Friday, April 15, 2011

Mrs. Me

Earlier this year, during a session of an international conference, the convener of the session introduced all the male speakers by their names (Firstname-Lastname or just Lastname) but a female speaker was introduced as "Mrs. X".

She had a PhD just like all the men, so why couldn't he introduce her in the same way as the men? I only sort of know the convener, and know that he meant no disrespect by apparently demoting Dr. X to Mrs. X. He just wasn't comfortable introducing her as Firstname Lastname or Lastname only.

At the same conference, I encountered a research scientist with whom I have had occasional contact over the years. I don't know him well, but we are rather routine scientific acquaintances. When we met to exchange brief greetings at the conference, he called me Mrs. X.

He was not making a strange joke, and I am sure that I have told him to call me by my first name in the past. I am also sure that I sign my e-mail to him with only my first name.

I asked some close colleagues who are from the same countries as the men who used the "Mrs." terminology about this. The conclusion, which I could have guessed anyway, is that "Professor" or "Dr" seemed too formal for the occasion (especially since the men were being referred to by their names without titles) but these men were not comfortable referring to women (particularly older women) by their names. So they settled on the unfortunate "Mrs".

This is not a rant. This is a request. Of course I do not speak for all women, but I'm guessing that most women at a professional conference would prefer to be addressed, formally or informally, in the same way that the men are addressed.

My preferred options for being addressed (politely) or introduced (respectfully) in a professional setting are, in no particular order:
  • Professor X, or
  • my names without any title.
Dr. X is OK in some contexts, but only if male professors are also called Dr. X, and if the Professor vs. Dr. distinction is not significant.

"Mrs. X" as a title is not as respectful as it might seem, and of course there is also the minefield of the Miss/Mrs/Ms issues, but I will even accept "Mrs. X" if the male professors are referred to as "Mr. X". If it is intended respectfully, particularly by young men who are not familiar with (or not comfortable with) North American customs, then no personal offense is taken (at least not by me). Some women with PhDs will, however, be insulted by being introduced as "Mrs. X", even if they are married and even if they share a last name with their husband, so I recommend avoiding using this term for women with PhDs.

Although I do not feel personally insulted, I do resent the singling out of women for a different mode of address in a professional context. It is yet another small and unnecessary way in which we are specifically designated as FSPs instead of just SPs like the men.

So, here is a friendly suggestion for those who find themselves in a professional situation that may require referring to a woman with a PhD:

Address everyone the same. With or without titles, do not make a distinction between how you refer to men and women. That is the most respectful thing to do.


Chris said...

Where I am from (though I do not live there anymore), there is no distinction between Miss/Mrs/Ms. My mother is a Dr. and is routinely called "Ms" LastName, even at work. Sometimes she is called Dr. but it really does not make a difference in terms of respect (this is an industry setting). Often, people who only know they are looking for Dr. LastName mistake her for her own secretary because she is the only female Dr. in the entire building.
However, in very professional, polite settings, it is typical to address people as (and introduce them as) "Ms. Dr." Last Name (men are often, though not as routinely referred to as "Mr. Dr." Last Name). Clearly this does not work in English and I understand how people from this background might struggle how to address a women in English when they are used to making a difference but now can't.
(I hope that makes sense!)

EuropeanFemaleScienceProfessor said...

Amen. I try to get the students to call me Dr. A-B (I have a double name), but that seems to contribute to the problem. I get called "Miss A-B", "Miss B", "Mrs. A-B", "Mrs. Misspelled-B". I have to make it a point for them to call me Dr. A-B.

At conferences I tend to get the "Prof. B-A", that is, they turn it around, but do include the honorific if we are speaking the local language.

When we switch to English, they all seem to call me Mrs. Something ...

I'd be happy with C A-B if the men are being called like that, and I'll accept Prof. or Dr. A-B. I will also accept Mrs. B at the local stores and the pediatrician's, and a dear old aunt may call me Miss A for the rest of her life.

But other than that - could we please learn soon that women are human beings, just like men? We can't? Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post.

I've noticed on departmental schedules that I (a female) am always "Firstname Lastname," and all the males are "Dr. Firstname Lastname." The person making the schedules is a female doctoral student, and she knows I have a PhD. I haven't approached her because it seems too petty.

Anonymous said...

A related minefield: What should your young child's classmates/peers call you when you visit his/her classroom (to be a guest reader, etc.)? My son R's last name is different from mine, and I've never used "Mrs. ..." - that's my mom! The funny thing is that R's friends and classmates are all comfortable calling me "R's mom" ("R's mom! R's mom! Come look at this!!"), which I have no problem with as it is factually correct and much easier for them to remember than a new last name. More often it's the teachers, especially the older ones, who appear equally reluctant to call me either by my first name or "Professor ...", even though I have made it crystal clear to them that I vastly prefer either of these titles to "Mrs. ...". But, as long as they don't actively dissuade the kids from calling me "R's mom", I've decided this is not a battle I want to fight: R will have these friends/peers much longer than he will have this teacher.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the salary negotiation issue. I don't think it's petty to make such a correction if it's the case that you are singled out (regardless of intentions).

