anonymous said...

Some of FSP's list have happened to me, and I should mention I am a grad student at a top institution about to finish my PhD in physics. Here are some others that have happened to me personally:

___ At a department function or social event, a visitor assumes you are a wife of a scientist and not a scientist yourself.

___ At the same department event from above, you are the only woman there who is not a stay-at-home mom.

___ A fellow scientist in your field or at your institution will never look you in the eyes when speaking to you, yet always makes eye contact when speaking to male colleagues. I've had this happen with senior as well as younger people (other grad students).

___ At a conference while in a discussion with colleagues about your own research topic, another (who is unfamiliar with your work) says that you must be so bored talking about such a high level topic.

___ Someone tells you your entirely reasonable work is too ambitious/not possible and tells you explicitly to have lower expectations of yourself. (Do people say this to men? I've heard it a few times.)

___ Someone assumes you did not write an accepted proposal and that a male colleague or superior must have written it (or that the project wasn't your idea).

___ Someone tells you not to talk about women or minority in science issues because it makes people think you are not committed to science.

___ Someone assumes you won a prestigious award/got a good job because you are female and not because you earned it.

___ Someone asks if you are getting your PhD in science to meet a husband.

GMP said...


I have heard every single one of the items on your list.

Here's a few more (the list is not exhaustive):

-- Colleague says we should not insist on hiring more women so as not to lower the quality of the

-- Everyone at the conference assumes I am a postdoc (mid-TT faculty). The only person who bothers to ask does so "Are you your own person?" (meaning am I my own boss)

-- Male colleague telling me, after a faculy meeting at which I dared to speak up, not to get upset (I didn't) and that I need to better articulate my thoughts (since they apparently come out all funny from my silly lady mouth)

I have lots more...

Anonymous said...

Graduate advisor repeatedly discusses with me how a faculty position is too difficult for women with children (now that I have a child).

Anonymous said...

** When you are in YOUR OWN office, visitors assume you are an administrative assistant **

and then, when you point out that you are not the admin, are told "Oh, you must be the student worker, then!"


The dean at your small college in a small town tasks you with working with a local woman's group, and the project they decide on is a booklet highlighting local women who work in science - including the town's portrait photographer.

scurb said...

___ Male committee member from another department walks into a PhD thesis defense and ignores the person who is obviously defending and looks around in confusion (there are about three people in the room and she's the only one dressed up like she's about to defend)

___ Same male committee member finally realizes that he's at the defense of a female physicist, starts criticizing her thesis, but pauses to say, "I thought for sure by the way this was written that you were a man."

___ Me: "I would love to have lunch but I'd like to go to this 'Women in Physics' session." Him: "Is that 'womyn' with a 'y'?"

hkukbilingualidiot said...

I have some extremes,

_You can't wear dresses, even if you love them, in fear of being 'unprofessional', 'a distraction' or being told that you've been trying to 'seduce' male colleagues. (I just like wearing dresses!)

_You were hired only because you were pretty and the department was just too rich in testosterone (My CV was not even given a was so satisfying to humiliate my boss then at his very research interest)

_Your legs get checked out EVERY time your skirt finishes a little short of your knee when in conversation with male colleagues. (Eye-contact, please!)

_Your job is only to put a woman's name on the research paper to show equality.

I'm not making ay of these up but it's happened enough times that I've got used to it. I stopped caring a while back and just takes a few extra steps and precautions to be who I want to be and dress the way I want to dress. Afterall, no matter what I do or say I'm a pretty, highly attractive and successful female physical scientist. Whatever I say or do have the tendency to be interpreted as seducing or filled with innuendos that I might as well let them believe what they want and just enforce a quiet revolution. By changing the way I am to avoid trouble will only make the situation worse. All we can do is to find a compromise and the will learn, eventually, that we are equal in everyway. You just need to learn to pick the battles worth fighting.

My way: let the men have their pride and egos, let them show off but when it gets ridiculous just gently remind them that they are acting stupid. Twice is usually enough and they will become weary of showing off too much in front of you ever again. But you just need to be cautious of how you do it and when or it will backfire really bad and you will never be able to hold your position for a very long time. (It works for insecure female advisor too in case you were wondering)

hkukbilingualidiot said...

I forgot to add,

_having traumatic sexual harassment meant that you are not interested in talking about science outside the lab with other guys (i.e. physicists, despite being a chemist herself)

That was from a PhD student in my undergrad lab who ended up with the job of proving the theory I developed with our supervisor before I graduated. (The whole department knew about my sexual harrassment complaint during my placement the admins, unfornately all women, to thank for!)

