In addition to being a postdoc in a male-dominated field, I’m also a belly dancer. My PI found out, and has since taken to sharing that tidbit about me to introduce me to colleagues and other professionals. At a recent conference, he introduced me to a big-wig who visited my poster with something along the lines of “and this is _______, did you know she’s a belly dancer?”
Yes, and I also recently published a very interesting article in Journal X, am currently working on problem XYZ, but who cares right? The fact that I like to dance in my free time is way more important.
From Dr Mac:
Back in grad school for my PhD I was asked to give a talk at a conference outside my area (my area is very interdisciplinary). I carefully considered the audience, created and delivered my talk, and walked around the conference for a bit before getting ready to leave. A man came up to me and I thought he might say something about my talk, since I’d just finished it and that’s usually why people come up to me at a conference. Instead he looked at me and said “Your hair.” I wasn’t sure I heard correctly, so I said “I’m sorry, what?” (with a big smile I now regret.) “Your hair,” he said. “You’d be so pretty if you’d just do something about your hair.” I was stopped in my tracks with no idea what to say and he walked off fast, I assume enjoying his hit and run.
My mentor in graduate school decided I needed a nickname: “Bubbles”. — Biochemistry Ph.D.
I’m an organic chemistry graduate student. In a recent seminar, a visiting professor gave an interesting talk about how diamonds are being used in new types of catalysis to make interesting new molecules. However, the titled the talk “Why Diamonds are a Man’s Best Friend.” I immediately felt left out of the conversation and was left to ponder about how apparently men like diamonds because of their interesting science, as opposed to how women like diamonds because they’re pretty.
Career soul searching turned into needing to be “THAT GUY”
I’m a postdoctoral researcher at an Ivy league institution. I recently met with a project manager (male) at a leading pharmaceutical company to get a better idea of how to land an industry job and what working in industry entails. I’ve always considered myself an academic but now that I’m married and want to have children in a few years, I thought I should look into other options for a better work-life balance. It only helps to talk to people about their jobs. In addition, my PhD is in pharmacology, I have extensive knowledge of drug discovery, worked with fantastic mentors, and went to pharmacy school for undergrad. I am qualified for a career switch to industry and I understand the process.
Throughout our conversation he referred to the higher leadership positions in industry by saying things like “if you want to be that guy” or “that guy had a lab for 10 years before joining industry.” Every time he did it, he emphasized “that guy” and he must have said it 10 times or more because it really started to bother me. Not once did he look at my face and correct that mistake by saying “or girl.”
He might not have realized he was doing this but this type of gender bias is something that women notice. I just wished he said the position title or replaced “that guy” with “professional” or “project leader” or “PI.” He made it pretty clear his company was an old boys club at the top.
So thanks, GUY, you made me want to stick to academia.
From Dr. Dorothy:
After i completed my doctorate a prominent facility opened up which promised a long career in the field that i had been trained in. While it was being built word on the grapevine began to circulate that the facility was going to be run as a military installation, i.e. No women.
When i did get an interview i was deliberately given the wrong time for the interview and on the way there someone tried to cause a car accident. I still made it to the interview. While i was walking to the interview room with the interviewer he mentioned that he was surprised that i had made it there alive. Later he told me that he was gay and didn’t get along with women so none would be hired on his beamline. I guess preventing me from getting to the interview would have served as an excuse for hiring the male. When i left this ‘well respected scientist’ put his hand in his pants and offered me a hand covered in faeces to shake. This is the quality of scientist that the Australian Government thinks are appropriate to be in charge of hiring at the Australian Synchrotron. Scientists would would rather kill women than work with them.
My male postdoc advisor has a history of treating his female students like his secretaries or personal assistants, a fact well-noticed by the male students, as well. In treating me like is personal assistant, he tends to volunteer me for tasks without asking my opinion or if I’m even available. When I found out that he volunteered me, yet again, to give a talk at a workshop we were attending (which he also volunteered me to attend without asking) and I expressed my surprise that I was on the list of speakers, his response to me was: “Oh it’ll be fine. You like giving talks. You can put on something pretty and stand up in front of everybody.”
From Dr. Peele:
While i was working as a contractor for a Government organisation at my University the then head of the national society in my profession denied my qualifications in the newspaper so that he could get another female in the picture and create the false impression of gender equality at a science facility. They used me many times on the cover of magazines to promote their professions but never gave me credit for the work i did. My PhD supervisor once jokingly said that they don’t actually have to not be sexist, they just have to appear to not to be. That is why the only woman in the room is the one they are using for the media and after the photo is taken they are told to go away and have babies.
When I was a Physics grad student in the mid ’90’s, I was an Astronomy T.A. My then adviser made several remarks about the fact that I was single, and asked several male students “would you marry her?” “Would you?”
After several such incidents, I reported him to our Department Chair. After several more complaints of that nature from female students, the faculty member was asked to leave.
From Brenda Buck, Professor of Geology:
One day in class, in front of the entire class, my favorite geology professor told me that it was ok for me to get my bachelor’s degree in geology but after that I needed to stay home and bake cookies for the real geologists. This was in 1990.