From Tabitha

My male science lecturer at a very prestigious university told me I would get better grades if I “didn’t wear a bra”. The next day I came in without a bra and he removed me from the class because I dressed “provocatively”. As a disabled person of colour, I find this disgusting as this is still happening in 2017.

From Andie

Title Examples of unconscious sexism

– Believing that, if women earn more doctoral degrees, men are discriminated against, but if women go less into STEM fields, it must be because of biological differences.

– Believing that all women’s successes are due to affirmative action, but that affirmative action discriminates against men.

– Dismissing any evidence of women being as less as being pseudoscience but immediately accepting any study proving women being biologically less inclined towards certain fields without criticism.

From Beth

Title My “cute” results

I submitted a manuscript to a prominent peer-reviewed journal. This was not my first first-author publication, but it was my first as corresponding author. I was excited and nervous when our reviews came back. One of the comments hit me straight in the stomach, and I’ll probably never forget it.

“This is a cute result.”

Now, please understand that myself, my colleagues, and the editor all felt like the result in this manuscript were of significant scientific interest. Further, no clipart was used in making the figures.

When forming a rebuttal to our reviewer comments, I wanted to address this microagression head-on. This language has no place in a professional peer-review report. It is meant to demean and belittle. And I would argue that had the first author been a man, this term would not be used. I was, and still am, disgusted.

I was further shocked at my male coauthors’ response.

“This is probably a positive comment in the reviewer’s first language.”
“You don’t want to embarrass the reviewer by addressing this.”
“You’re misinterpreting their comment!”

The journal in question has several articles about sexism in STEM, and if they’re sincere about fighting the bias agaisnt women in science then their editors need to be on the frontline. This kind of language is non-constructive and unprofessional, and editors should do more to call it out. I don’t care if a reviewer’s feelings are hurt, because their feelings do not get to supersede my own.

From Anonymous

At the upcoming Turbomachinery and Pump Symposia in Houston, TX run by Texas A&M University’s Turbo Lab, there is a special program for spouses of attendees: Cake Decorating and Jewelry Making.

http://tps.tamu.edu/spouse-program/

From Sarah

Two male graduate students in an academic genetics lab, speaking to various female undergraduates:

“See the number on the scale? Subtract 10 and that’s what you should be aiming for.”

Same male graduate students responding to my (female postdoc in the same lab) protests about their comments:

“It’s just a joke.”

Principal Investigator of the lab:

Silence.

10 years later, this memory still makes me sick to my stomach.

From R L

Title Pseudo-intellectual misogyny

I would like to preface this story by saying that I am a non-white cisgendered man that often engages in political debate with some rather reactionary characters. This story should illuminate that for all reading.

I once met a stereotypical brogrammer who claimed to be an anarcho-capitalist. For those who don’t know, they’re essentially laissez-faire capitalists that want the state gone completely. So basically, any anti-discrimination protections created for women amd minorities, any equal pay initiative, every affirmative action initiative and every workers rights protections are gone. They believe that ”the market will sort it out naturally” even though it’s very clear to anyone with any knowledge of the history of capitalism that this will not happen. But when teey get called on it, they blame some non-existent bogeyman called corporatism, without any awareness of what that word actually means.

These sorts of people have an unbelievably hard time accepting the fact that institutional oppression is a thing, largely because it takes a special kind of special to casually ignore the entire history of the last 200 years and say ”We need to let corporations go free and discriminate at will”. This means any criticism of societal structures that oppress certain groups needs to go out the door, as that would torpedo their central argument that markets are perfectly efficient and are perfectly equitable.

He was your stereotypical libertarian. ”Show me a law where women and minorities are biased against”, ”women’s choices cause the gender pay gap”, ”racism does not exist anymore”. Given the fact this man was not oppressed in any meaningful way, it would be extremely likely he would come to this conclusion.

I bombarded him with examples of women and minorities being seen as less competent by interviewers. He then called those studies ”tripe” because ”they don’t take into account all the variables involved”. He never explained why this is the case, he never gave a cogent argument what those variables might be and he never gave a wayit could be improved, but it’s probably because he and his little political cult believes any sort of statistical social science is worthless.

… unless it agrees with their preconceived points of view.

