Month: July 2015

From I Am Not Hysterical
I am a woman with a Master’s in Engineering, working for a construction company.

Our safety officer rolled into the trailer one day and asked me totally out of the blue where the muffins and cookies were that I was supposed to bring in.  Because I’m a girl?  I asked.  Well, yeah, he replied.  I then asked him where was the buffalo that he was supposed to shoot with a bow and arrow and drag into camp.

He doesn’t really talk to me anymore.

Fight back.  Fight genteelly and with dignity, but fight back.

From Anonymous

I am an RA (soon to be PhD student). I work in a fairly multidisciplinary research group where each of us has an extremely different academic background. My specialization is in signal processing, so I have been put on a project that requires me to implement some complex algorithms.
We just had a postdoc join us and he has zero experience in this area. At the third lab meeting where he has been present (and I have been giving updates on my work at each one), he stopped me and said, “actually, this is how you can solve the problem…” He went on to demonstrate, in detail, his complete lack of understanding on the topic, going as far as to get two extremely fundamental concepts entirely and laughably wrong. At first, I tried to jump in to comment, but no one could get a word in, so I eventually let him ramble on. When he stopped, I politely pointed out that his description had been completely off base because it was based upon his incorrect understanding of really fundamental principles.
So infuriating. I was kind about it. But in the end, he looked ridiculous.

From Student

At an internship with an animal hospital, one of the established veterinarians there came up to me and suggested that I better start looking for a sugar daddy soon in order to pay off my vet school loans. In my opinion, not very appropriate career advice.

From Anonymous

I am a white male who, during my student days more than 50 years ago, applied for a part-time job at the Berkeley Radiation Lab in the  hills just above the UC campus.  The job involved microscopic examination of photographic plates that had been exposed to nuclear reactions in their particle accelerator (you have probably seen the peculiar lines and spirals that result).  I interviewed in the cyclotron facility, by a guy that I presume was a scientist, and he bluntly told me I was not suited for it.  He said the job was tedious and boring, the kind of thing that only women were fit to do.


From Anonymous

After several years as a Nuclear plant technician in the military, I found a civilian job working for a building controls company.  Being that building fire and HVAC systems are not terribly complicated compared to nuclear power, it was pretty easy to distinguish myself and I was soon recruited to run a quick-turn project team across the country.  I was the first woman they had ever hired in a technical position (much less as a project manager), but my new boss seemed really excited to bring me on, and was willing to relocate me, so it should be all good right?

Everything started well.  Stepping into a position that had been vacant for over a year without being covered had some challenges, but the feedback I received was all positive.  My boss told me I had Operations Management all over me and documented a career path in my file.

Nine months later, my new boss left the company and a new person was hired to replace him.  Our first meeting did not go well.  It literally started with “Don’t take this personally, but I wouldn’t have hired you.  Women just don’t have the intuitive understanding of mechanics needed to be successful in this field.”  I explained that having worked in a nuclear power plant as a mechanic for most of my adult life, I would say that mechanics were pretty intuitive for me.  His response was that he was stuck with me and we’d make the best of it.

It didn’t take long before the small cuts started.  Suddenly I had to run every decision by him, even if he wasn’t available and caused delays.  Orders to my crew were countermanded.  Customers were told that I didn’t understand the process and my decisions were changed.  I suddenly needed to check in everywhere I went.  My crew were asked to file weekly reports on how I was doing and how long it took me to respond to emails or phone calls.  He even had a white board installed outside my cubical so that I could update where I was (even to go to the bathroom) “In case someone needed me”.  All this without ever having done anything to deserve a police-state work environment.  No one else received these requirements.

At the end of the year, I was not given a raise even though I had hit all my personal metrics.  The reason given was that I was new and the company did not do well this year.   He did manage to find me a bonus of $200.00 as a reward for hitting my metrics.  I later learned that I was the only person in my department not to receive a raise and the average bonus for the year was several thousand.  Still, I hoped that I could change his mind.

The next year, my metrics were adjusted beyond an achievable level.  I analyzed them and showed him the data on how it was physically impossible for anyone to put in that many hours (one metric) while also cutting every project budget by 50% (another metric).  Even projects sold at a loss were not exempt.  No other project manager was under these constraints.  He suggested that I consider moving to another field.  The finance department was always looking for people and it was much less technical over there.  People hired after me (no women, of course) were promoted even with huge project losses. I was told that my career path had been deleted because it seemed to be “over-stating” my abilities.

It got worse.  He would call me after hours to check on projects and berate me for hearing my children in the background, but if I let it go to voicemail so I could step outside then I was “too unavailable”.  I needed to be on site more to oversee my crew; why wasn’t I ever in the office?  If my schedule changed while in the field I needed to make sure my white board was updated…Why wasn’t my white board updated? It got to the point that I had to psych myself up every day before going in.  Sometimes I would cry in my car for awhile before work.  But my husband had been laid off and we needed the work.