Anonymous said...

One of my personal favorites from my graduate school was a comment by a faculty member meant as a compliment, at a reception, "Surely, you're not a physicist". "Surely, I am" I said.

One of the worst I ever heard of happened to my officemate when she was an undergraduate in the Midwest, in engineering curriculum, during the 60-ies - her instructor asked her in front of her class if she planned to get sterilized.

Anonymous said...

Probably the most annoying one that happens on a fairly regular basis to me is being called by my first name when others are addressed as "Professor" or "Dr." Then the student and/or parents ask me to do ridiculous things for them like fetch things for them that they would never ask of a male professor.

Anonymous said...

Oh - another couple I forgot!
- Have people comment that you were "flirting" with a famous male scientist because you asked him questions about his work (isn't that why we bring in famous scientists?)
- Do 90% of the (grueling) physical work on a project (with male colleagues) and then have people comment how nice it must have been to work with such big strong men - who know might be if they actually got off their butts!

Anonymous said...

Adviser refuses to introduce a 2-month pregnant advisee to his peers while she is on the job market because "you should be storing up the fat for the hard times ahead."

Esther Haines said...

Told to me by colleagues:
- Professional women don't get pregnant.

- Serious academics do not have two children. (I told my husband about that one. His response was 'But I know lots of academics with two or more children.' But they are men.

insfut said...

Following hkukbilingualidiot,

The lack of eye contact kills me sometimes. SOOOO many eyes drift south...

Also, I don't like when a man won't shake my hand like he shakes other men's hands. I call it 'manshaking.'

queenrandom said...

Assuming that your achievements should be celebrated by hugging you in a professional environment, without asking before invading your personal space.

The noticeable difference in attendance at talks given by females and those given by males.

Laudatory surprise when you ask or answer an intelligent question and/or excel in a course.

Anonymous said...

This could probably go on any professional woman's checklist:

What's your maiden name?

Despite having no indication said woman is married. Extra points for this question if ask by people who know you're married and who you've personally told you didn't change your name.

Anonymous said...

- being assigned more than your share of large intro. courses to teach because "women are better communicators"

-when you and a male colleague achieve the same accomplishment, being told that "you will make a wonderful mother someday", right after your colleague gets "You are a great scientist"

- when questioning whether a junior male colleague has met tenure requirements (when very clearly he has not) you are asked "why are you out to get him?"; when questioning whether a junior female colleague has met tenure requirements (when she is on the borderline), you are told "It's good to see you taking this process seriously"

Anonymous said...

Maybe, when asked about why there are no great women scientists, we should remind folks of how Rosalind Franklin's work was taken by Watson and Crick and they got the glory,

Anonymous said...

-more than 50% of the professional e-mails you receive begin with "Dear Sir"

-at scientific conferences, you are assumed to be your male students' mom; your female students are assumed to be their sisters or girlfriends

Kea said...

- bingo on most of the above ...

- people criticize your latest papers without actually bothering to read them, and clearly without having the mathematical knowledge to understand them, even though they praise the related work of their colleagues (who are exclusively male)

- people tell you that it is great a woman can understand such things, because it must be hard being such a bell curve freak

- sexist supervisors who tell you that they treat everybody the same, so you should stop complaining

- colleagues who tell you not to be bitter about a lifetime of ostracism and poverty, while they parade around the world as 'world leaders' in the field

- doods who tell you how to behave when (eg.) visitors arrive, because you ain't doing it right

Lora said...

Put me down for a "Check" in all categories. Also, copious comments on my wardrobe when I wear something even slightly feminie (heels, skirt, make-up, etc).

Kea said...

- um, the boob staring stuff

Anonymous said...

When your advisor says "You'd make a great kindergarten teachers!"

zed said...

someone who doesn't know you and reviews your proposal assumes you are a man

you receive patronizing comments on proposal reviews that are never seen on male colleagues' reviews

students in your class call you 'miss' even after you've told them to address you by first name. They call male profs 'Dr' of 'Prof' or 'firstname'.

People comment on how you manage to balance work and family, but never question how your husband, with the same job, manages.

Colleague advises you and your husband not to move to a new institution where both of you, and not just your husband, will be TT, because 'then you will both come up for tenure at the same time, and that is too stressful'.

Anonymous said...