He would never, ever hesitate to pull out studies proving that women are either inferior of less disposed at things like STEM or military work. He would show how ”women give up easier at physical tasks” without criticizing why they did so and if social pressures might contribute to that. He would bring up the pseudo-academic concept of the Norwegian Gender Paradox, which states that, as a country becomes more prosperous, women, who now ”have the freedom to choose”, will choose the occupations they’re naturally suited for. In other words, women aren’t suited to be engineers, without the overt bigotry usually involved with this kind of argument.

This is where I got absolutely enraged. His studies very clearly relied on the same statistical correlation he decried in mine His studies on women in the military excluded social factors that may have caused those results. When I claimed his ”paradox” is irrelevant (given the fact, in many of the so-called ”sexist” countries he named, engineering is not considered a man’s job and that the proportion of STEM women has increased over the last few decades. He claimed this was ”proof that I was wrong about discrimination in STEM” (despite the fact feminism has gained a lot of traction over the past few decades). When I pointed out how much of a hypocrite he was for not applying his bullshit standard of evidence to his own argumentation, he blocked me, not before saying that ”biological differences between men and women are readily apparent”.

It was a rather tedious exchange with an extremely arrogant mediocre white man (this was a 30-something who, despite having graduated a decade prior, was still in an entry-level engineering job; the fact he isn’t oppressed in any way shape or form means this isn’t due to institutionalized bigotry and should be proof of how much of an idiot he is).

However what got to me the most was the sheer level of confirmation bias he was experiencing. He never ever bothered to apply his bullshit standard of evidence to his own studies, touting them as absolute fact. That reeks of the unconscious sexism that led to James Damore publishing his nonsense literature review in August.

I’ve spoken to actual scholars who research attrition and unconscious bias. They very clearly laid waste to his arguments.

The whole ‘give me the confidence of a mediocre white man” adage feminists chant permeated the entire exchange. How a lower-end BEng graduate with no experience whatsoever in social science lecturing me as to how much of an idiot I was made me feel the crunch of oppression. I’m an ethnic minority, and the patronizing tone of voice he used never escaped me.

It was after this incident that I realized feminism was indeed correct and why men like this are the reason there are so few women in programm9ing.

From Anonymous

The Dean of our College sent our Mathematics department an email to let us know that a STRIDE (Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence) workshop will take place, and he highly recommending that anyone on a hiring committee go to it. He called for a composition of the faculty to be reflective of society at large. “For example, ideally the Math department would be 50% women. As an intermediate goal I’d like to see the composition of our faculty reflect the composition of PhD recipients in each department in the college. For the Math department this would mean ~32% women according to the AMS”. Here is one of the responses from one of the faculty members (with names removed).

********************

Dear All,

Let me take the liberty to add my two pennies.

First of all to make this clear. I am absolutely for involving women in mathematics. Here is some background

I supervise a female undergraduate student of xxx origin. What could be better for diversity? She got a WIM stipend last year. And the first place on a student exhibition for the project she is doing under my supervision. She came to xxx this August to continue her work with me on her project before a busy semester starts. I covered her travel from my funds.

I had several female PhD and Master students.

I collaborate and discuss mathematics with quite a few female mathematicians including xxx , xxx, (who came to xxx by my invitation a couple years ago to work with
xxx and me), xxx and many others.

If you ask my opinion, the best candidate for the next chair of our department would be xxx. Even though she … I would be happy to work under her leadership.

I wrote this to indicate that I am not at all biased. Having said that I am sorry to say that the goal figure of 50% IMHO is absolutely unreasonable. Men and women are different. Women give birth to our kids and almost always take more time for taking care of them than men. I hardly can imagine a boxing match on Olympics with a man agains a women. If this happened, if near from there, walking with my cane, I would run there to protect the lady. I would.

My understanding of the term “equal opportunity” consists of two contradictory goals which somehow should be combined for coexist.

–There should be no difference in our attitude towards women and men, Black, Indian, Mexican, Hispanic and so on.

— On the other hand, we need to take into account that some of them had less opportunities, and we want to give them more opportunities to realize their potential.

This is a hard task.

In my family, both parents of mine were brilliant mathematicians. When my younger brother was born, it became clear that two parent entirely dedicated to Mathematics can not take reasonable care of the kids.
They decided that my mother gived up her position at xxx Institute and switched to a teaching position at xxx University. She was a great teacher. When xxx received (one of) his latest prizes, in his celebrating speech, in the first sentence he said first that without her he doubts he would become a mathematician. After my mom retired in xxx, she taught for xxx for two years.