I (a guy) wouldn't hesitate to correct someone if they left out my Dr. while giving everyone else theirs. I'd do it nicely, but I'd certainly do it.

Anonymous said...

This is not confined to the world of academe. I have been in many business meetings where it was Tom, Joe and when it came to me it was Mrs.X. Or Ms.X when they were stumbling because they couldn't remember I'd gotten married. All instead of calling me by my name. Which seems a lot easier. But it does immediately change the dynamic. I usually lean forward, reach for a good handshake and correct them. But after 10yrs it gets tiresome.

Anonymous said...

Here, here FSP!

Anonymous said...

@Anon @ 7:13:

I have some friends from the deep South, and they always had their kids call me "Miss R--" (my first name). Not Mrs. even though I was married. I thought this was cute anyway, and it saved me the burden of being "Al's mom" etc.

I've been thinking about what I want to be called when I finally get my Ph.D.--I'm getting divorced right now so there may be some pesky last name changes in my future. I've decided I'm going to try to get everyone to call me "Dr. R--" (first name again), or just by my first name with no title. I doubt I will get everyone to accept this decision though.

mathgirl said...

In the place I live, it is customary to call everybody by Mr or Mrs, including professors at the university. This is fair, so I'm trying to get used to this (I've only moved here less than a year ago).

It still sounds bad to my ears, I'd much prefer to be called "Firstname Lastname" or "Dr/Prof Lastname", or even "Firstname".

The worst part is not getting used to be called Mr./Mrs., but getting used to call other professors (like the dean) this way.

To Anon 7:13: I'm in the same situation as you and I'm "MySon's Mom" for everybody in his daycare. It doesn't bother me at all. It would sound strange to me to be called "Mrs. MyhusbandLastname".

Anonymous said...

"The conclusion, which I could have guessed anyway, is that "Professor" or "Dr" seemed too formal for the occasion (especially since the men were being referred to by their names without titles) but these men were not comfortable referring to women (particularly older women) by their names. So they settled on the unfortunate "Mrs"."

I always address professors as Professor or Doctor depending on whether or not they have a PhD, but this got me wondering, how high up in the academic ladder or familiar with someone do you have to be before you can call them by their first name?

Anonymous said...

I had an advisor, Firstname Lastname. The first time I called him Dr. Lastname, he told me that Dr. Lastname was his dad and to just call him Firstname.

That stuck with me. Now, when someone calls me Mrs. Mylastname, I say something like, "Mrs. Mylastname is my mother, please call me Myfirstname."

yael said...

Conferences in my field are also attended by people in industry (who are not called "Professor")--it's standard in my field to refer to all PIs as Dr. Interesting that they make the distinction between Dr and Prof in your field.

Stephanie said...

I hate Mrs.!!!! The worst most soul destroying is when you get the Mrs. Husband's Name. Argh! I have my own identity thank you very much. I seriously think we need to get rid of the Ms/Mrs crap. I thought that wouldn't be a problem now that I DEFENDED and am Dr. Me, but apparently that is not the case. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I am Prof. Sue Smith. My husband is Dr. Bill Jones. (We both have PhDs from the same program.) I'm not bothered by many of the versions of names I/we am/are called, and I'm fine with being called "Mrs. Jones" at our child's school - it's just easier. I only use my "Prof. Smith" title with young undergraduates in large lecture courses.

But the version that makes me crazy is "Dr. and Mrs. Bill Jones" from people who know perfectly well that we both have the same degree. Really? I got married and lost my first name, last name, AND degree?!

Anonymous said...

My god...given that women academics spend so much time worrying over titles, as a junior academic, now I am scared of addressing any female academic as anything other than Your Excellency.

Anonymous said...

It's not that complicated: Address female and male PhDs the same way within a particular context. It's amazing at a conference session if the convener can't be consistent in how male and female speakers are introduced, no matter where they are from.

GMP said...

now I am scared of addressing any female academic as anything other than Your Excellency

Gimme a break, it's not that hard.
Here's a simple rule I tell my undergrads. In a professional context, you can assume that any academic, male or female, should be referred to as Dr. Lastname, until
he/she explicitly tells you to call him/her by the first name.

In the personal sphere, I don't really care what people call me (MySon's mom or Firstname are the most common; I suppose I don't look like a Mrs anything so no one has ever called me that).

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 9:53

It's not that's amazing how in 2011, 99% of all academic job advertisements say they would prefer a woman candidate to a man. Perhaps if we could focus on ending legally mandated discrimination....but why bother when we can research titles and forms of address!

I guess you are afraid someone would forget that you have the PhD...ah...the exalted mythical degree...most of the holders of which scramble desperately for a living wage in a market that has no use for them. I can see how prestigious the PhD is! All hail the great degree. Bow before it.