I spoke to another department head and tried to get an intervention.  The response was, “Well, he’s a good guy.  He just has a hard time understanding women.  He’ll come around.”  He didn’t.  I spoke to the HR rep. and came with documentation.  Her response was that he had already been to see her about his frustration regarding my “lack of work ethic” and had let her know that I seemed “overly upset” and would likely “blow things out of proportion”.  She suggested I transfer to another department if I couldn’t learn to work with everyone in mine.

My husband called me an hour later to let me know he had gotten a job and my letter of resignation was on his desk 15 minutes after that.  I put in my last two weeks and did a full turn over on my projects.  During my exit interview, the HR rep told me that she knew it hadn’t really been that bad for me or I would have just walked out rather than simply giving notice.

Eye Candy in the Math Department

From Anna

When I graduated from university, I was the only female in my class to have earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics. After one of my male peers learned I had achieved High-Honors, having earned A’s in all but one of my classes, he proclaimed, “The only reason you got good grades is because you’re eye candy for the math department. They have to keep the good-looking females around for interest”

Worst Experience

From Anonymous

I don’t even know where to start.. Being an Asian female student not only required me to deal with sexism but also a subtle racism .. While doing my internship  I was the only female undergraduate in an all guy group in neuro dept of one of the top University in scandinavia .. I had this male PhD student(in his final year) who always passed sexist comments or even tried to massage my shoulders when I am off guard and if I refused to his advances he would find fault with me and my work.. He happened to be someone my supervisor(male) blindly trusted… I did complain about him to the PI (male) and my supervisor ..the response I got was that they know he is “difficult” to be with but I need to work with him and also learn a technique from him since he is the only one who is better than others .. I was stressed for months and to deal with him everyday was effecting me …if I ever disagreed with this PhD student I would be degraded and mocked openly by him.. He was asked by one of the male colleague to stop it but instead things became worse .. He would throw away any solutions Or my samples saying they are bad when I was not in the lab and everyday call me stupid day he even asked infront of everyone  “would you have slept with me if I wasn’t married ?you are stupid anyways no intelligent person would like to be with you” And he laughed .. His concerns were mainly about me being Asian and if I had boyfriend  would any man marry me since we need to be virgin before marrying .. I never discussed my private life yet he felt free to behave in such way.. Also my complaints fell on deaf years.. I just walked away from there .. Before I joined this group I was told I had higher chances to work with them after internship since I had good record as well as good references but later as the months were closing by I talked to the PI who said that He is unimpressed about how my experiments with that PHD student isn’t working and that I didn’t respect the PhD student ..I quit the group .. Graduated .. And now I am applying for PhD .. But sometimes I shudder and ponder is it worth the effort to face constant sexism and degradation ? Is there a way I can avoid such sexist group ? I love science but the idea of going through this ordeal makes me question where should I draw a line ..

From Anonymous

My first experience with sexism in academia came in one of the first core classes of my major (a sort of applied physics/engineering degree). I was excited to start the class as it was taught by the head of the department. Unfortunately, this was merely one of many disagreements and experiences I would have with him based on my gender over my 3 years under him.

In the very first class, he offered us an opportunity to earn 5 extra-credit points towards our first quiz. He posed us a question and the first person to give him the correct answer either in person or over e-mail would receive the points.
I went to Google immediately after class and looked up the answer to his question. Then, I sent him an e-mail with the answer and a link to the site I had found the answer off. As it was minutes after class, I was fairly confident I had been the first to submit it.

In the next class, he makes a point to tell me (in front of the rest of the class–2 girls vs. 12 boys for those keeping score, and this was my entire graduating class) that while I had been the first to submit the correct answer, I had not done it with enough confidence. The points were instead awarded to the person who had sent the second e-mail, surprise surprise, a boy.

It feels silly to still be so angry over a few extra points when I got a great grade on the first quiz anyways, but it’s always bugged me that the professor somehow thought the tone of a female’s e-mail was less confident than that of a male’s, and that this somehow meant their answers were less valid.

From Anonymous

I’m a senior at a STEM highschool. It has about a 60:40 boy:girl population, but the teachers (many of whom are women) do try to make it welcoming to all.

2 years ago, after taking the PSAT, one of the boys a year above me told me I could never be a National Merit Scholar because even he hadn’t scored high enough.

Last year, when I was in this same boy’s Calculus class (I skipped a grade in math, so I was taking it as a junior with a class of seniors) he told me I “shouldn’t prostitute myself to get good grades” after I scored higher than him on a test. When I immediately pointed how sexist that was, he said it wasn’t sexist because men can also be prostitutes, and the boys nearby defended him to. I reported him to a number of teachers, but all that happened was that he was forced to apologize, not all that sincerely. The male math teacher, however, was very sorry, and promised to watch and listen more closely in the future.

I am still very angry about this, but after becoming a National Merit Scholar this year, I smirk more often when I look back at this, but it was still really creepy to realize how young boys and men can already be so sexist so early.