The hugging/ personal space thing is a big issue for me (mentioned in comment above). I HATE this at conferences and in the department, but I don't know how to make it stop. I know people are trying to be friendly -- and I'm very approachable -- but don't touch me. How do others deal with this?

I'm a faculty member about to go up for tenure -- I thought as I got older it would occur less, but it hasn't.

People rarely hug my husband (also a TT scientist in my field) -- even when they approach both of us at a conference (and he is also very approachable).

Rachel Shadoan said...

I understand that it is important to air these things and commiserate, but gosh, how depressing is this for a female scientist in training? It makes me want to give up--who would want to invest time and energy into science if this is the kind of return one gets on the investment?

I feel that the more we focus on this kind of thing, the more discouraging it is for young women trying to join the field.

DRo said...

I had the opposite reaction to the idea of collecting anecdotes like these. I feel that too many young women, particularly grad students, don’t believe that sexism still exists, perhaps because they haven’t encountered it yet. In my opinion, the more stories they hear, the better they will be able to recognize sexism when it happens to them. If they can recognize it quickly, then they are better equipped to deal with it, whether that means speaking up, taking action, or simply being able to process what has happened to them. The best way to ensure that sexist practices continue is for all of us to stop talking about it.

Rachel Shadoan said...

A thought to add to my previous thought:

Instead of long lists of how we're under-appreciated and gender-stereotyped and in general discriminated against, I would like to see lists of creative, professional, appropriate ways to handle some of these situations.

Then, it's less depressing because it provides the tools to handle this sort of thing. Over time (presumably), if we all use the tools to address these issues, they will decrease in number and severity.

hkukbilingualidiot said...

I disagree with you Rachael, I always thought that by knowing what can happen it woulldn't be too much of a shock when it does happen, as in my case (even though I'm still recovering from the trauma, but because I am aware of the things like most of what's listed here beforehand, the recovery is quicker. Besides, it's exactly because I've been through most that I have that edge over most of my male peers. I've been told on several occassions that just my presence is intimidating enough.)

So, if you don't have the readiness to face adversity then you really are not ready of society. Academic sexism and unequality is just soft torment in comparison to industry, where a research may mean sink-or-swim for any person.

I know some things should not be tolerated and they will not be. But by avoiding the facts that they exists is just plain disillusion at best and a plain lie. The best would be to acknowledge these things exists and have the support systems in place for when it does occur.

Knowledge is the best form of defence.

Anonymous said...

You would not know my sex from my name. I was approached after presenting a keynote paper in a conference by a male colleague whom apparently was familiar with my publications saying:"I had always thought you were a big man - I could have never thought you are a small woman".

When I told the story to my male colleagues at work they thought it was funny!

The worst is when female clerical staff threat female professors professionally differently from male professors and then some say that this is not gender discrimination on the basis that it is committed by another female. Mind bugging that some educated people appear not to understand what discrimination is in this day and age!

Anonymous said...

This is a great list to show the next person that states there is no sexism in academia.

Having said that, I have to quibble with the personal space one. The two postings that mention them seem to conflate touching with sexism.

There is creepy touching and there is friendly innocent touching such as a handshake or an European kiss in the cheeks.

For example, if the celebratory hugs are nonsexual in nature (which I presume they are since male faculty embrace each other) then not offering the embrace to a women would be the sexist act. If you don't see this just imagine what you would think of a faculty member who gave a friendly embrace to every colleague winner of an international prize except for those who are black.

Anonymous said...

My addition:

after being an invited speaker on a subject at a meeting (and the only woman in the room), and while still standing answering questions, the session organizer remarked that the administrative staff was having trouble getting material about each talk typed for distribution and said, "A--, can you type?"
I answered "No, and I don't do coffee either" which went over the organizer's head (although some participants were smiling)

Anonymous said...

My addition:

after being an invited speaker on a subject at a meeting (and the only woman in the room), and while still standing answering questions, the session organizer remarked that the administrative staff was having trouble getting material about each talk typed for distribution and said, "A--, can you type?"
I answered "No, and I don't do coffee either" which went over the organizer's head (although some participants were smiling)

Anonymous said...

_while showing public group telescope control room, director of observatory asks for you to describe your work (large survey called "X" lead by myself, a female grad student) then cuts you off, proceeds to rave about another (male) grad student's work then comes back to what you started saying and comments: "but, well, I don't know who is leading "X" survey..."

Natct said...

_a young male grad student presenting his poster at a major conference tells you that you've been "a challenging young lady" for asking questions, and refuses to believe your title is "Dr" even though it's on your name tag.