@ all women academics: No one cares about your PhD. Nearly everyone in academia has one. If you want to boast about your education, the grocery store is a better place to brag about it.

CSgrad said...

I really don't get the people who don't like Mr. or Ms. because they think it makes them sound like their father/mother. It's just the default title for people of one's gender. I would always call a strange new adult who is not being introduced to me in a social context (or other environment where it's clear that everyone uses first names) by a title (and then I would stop if they told me not to do so). Better to start out too formal than too informal.

That said, this post is dead-on. The important thing is parallel usage. If the men are Dr. or Professor, so are the women. If the men are Firstname Lastname, so are the women. If the men are Mr., the women are Ms. (or Mrs. or Miss if you know that they prefer those forms).

Cloud said...

I'm with GMP. In the social/parenting sphere, I don't really care what I get called. In my professional sphere, it is usually just "first name last name", but I would be annoyed if I were singled out for a different convention than the men.

I do occasionally get called Mr. MyLastName, because by first two initials are "M.R." I also get called by my last name (as a mistaken first name) because it is sometimes used as a boy's first name.

And I am frequently mistaken for a secretary, since I work in a male-dominated field. I've learned to laugh at this, since it is usually vendors who make this mistake and I imagine they worry that they'll lose the sale once they are corrected. (In actuality, I am not that vindictive.)

Anonymous said...

I have a female coworker who refers to the female PhDs in the department as Dr. Firstname, and the male PhDs as Dr. Lastname when talking to students and youth/stakeholder groups. The one exception is the female PhD who is my coworker's senior by rank and 10 years of age, in which case it is also Dr. Lastname. I used to think it was an age thing, but the male jr faculty are also referred to as Dr. Lastname (same age as myself). I noticed that she addressed a recent hiring candidate as Dr. Firstname during an informal dinner as part of the interview process, again a younger female PhD.

I'm debating whether to draw my coworker's attention to this or not. Personally, it drives me crazy to be called Dr. Firstname, especially when 95% of my colleagues are Dr. Lastname.

Anonymous said...

Yes, call academics whatever you want so long as you're consistent across genders!

I've been all over the country and the norms are different. Where I am now they are very formal in school but informal out of it so I'm always Dr. or Professor at work. Socially and at my kid's school, I'm Firstname.

I do refuse to give to my high school after they sent a fundraising letter to Mrs. and Dr. Husband's lastname, when I had a PhD but he had not yet defended. (Went and changed it in their online database to "Rear Admiral Lastname" at "666 Leavemethehella Lane," but they switched it back.)

Anonymous said...

If you're going to skip the Dr. or Prof., at least use Ms. instead of Mrs.! Not all women are married and if they don't take their husband's, they are technically not a Mrs.

To me, both Miss and Mrs. are disrespectful, unless the person is coming from another language where they use the Mrs. equivalent for everyone (e.g. German or French).

Sally said...

@EuropeanFemaleScienceProfessor: I too have a hyphenated last name. My colleagues get it right for the most part, but my students clearly can't be bothered to learn either my name or my title. Most of their emails are to "Mrs. B", "Mrs. Misspelled A" or (most strangely) "Miss B."

I now have a rule on my syllabus that I don't answer any emails unless the salutation is appropriately professional (no "Hey Sally") and my name is spelled correctly!

My most annoying title incident: when I was a postdoc I wrote an article that got a minor mention in the mainstream media. I therefore made it onto the "OurUniversity In The News" weekly webpage, but was referred to as a "Postdoctoral Student". Yet the same paragraph of the webpage called a male postdoc a "Postdoctoral Scholar"!

Anonymous said...

I used to worry about this with my undergraduates...but lately, I have a hard enough time getting the freshman to quit addressing me by my first name! I suspect that they don't realize that I am faculty, because I am a woman.

Anonymous said...

"I always address professors as Professor or Doctor depending on whether or not they have a PhD, but this got me wondering, how high up in the academic ladder or familiar with someone do you have to be before you can call them by their first name?"

Interesting question. As an undergrad at one of the most notoriously snooty Ivy League universities, I was consistently and quickly corrected after my first "Professor Lastname" greeting to use "Firstname" instead. As a grad student and now as a postdoc, I don't think I ever haven't used anything other than a professor's first name for in-person communication. In first-time correspondence, I use "Dr."

iGrrrl said...

Fourthing or Fifthing the "just be consistent across genders." In a professional email, someone in the same sentence referred to a colleague as Dr. LastName and me as Ms. (misspelled) Lastname. Because my credentials do matter for my credibility, I sent him an email to let him know that, for the record, I had a PhD, too. (I did not mention that is was clear from the signature on the email to which he was replying.) I got back the most head-patting apology, saying, "Of course you should be proud of your accomplishments." That's not the point in these cases. It's a question of equal treatment.