If one likes numbers (as a mathematician, I hate them), I still would not like to look at %% at xxx. Better look at publications in the Annals.

My wife xxx, an M.D., does not work as a doctor. She takes care of our daughters. She is essentially a co–author of my mathematical work, my paintings, literature.

Setting a specific goal of 38% or 50% – I don`t like this. This seems unreasonable to me. Moving in this direction -– I like this a lot.

Thank you,

From Elizabeth

Title Chemist

I would like to start by saying that throughout my seven years of college, I never felt like I was treated inappropriately because I’m a female. I majored in chemistry and math for undergraduate, and in a few of my math classes I was the only female. I didn’t feel like the other students or the professors treated me differently.

However, since I entered the workforce five years ago, I have encountered a few less than pleasant situations. Three specific instances come to mind, which I would like to share here.

My first job out of school was at a company that did chemistry consulting work. One day, the administrative assistant’s husband stopped by. She introduced me to him, and he shook my hand but would not let go, even when I tried to release my grip. They both found it funny. I later found out that he is a nuclear physicist, and he returned on another occasion. I was at my workstation, and I could hear him down the hall loudly saying “Where’s Elizabeth? I bet she’s hiding because she knows I’m going to hit on her.” I felt mortified and now regret that I didn’t speak up and express disapproval at his behavior. I cannot imagine what his female co-workers must go through.

In order to drum up new business, the company hosted an open house, essentially a social event for the clients. Most of the clients were laboratories and engineering firms. My boss assigned me to greet people at the front door. One of the first groups of people to arrive was two men. I said “Welcome to (our company name)”, and he scoffed and said “yeah there you are.” I should note that I am not sure whether his unpleasant attitude was a result of me being female or because of my age. What I do know is that he would not have greeted my middle-aged male boss that way if it had been him at the door.

After I left that company, I started a lab job. My boss was friendly from the start, but after a few months he began pressuring me to meet up with him outside of work. He would ask me to dinner but clarify that “it is not a date or anything.” These encounters quickly turned awkward, since of course I was not interested. I feel like in this type of situation, the rejection can possibly influence decisions on promotions and pay raises. Although I expressed no interest in him, he remained persistent, and even invited me to his father’s farm for camping!

Fortunately he left the company soon after. I exchanged contact info with him, since I needed to use him as a reference, and he sent me occasional emails, sometimes asking me to visit. After a few more months, I noticed that the invitations had ceased. Soon after, I learned that one of my co-workers was pregnant and he was the father.

As a disclaimer, I should say that I am aware that these types of situations can go both ways. Since I have been a girl my whole life, I don’t have firsthand experience with any female-to-male inappropriate actions. But I do feel compelled to share here since I feel that being a female has had some negative impact on my career.

From Anonymous 

Title Mr. Engineer

I’m a product engineer. One of my recent projects was to find new manufacturers for some specific products where our current manufacturers either had quality issues or didn’t have the capabilities we needed.

As part of this project, I attend a manufacturing trade show with a fellow engineer who is male, and two colleagues from Sourcing and Purchasing, one female and one male.

Prior to this trade show, I check out the list of vendors and look at the websites of a few who look like a good match for our needs. One of the vendors’ sites offers a free sample part that shows some of their molding capabilities, so I fill out the request form, which doesn’t have an entry for title (e.g. Mr/Ms). This will be important later.

So the trade show itself rolls around. Many of the vendors initiate conversation with the two men in our group. The male engineer has to direct them to me so I can discuss our specific manufacturing needs and show them the failed part samples I brought with me, although once I get talking, most of the vendors readily engage me in technical conversation. But when it’s time to wrap up the conversation, even though my female sourcing colleague has been the one asking logistical questions (e.g. production capacities/lead times) and taking notes, most of the vendors go to swap contact info with her male peer.

I make a point of talking to the manufacturer I had requested the sample part from at this trade show, and exchange contact info. The sample part arrives a few days after the show, and since my first name isn’t obviously female, the company had presumed anyone looking for engineering samples must be male, and addressed this sample to “Mr.” (My Name). What was really irritating, though, was that they also mailed me a postcard to follow up from the trade show (I know this was a trade show follow up because my address was formatted slightly different on my sample request and my trade show contact info). And even though they had met me IN PERSON, they still addressed this postcard with the title “Mr.”

Needless to say, that vendor didn’t make it into my presentation to my team leads on potential manufacturers for our company.