From Anonymous:

I was a fourth year PhD student before I finally realized my adviser’s sexist behavior wasn’t about me personally, but rather about my gender. During meetings, he would invite the guys over to help with moving a piece of furniture, pointedly avoiding the women (after making a joke about it, he made sure to only ask the guys when women weren’t present). When I would present conclusions, he would ask me to go check with a more junior male student, despite the fact that I was the resident expert on the topic (and when I would ask the other student, he said he didn’t know anything about it and looked confused as to why I would even ask him). When my adviser chose nominees for awards, it was a male student that was chosen, despite my superior grades and similar publication record, until gradually the male student did have a better CV because they had more accolades. A woman was always in charge of secretarial tasks such as scheduling meetings and ordering supplies, because we were more ‘detail-oriented’ and more ‘trusted’ to do it correctly. When it was time to train a new student, the women were told to train him in the everyday tasks, but anything that required higher thinking should be left to our male colleague. That was when I started to see the pattern of subtle, long-term differences between how the male and female students were treated. The biggest issue was that the most interesting projects, with the highest impact, were always given to a male student. I still have to talk myself out of believing that my male colleague isn’t better than me in every professional regard, because it was so pervasive within the lab culture. This man was supposed to be my mentor, the launching pad for my career, but the biggest lesson I learned from him was the repercussions of not-so benevolent sexism.

One comment

  1. I’m a female PhD student experiencing a similar problem — I’m my supervisor’s only female student, and he gives the choice projects and always double checks my work with the male students. Women are always the ones who take meeting notes or do organizational work. It’s unclear whether he thinks I’m simply a complete idiot or that there is some kind of separation between “boy science” and “girl science”. How am I supposed to stay motivated to learn new things and speak confidently about my accomplishments if I’m constantly being steamrolled and confronted with subtle mistrust?


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