At the kids' school I don't fuss if they call me Mrs. Husbandslastname, because it's the kids' last name, too. For my Girl Scout troop in our fairly blue-collar town, I'm Dr. FirstName. I chose that over the usual Miss FirstName because I do not look like a scientist, and if Girl Scouts is about girls learning what they're capable of, well then I'm a role model and an example of possibility. But, the other leaders thought I was showing off. I decided to see what the girls did, and they stuck with Dr. FirstName, because they liked it.

Barefoot Doctoral said...

I sometimes spend a good deal of time with colleagues from the country of my parents' origin who are unfamiliar with the US explaining what the appropriate way to address a female colleague is.

Colleagues who have lived in the US for longer, I am less patient with.

If one is familiar with names of my ethnicity, my name is clearly female. It drives me crazier when I get addressed as Mr. Lastname, or Sir by people who may have daughters with my first name.

siz said...

"It's not that's amazing how in 2011, 99% of all academic job advertisements say they would prefer a woman candidate to a man. Perhaps if we could focus on ending legally mandated discrimination....but why bother when we can research titles and forms of address!

I guess you are afraid someone would forget that you have the PhD...ah...the exalted mythical degree...most of the holders of which scramble desperately for a living wage in a market that has no use for them. I can see how prestigious the PhD is! All hail the great degree. Bow before it.

@ all women academics: No one cares about your PhD. Nearly everyone in academia has one. If you want to boast about your education, the grocery store is a better place to brag about it."

Nice try troll. It's weird I didn't see any of those academic job announcements.

Anonymous said...

I (a female) get annoyed when I receive mail from my former institution to "Mr. and Ms. boyfriend's last name" (note: boyfriend does not have a degree, but I do). I'm not even married, and I have lost my first name, last name, and degree!

Anonymous said...

I would like to see a link to an advertisement for a faculty position in which the ad specifically says that a woman candidate is preferred. I have seen such a statement for Canadians but not for women. More likely, the commenter is referring to the equal opportunity statement, which my science department has included in its ads. Somehow, despite this statement, the last 4 hires have been men, so apparently we aren't understanding that we are supposed to hire women. Perhaps such a subtle equal opportunity statement only screams "women are preferred" to the truly bitter and paranoid.

Anonymous said...

Damn right...I am bitter. Because sometimes your "equal opportunity statements" do such obvious injustices that they leave scars.

Two years ago, I graduated at the same time as a female grad student. She finished in 5 years and I finished in 4. We had the same 2 advisors, one of whom was a woman. From talking to the faculty, you'd know how easily I was one of the best (if not the best) grad student that year. In fact, my female colleague had been basically convinced by my female advisor (the male advisor was a bit hands off) the previous year that her research was way below sufficient for a thesis.

And then the job applications happened. She was picked up by Ultra famous university while I was picked by a typical research university. We are in a field where women are in extremely short supply and any woman with a half decent record is HOT property. I can name women with 0 publications who received postdoc offers from Harvard, Stanford and Columbia.

Two years down the line, not surprisingly, my publication record kicks her ass...completely. In fact, her record is so far below average..its pathetic. As we hurtle towards the tenure track job applications this fall, I am dying to see if her genitals can bail her out this time. It's unlikely for her: while half decent women can make it big, absolutely pathetic ones do get kicked out. for "equal opportunity", did I mention that she is the kid of LA doctors, while I grew up in a third world country? That has more implications than you think: it is not just about me growing up poorer than her or having to battle US visa rules now, remember that she uses her US passport to travel to conferences in Europe on a moment's notice. As for me, I need 1 month notice, a formal letter of invitation and financial support, confirmed hotel bookings, medical insurance confirmation with specific language and a 300 mile trip to the nearest European country Consulate to obtain an $85 visa that takes 15 days to process.

Equal opportunity my ass....

Anonymous said...

I generally think of academics as intelligent people.

All the same, the only response I can think of is, "Duh?"

Unfortunately, I guess its not as obvious as I thought it should've been?

E.C. said...

At my undergrad university, two of the best physics professors are husband and wife and share a last name. The fsp was hired first while her spouse stayed home with their infant, and then msp became a trailing spouse hire a couple of years later. It apparently took the students a few months to decide what to call them. They cycled through being "the Old Dr. Wonderful and the New Dr. Wonderful," "Dr. Wonderful Classic and New Dr. Wonderful," "Dr. Wonderful and Dr. Wonderful Prime," before students settled on the convention of referring to them as "Mrs. Dr. Wonderful and Mr. Dr. Wonderful" to distinguish between them in conversation with others, though each is, of course, addressed directly as simply "Dr. Wonderful." It seems fair to me, even though I would have pushed for Ms. Dr. Wonderful instead of Mrs.

However, when I graduated and the Doctors Wonderful hosted a party that I and my parents attended, I noticed that my father addressed the msp as "Dr. Wonderful" while addressing his wife as "Mrs. Wonderful" even though he was well aware that she was also a professor. It irked me a bit even though I'm quite sure he meant no offense, but I didn't have a clue how to tactfully correct him. What should you do when the person making this sort of mistake is your (supportive, polite, feminist) dad?