Kea said...

Ah, yes, the young males ...

- young man plays up in class, clearly because of his problem with having a female teacher

- young grad student (half your age) tells you how to do all sorts of basic things

- yung dood talk over tea and at the office etc

Anonymous said...

In grad school, I was awarded a very prestigious fellowship that required me to be off-campus for a quarter. When I returned to campus, at a reception honoring fellowship recipients, a faculty member in my department said to me: "When I hadn't seen you around I assumed you got pregnant and dropped out"

Anonymous said...

Please keep up the great work here (and in your lab).

- a Male Social (non) Science Professor

Anonymous said...

"- young grad student (half your age) tells you how to do all sorts of basic things"

Although that *may* be sexism, it is just as likely to be ageism. I sometimes get youngsters trying to tell me how to do things that I've known about for longer than they've been alive. I generally let them talk for a while, then correct them when they make a mistake (as they inevitably do) and suggest they re-read the manual. This tactic works well on the the stupid ones---the brighter students generally get to material that is new to me fairly quickly, and so I learn something from them by not shutting them up.

Shay said...

Not academic exampled, but here they are:

--You are at an official military function, in dress uniform, and a guest orders you to bring her a ginger ale (without making eye contact or using the word "please").

--Your CO feels it necessary to include a statement in your fitness report re: how pretty and feminine you are.

--You arrive at the unit to which you have been seconded for a six-month special assignment and the second in command tells you point-blank that he doesn't want a female officer (to his credit, at the end of my tour he apologized and said I had done a hell of a job).

Rachel said...

"Although that *may* be sexism, it is just as likely to be ageism. I sometimes get youngsters trying to tell me how to do things that I've known about for longer than they've been alive. I generally let them talk for a while, then correct them when they make a mistake (as they inevitably do) and suggest they re-read the manual. This tactic works well on the the stupid ones---the brighter students generally get to material that is new to me fairly quickly, and so I learn something from them by not shutting them up."

I think it probably occurs for both reasons. I can definitely see what you describe happening, but I also get men (both my age and older) explaining shit to me in a condescending tone all the time and I'm 22.

Psycgirl said...

__ Your own advisor bypasses you for opportunities (e.g., dinners with big names, networking at conferences, research opportunities) and gives them to male students whom your advisor is not even supervising.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone run into difficulties because colleagues "fall in love" with them?

I had a research professor, after 6 months of work together, tell me he was in love with me. At the time I was 20; Professor in question was more than twice my age and married with children only a few years younger than me. He insisted that he didn't see anything wrong with this declaration. When telling this story to people, I have gotten anything from "Well maybe he really was in love with you" to insisting that he should have lost tenure and been fired.

I was also talking to another woman in my field, who told me that as a grad student she was asked not to attend certain seminars because the speaker was too heartbroken over her rejection of him.

Bonnie Buratti and Kai Lam said...

-being asked to chair a committee for women scientists in my department, and finding out that the committee consisted of 100% females

EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy said...

Thanks a lot. Now my boggler is in the shop.

/made it to around 40 posts before giving up

//just hope I don't come across that way

Algue said...

A few more :

- being asked all the time "do you plan to stay in academia or to get married and have kids?"

- question about any future female collaborator : "does she have big boobs ?"

- male students come to you and complain if the lab is dirty. Why don't you go clean yourself guys ?

- first lab cleaning session in a new lab. Male students (who have been there 4 years already) ask me "what do I have to clean ?"

- "why don't you wear skirts more often? It's a pity females in this department never wear feminine clothes"

- "hey you're wearing a skirt ! who are you hoping to flirt with ?"

- "anyway you're not even a woman, your boobs are too small"

- from the professor who just rejected your application in grad school X "don't be disappointed, you're cute, you'll go to grad school Y and find a husband"

- from ex-physics department fellow students "you're doing a PhD ? Did you switch to biology ?" No guys I'm female AND physicist.

- male professor guides a male visitor through the lab "in this room are Female Grad Student and Female Post Doc, both cute, one blonde and one brunette ; in this room, Male Grad Student is working on project X" "Sounds interesting, I've been working on X as well ..."

- "no wonder you got so many questions after your talk. It's easier for you as a woman"

Dan King said...

I just finished reading the CHE piece, and I think you misunderstand human nature. Or, conversely, I've been reading too much evolutionary psychology.