FrauTech said...

I always felt weird calling my professors doctor, so I'd just generically call them all "professor" (and then only include a last name if it was in email). But not sure Dr. X is too formal, I had a good friend get her PhD and I call her Dr. Lastname or even Dr. Firstname every time I talk to her because I'm tremendously proud and hope she is too.

It's funny that there's an equivalent for this in the corporate engineering world. Because I work with 10 guys named Dave, 7 named Jim, 5 named Mike and so on people are often referred to here by lastname only. Especially if they are high ranking (and you're not trying to pretend you're on a first name basis with them) but also just generally. I however almost never get referred by lastname only, as do non of the administrative women, or any of the other low ranking women I know. Some higher level women sometimes get referred to as lastname firstname, but that's about it. At least you can ask someone to call you Doctor, I'm not sure what to do when I'm on a phonecall with Johnson, Smith, Jones and they then refer to me by first name what I could possibly even say.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes being a jerk will make people not want to hire you. Just sayin'.. there are other factors in hiring decisions besides publications (and gender). I also have heard a rumor that some men who are less qualified than female peers have on occasion throughout history been given jobs and other positions of authority and prestige. Hence the drive for Equal Opportunity, which has yet to be realized, although some progress has been made.

Marta said...

I can't agree more. Professor is for me a bit weird because we don't use it as a title in Spain, but at least use the same! I have to admit that I get confussed with the Miss, Mrs, Ms thing. I like names, just my name, please! But I guess I am not a professor, and maybe some people can feel offended if that is "taken away", and in Spain if you say you are and so, everybody will think you are an MD, so that might influence my perception...
Thanks for your interesting reflections,

Kristina Killgrove said...

This is my first semester teaching after receiving my PhD (I'm an FSSP - female social science [adjunct assistant] prof). In the past, I invited students to call me FirstName, but with a 180-student freshman intro class, I'm Dr. LastName. It's on the intro slide of every slide deck. And yet...

I have gotten at least a dozen emails addressed to, "Hi, FirstName!" Or sometimes to "Mrs. LastName." Fortunately, the students don't know that I'm married and *gasp* didn't take my husband's name, so at least they get it right.

I thought the "Mrs." thing was a southern thing, but perhaps it's just informality creeping in.

Lisa said...

really good post, i struggle with this mostly i think bc i still could pass for an undergrad. I tell students to call me Dr or Prof lastname and also encourage them to call me firstname. outside of academia, i am married but have kept my name. ironically it is my sister-in-law who insists on calling me mrs.husband's lastname & has been repeatedly corrected that drives me crazy!!! i'm too young to be mrs. and worked too hard for that phd. im hoping that with time i will mellow out about it all and not get so bent out of shape :)

Anonymous said...

Anon at 04:31 PM, in your case I don't think it's favoritism towards a woman as much as it's favoritism towards a US-born student. Unfortunately, it is quite widespread among US-born academics, even perfectly well-meaning ones. My experience totally mimics yours, with the difference that I am a woman from a third world country with an excellent research record and the mediocre US-born student who was propelled by our joint US-born advisor was male. Other than the gender reversal, the situation was similar to yours. I could argue that in my case it could also have been the sexism at play, but knowing my advisor it's not very likely (or just not the dominant ingredient). It's not that my advisor is xenophobic, but he simply doesn't like foreigners as much as he likes Americans (I have seen several examples of this in my group). I suppose it's understandable (they share the same culture, so they can connect better). Still, I don't have to like like that it translated into multiple opportunities being thrown at the guy who I didn't think deserved them.

Anonymous said...

I don't like to be called "Mrs." even in social/personal settings. I feel it identifies you as being primarily someone else's property rather than being your own person. If a man doesn't get identified as a woman's property, by his form of address, then why should it be the other way round. When we got married, my husband for some time afterward would call me "Mrs (HisLastName)" because he thought it sounded romantic or cute or gave him an ego boost or something. I found it irritating. I am glad he doesn't do that anymore. However when his parents send us things by mail, they always address it to "Mr and Mrs (his first name and lastname)" which highly irritates me.

(in my husband's family, all the women married young, took their husband's names, and do 100% of the cooking and cleaning in addition to holding down jobs. They also happen to be very Republican. I am the exception in all the above and they disapprove)

Anonymous said...

@anon 4/15/2011 04:31:00 PM : your female grad student colleague is an exception.

Since you are so bitter against all women because this one grad student unfairly got ahead of you, will it make you feel better to know that the vast majority of women in science are treated worse than you are? will it make you feel better to know that there are women students and postdocs who have better publication records than you (unless you believe you are the number one in your field) and are being treated worse than you? because in academic science the majority of women are treated worse than the majority of men so unless you for some reason fall into the extreme end of the bell curve you're probably within that majority of men who are getting ahead of the majority of women in your peer group. And there are female foreign scientists who have those visa and travel restrictions like you.

Anonymous said...

I find the comments about possible discrimination against non-US academics puzzling, although I don't doubt that this occurs. It's just that the science and engineering departments of my MRU are well populated (and in some cases dominated) by non-US-born people, ~90% men. China and India are the best represented, but there are also quite a few professors from Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, and a few European countries. These men are highly respected for their expertise and research success, but perhaps this is different at other universities.

But concerning the actual topic of the post, not some guy's personal bitterness about a woman who got a better job than he did even though he is more awesome.. I don't like being called Mrs. in a professional (or any) setting, but in the context in which non-US men used the term, I wouldn't be offended unless, as was described, men were introduced by their names only and the women were singled out for a different form of address. Perhaps there could be some advice given to conveners of sessions about how to do introductions? The simple advice of 'introduce men and women speakers in the same way' seems innocuous but may be needed in some cases. Not that anyone reads instructions..

Ms.PhD said...

"99% of all academic job advertisements say they would prefer a woman candidate to a man"

I've NEVER seen an ad like that.

Also, my experience is more in line with the other commenter who said in our field(s), foreign men have a BETTER chance of getting a faculty position than American women do.

I HATE being called Mrs. BECAUSE I'M NOT MARRIED. It's just rude to make assumptions about anyone's personal life, but men don't have to worry about this because we don't have a separate prefix for married men.

Anonymous said...

We like calling you "Mrs" because it acknowledges you already have a spouse. It helps us stop thinking about having sex with you.

...Unless you're obviously receptive.

..and we'll still stare at any exposed cleavage.


David said...

I call my teachers as Dr. X or Prof X.
I think it much more respectful.

Anonymous said...

A while ago my fellow grad students and I were preparing scripts for one of those department parties where you roast all of your professors and department personalities. We realized that, in the script and in our discussions, we were referring to all of the male professors by their last names (not Dr. Lastname, just Lastname), and all of the female professors by their first names. We decided that this was clearly sexist and changed it, but in retrospect I'm not so sure. It's true that we refer to most of our female faculty by first name, either to their face or when discussing them. (The only exception I can think of is one not-particularly-well-liked older professor who is always spoken of as Firstname Lastname.) On the other hand, while most of the male faculty is referred to as Lastname, there is a significant minority that we call by their first name, mostly younger and/or friendlier professors who have departmentally unique first names (it happened that none of these were in the skit we were writing at the time). It turns out that all of the women faculty other than the exception listed above fall within the set of younger, friendlier professors with departmentally unique first names, so what appeared at first appeared to be direct sexism I think can mostly be attributed to the history of the department (which doesn't seem to have hired many women before the past decade). Of course, this refers only to how we address professors in an extremely informal context; in a more formal professional setting I think we all can agree that everyone should be addressed by the same standards no matter how cool they seem to be.

Anonymous said...

I am occasionally called "Mrs...lastname" at conferences or visits. It irks my ear. I have to go back a few generations in my family to find a woman who used "Mrs."

In my very informal department, most faculty go by their first names. I introduce myself clearly as "Professor lastname" when I teach my undergrad course. I have heard students correct other students that by accident (and habit) call me by my first name! After they pass my class, then they can call me whatever they want. Many stick to "Prof lastname". Some don't. All ok.

James said...

I'm called by my students as Dr. + Last name. Same goes for my female colleagues, so I don't see any differences.

Anonymous said...

I am the one who expressed bitterness about women with 0 publications... (I am dying to name them ) being hired instead of qualified men. is hard to believe that some commenters here are actual academics with degrees. I didn't once suggest that there is DISCRIMINATION against non-US academics. I just said that being a citizen of a third world country makes it difficult to TRAVEL across borders because of visa requirements and that automatically limits the ability to visit scientific events. It has nothing to do with attitude of academics. A Nobel Laureate from China would have more difficulty travelling than a waiter from America. Discrimination has nothing to do with it.

All I was pointing out was the ridiculous nature of the effort to "level the field" by affirmative action. Sometimes you end up hiring the rich American child of millionaire doctors with 0 publications instead of the lower middle class kid from India.

You will never be able to address all the reasons that could "unfairly" affect how much opportunity someone has had. How about you just look at the CVs and make a decision? Just pick the most qualified candidate who applied. How hard is that?

Female Science Professor said...

It's actually surprisingly hard. There are many definitions of 'most qualified; and it doesn't necessarily = 'most publications'. Hiring committees at major research universities look for vision, creativity, ideas for the future, evidence of ability to work independently and manage a research group, collegiality, commitment to research and teaching, and so on. I'm certainly not saying that all hiring committees make the best or most obviously fair decisions always, but number of publications is just one of many factors.

Anon, I think that many commenters reacted negatively to your false statement that 99% of ads express preference for hiring women, and that made it difficult for some to take your other points seriously.