In the event, men are competing against each other - in evolutionary terms for reproductive success. You are not part of that competition. Therefore you can never be a threat, nor will you ever be much of a useful ally. It is inevitable that they devalue your contribution. How could it be otherwise?

Sad, but true. Get used to it.

Dan King said...

I just finished reading the CHE piece. You either completely misunderstand human nature, or I have been reading too much evolutionary psychology.

Men are competing against each other, in evolutionary terms for reproductive success. Science is just a stage upon which that competition takes place.

You can never be part of that game. You certainly are no threat, and similarly, you'll never be much of an ally. So is it any wonder that men don't take you seriously? Why should they?

Sad, but true. Get used to it.

Gauri said...

I would love to know some snarky replies to sexist comments. I get esepcially bothered when I am told women have all the opportunities and they should just shut up. Can you run a post where people can contribute how they have actually dealt with such situations? How they managed to shut up the biased minds? Some really stinging one-liners would be good!

Bagelsan said...

According to him they should all be fired for incompetence.

Hmm, I guess you're right. That's too bad; there are some guys in my lab I quite like, and I'm sure they'll be disappointed to learn that their hormones make it impossible for them to do science.

Guess they'll just have to "get used to it" now, 'cause Dan has spoken! :p

Anonymous said...

Your former PhD supervisor asks you to apply for a faculty position in the department, because "the department needs more women."

Zuska said...

"Things are getting better all the time! We just have to wait for women to move up through the ranks and the old guard to die off!"

Repeat yearly from 1972 to infinity.

Anonymous said...

I found the second to last one on your list to be particularly interesting. Last week, a visitor to our office assumed I was "the receptionist" and complained that I hadn't offered him coffee. Now, I'm not a professor yet, but we also don't have "receptionists" in the university offices (we have Administrative Assistants and student workers). I'm actually the Director of a professional development program and almost finished with my Ph.D. program. Said visitor was very surprised when he was told that the well-dressed young woman was a Program Director and Ph.D. student, not a receptionist. If he's asked me directly to get him coffee (instead of complaining to my co-worker), I would have told him off. I wouldn't even belittle the student workers by asking them to fetch coffee.

Anonymous said...

* Being called a liar or just receiving a great amount of disbelief when someone hears a list of your education and/or finds out about accomplishment X because "you're too young to have done all of that" while your male peers' accomplishments aren't questioned.

* Being told that you're being too emotional and should "just get over it" when you ask for a day off to prepare for a divorce hearing (even after noting that you have two meetings related to said hearing and a doctor's appointment).

* Being asked if you're making wedding plans or if a wedding is on the horizon when a coworker finds out you have a boyfriend, while your male coworkers aren't asked such overly personal things.

* Being asked "Did you refuse to do the dishes?" or "Did you get too involved with your career?" when someone finds out you are divorced. Two of my friends (both male, saw again at a high school reunion) who are divorced were both were appalled at such questions. They were most frequently asked "Was she cheating on you?" as the reason for their divorces.

* Being asked why you would want to go to grad school and become a professor during your fertile years instead of "when the kids are in school".

* Being looked down upon because you stated that you weren't planning on having kids at all, while your male peers aren't even asked about kids.

* Being told to choose between your research and having a baby when you tell your adviser that you're pregnant. (Happened to another female grad student in my Masters program.)

Anonymous said...

Here's two good ones. The first happened to me 6 or 7 years ago; the second happened to a friend of mine last year.

- A tenured male professor who is prominent in the field you want to study turns you (female grad student) down for a rotation in his lab because "women don't do well in cytogenetics" and "the last one got pregnant"

- A male colleague in her area of study turned down a collaboration because he was worried that he'd have to agree to put her name first on the publication because she's a woman or that the publication wouldn't be as highly cited because her name was on it.

Anonymous said...

_being mistaken for the tech because of the way my supervisor talks to me "Oh I assumed you were the tech, because that's how I talk to mine"

Mariposa Farm Alpacas said...

_You come back from your honeymoon to find all your projects assigned to a male coworker. It's assumed that now your focus will be on breeding and not on work. Yet, the male coworker has 3 kids.

_someone tells you that 'you don't look like a scientist.'

Anonymous said...

Female CS type person, on a trip to a conference, chatting with a male faculty member about cars. Mention I replaced the rotten floorboards on my superbeetle. He responds with astonishment, repeating "Really! Wow! Really?" as if I were a dog that had suddenly stood on her hind legs and commenced to reciting poetry. And he thought he was praising me.