Anonymous said...

A slightly tangential remark: be aware of local customs when calling someone (regardless of their gender) Dr. or Prof. The two forms of address have been used more or less interchangeably at the the US universities I've been affiliated with. That's not the case in some European countries (e.g. Germany, the Netherlands), where Prof. is reserved for people who have achieved the equivalent of full professor status in the US. Perhaps there are also examples where this trend is reversed and Dr. is the higher honorific.

Anonymous said...

I am a full professor in the US, and knowing European customs makes me more offended when I am called Mrs. and male professors are called Professor by European scientists in a professional setting like a conference, including by those who know that I am a professor. When I have gently pointed out to some that I am actually a professor just like these men who are being addressed as professor, I have been told "Oh but in the US there are so many professors, and these men are real professors and leaders of big groups." Yes, that's nice, but so am I.

Doctor Pion said...

The Germans have the right idea. Everyone should be introduced as "Mister Doctor Professor" or "Mizz Doctor Professor" as appropriate to their rank.

By the way, cultures differ on this. The form "Mister Firstname" or "Mizz Firstname" is an honorific in the African-American community in the south.

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty clear why Anon at 4/17 01:50 PM isn't getting the recognition and positions he thinks he deserves: he's a jerk with an overinflated ego. He cleraly despises women, with a special place in his hearth reserved for white ones whose parents happen to be rich and who happen to dare do science. He also managed to inflict a blanket insult on several commenters above (they are not worth being academics because they supposedly misunderstood a point in his rant?!) Yeah, I am sure he's a charming personality in real life. News flash: no one will bend over backwards to propel a jerk, even if he's brilliant. If I were him, I would stop blaming these "undeserving women" for stealing the positions that were "rightfully" his
and instead try to find out how often his former advisors use words such as "arrogant" or "difficult to work with" to describe their experiences with him.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 4/17/2011 01:50:00 PM:
" is hard to believe that some commenters here are actual academics with degrees."

It's hard to believe that you are an academic with a degree too, going by what you've written so far.

Can you please provide evidence for your claim from your earlier post that ".. 99% of all academic job advertisements say they would prefer a woman candidate to a man"

Please provide a link to one such job ad. It should be easy for you to do if, as you say, 99% of all academic job ads are like this.

GradStudentAbroad said...

I'm a bit late commenting, but.... most job ads these days include some phrase saying that among *equally*qualified* candidates, women (and/or the disabled, and/or ethnic minorities) will be given preference. Given the fact that people strongly disagree about what "qualified" means for a particular position (as noted by FSP above), I have always assumed that such statements are entirely meaningless and are included to satisfy some probably well-meaning but toothless affirmative action regulation. But maybe I am wrong -- I am still a grad student and have never seen a hiring committee in action.

Anonymous said...

ha ha ...I have never seen job adverts that say specifically that women will be preferred?

LOL! Super lol! ROTFL! is a quote from the Math dept of ETH Zurich (go check their website)

"With a view towards increasing the number of female professors, ETH Zurich specifically encourages qualified female candidates to apply".

LOL! Super lol! ROTFL!

And while we are at it, here is a quote from Janine Hummel:

"Yes, two gender issues were very noticeable. Firstly, women tend to have a well developed sense of fairness."

Who is Janine Hummel...she is just the PRESIDENT of the University of Gottingen. And where did she say these words? Interview to NATURE magazine on Apr 10, 2011!

Who is doing the stereotyping and generalization?

Anonymous said...

"With a view towards increasing the number of female professors, ETH Zurich specifically encourages qualified female candidates to apply".

Maybe because English is not your first language, you're missing the point. This does not say "we will hire a woman over a man". It says "we never get enough female applications; please send one".

Anonymous said...

Keep up the feminazism. The quota women become exposed eventually though...

Anonymous said...

Some time ago, as a PhD student, I got involved (at a conference) in a conversation with several people. At a certain moment, I asked the man sitting next to me what kind of research he did. His answer was: well, you know "firstname lastname" that gave a talk today? I am her husband. He immediately went on talking and left it to that but I vaguely suspected that "firstname lastname" - who is quite famous in her field - was actually married to another famous researcher whom she also collaborated and published with, so her very modest husband sitting next to me would actually have some credentials too. Back home I looked it up and that was correct.
If a woman would have done that, I would have interpreted it as her having internalized sexist mores. Since it was a man, I did not interpret it as such, but rather as him not wanting to talk about himself (or his research, which is the same as his wife's).
Anyway, this is just a fun anecdote. I do wonder though why women take their husband's last name in the first place, even when they have the opportunity not to do so. Where I live and work, I know of no woman that got her name changed after getting married. Also, and it might be different in ohter contexts, but in formal academia contexts, men and women are addressed the same way. Personally, I would find it very confusing if a woman suddenly announced a change of last name because she had gotten married! If then she insisted that we should call her by her "new" last name, clearly solidifying her being married (why is being married even relevant to your work environment in the first place), while at the same time insisting that her being married does not mean that we should call her Mrs.... Really, that looks utterly inconsistent! As I see it, taking your husband's last name is a sexist habit in itself. Granted, adopting a sexist habit yourself does not legitimate others to adopt other sexist habits. And I don't know if any of the other posters or the blogger changed their last name, but I see no condemnation of that practice. So I would like to ask: do you also keep your own name when you get married? Do you think sexist habits in the US about naming and adressing would diminish somewhat if women in the USA just stopped doing that?
Another thing, lately I see a lot of job and funding opportunities in the US where applicants must be US residents. However, I have not noticed nationality (or race or gender) requirements/preferences in European vacancies. (I can look it up if any of you insist). Also, VISA requirements and so on might not be examples of intentional racism on the part of academics, but they are definitely institutional forms of racism or at least make for very unequal opportunities. Though the relevant institution that discriminates is the US, not the field of academia.

Anonymous said...

@FSP Its late, but still...

"Hiring committees at major research universities look for vision, creativity, ideas for the future, evidence of ability to work independently and manage a research group, collegiality, commitment to research and teaching, and so on."

Well...out of these; "vision", "creativity" and "ideas for future" are usually strongly correlated with the current publication record. Performance-to-date is always a very good predictor of future performance...and what else do we have to go on.

About evidence of "independence" and "managing a research group": in math most papers are 1-2 author (independence) and mathematics usually doesnt have research "groups"...or at least groups "headed" by anyone.

Commitment to teaching: well I dont know about that one. At major research places, and I am talking about one of the most famous "dream" univs in the world is likely to be a non concern and in any case, I dont remember anything stellar in teaching on part of my grad student colleague.

Anonymous said...

@Anon at 4:19

It is actually a misconception of the left that VISA restrictions are based on racism.

For instance, Japanese and Chinese people are part of the same racial stock...but a Japanese or Singaporean or S Korean passport allows (visa free) travel to most of Europe and America, but a Chinese passport doesnt. Conversely, Russians are white, but a Russian passport has less travel freedom than an Indian one.

Visa free travel is based upon who is a part of which military alliance. The reason Europeans give visa free travel to Americans is not because of race, but because Western Europe is part of the American Empire. So are Japan, Singapore and S Korea. All the American Empire countries give visa free travel to US citizens and often to each other.

Louis said...

I agree that women with Ph.D.s or any form of a doctorate for that matter should be addressed as Dr. and not Ms. nor Mrs. regardless of whether they are married or not. They earned that degree and that title. I also believe that the same goes for men. They should not be referred to as Mr. once they earned their doctorates. It is rude and insulting if you knowingly do that. Now don't get me wrong, in private life, a Ph.D./M.D./Ed.D., etc. will often expect friends, family, etc. to call him or her by his or her first name. However, in a wedding, bar/bat mitzvah, christening, etc. invitation or even a personal letter with a title, one should put the correct title on the envelope. For instance, if you are inviting your uncle and aunt to your son's bar mitzvah and they both hold doctorates. Let's say your uncle holds a Ph.D. and your aunt an M.D. The letter should be, Drs. James and Deborah Goldberg and NOT Mr. or Mrs. Goldberg nor Dr. and Mrs. James Goldberg or even Mr. and Dr. James Goldberg. You can offend them. My boss holds her Ph.D. in psychology. She is married and is referred to as Dr. E. and not Mrs. E anymore since she earned her Ph.D. 3 years ago. I earned mine with her and I no longer use Mr. I give my clients to have the option of calling me Dr. T. or by my first name, but I prefer my first name, but not Mr. T. What do you think of this? You are welcome to express your opinions.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Louis (above). I am female, not married, and am consistently referred to as Dr Lastname I. My place of work (a secondary school in England). But the one place where I am constantly referred to as Mrs is my local hospital. It is really beginning to irritate me! In the good old pre-doctorate days, I could easily correct people by telling them that it is "Miss Lastname",but in a hospital context, where titles seem to be so very important, I just cannot get anyone to stop calling me "Mrs".
If I manage to convince anyone at the hospital to call me "Dr Lastname" I then have to explain that this is an academic title, not a job description.
Why do people just default to Mrs?

Aaron D. Franklin said...

Professors aren't doctors. They're professors. There's a difference.

Doctors do things. Professors say things.

It doesn't matter whether somebody is male or female.

The things doctors do matter. The things professors say don't matter (except to other professors. That's why no one in the real world knows or cares about what professors think, but we do care about what doctors think. Professors live in their own little world, and they only care about earning approval from other professors. Doctors come into contact with the real world every day, and they care about doing things that matter.)

If you're just a professor, don't mislead people into thinking you're a doctor. You're not.

(And no, I don't care if someone's official title is "Dr. of Such-and-Such Topic at Such-and-Such University." That person is still a professor. He's not a doctor.)