Author: stemfeminist

Lipstick needed 

From Female Math Professor

I have a YouTube channel where I post math videos on various subjects. The channel has been up for a couple of years, and has gathered quite some subscribers and views. Most of the comments are nice and geeky. But two weeks ago I got a notification to review a comment. Someone commented that I “should have used some lipsticks to bring colors to the classroom.” Of course I blocked that comment.

Predatory Professor

From Disgusted

Today we hosted a senior and well-funded mathematician from Europe. One with a history of sexual harassment. He described a new policy whereby all faculty without “habilitation” (similar to tenure-level experience) must be mentored by a senior faculty member. He then smiled broadly and said, “So I immediately sought out the most beautiful young woman and asked her to be my mentee.”

You have “leadership potential” 

From J

I worked at a University for 6 years. In my time there, I was always told, at every level, that I had “leadership potential”. I worked hard and was promoted three times.

Each year at my annual performance evaluation, I was told by my boss(es) that I was an excellent employee with “leadership potential”.

When I took my last and final promotion, at the very top of the organization where I was on the senior management team, I had earned my Masters degree in Management on the side and completed several leadership development programs. I was the “go to” person for everything tech, even more than the IT director. I organized and led an initiative that had been on the organization’s “to do” list for 8 years in my first year on the job.

Certain that I had earned a raise, I put together a proposal and asked for it at my next performance evaluation.

I was told – “This is great, but you know we can’t give this to you because of the budget cuts. I can see if I can change your title. You have great leadership potential, and I’d like to see you take on more of those responsibilities…”

There it was again — those words: “Leadership potential”.

I then asked an important question: “I keep hearing that word – potential. How can we turn potential into kinetic?”

He laughed and sort of dodged my question.

Then I realized there was no way out. I was always going to be told I had “potential”. I was never going to get the credit I deserved for the projects I successfully completed or the support I provided. I was always going to be told to “do more” without the opportunity to actually do so.

I was also somewhat annoyed because an opening for an Director position was going to open. By all means, I should have been considered for this role. However, it was announced – without any discussion – that a male in another department was being “groomed” for the position and it was made very clear that he was going to be asked his interest in taking the role.

6 months later, I accepted a position outside of the company where I was the department head in a very large organization responsible for managing a $250,000 annual budget, training and supervising staff, among other responsibilities. My salary was increased by 30%.

After I accepted and told my boss, my supervisor only then asked if they could keep me by offering the Director role to me.

In my new role, I had to “prove myself”, as anyone new would. This was exceptionally difficult, however, in a male dominated industry. Suddenly, the department head meetings – which had traditionally been a time for “the guys to all get together and joke” had a female in it, and the jokes had to be curtailed a bit. Further I had surpassed at least one internal candidate for the position who was extremely resentful, and several of his friends, who were in leadership roles, were in turn resentful to me as well, making work difficult for awhile.

But I was hired along-side a male counterpart, and we both worked well together. Until we didn’t. He saw me as competition and began distancing himself from me.

I got past all of this, though, and continued to work hard and did a great job my first year. It was a great accomplishment. I had learned a lot and did very well.

Then HR came around and offered me an opportunity to be part of the company’s leadership development program. You know, because I had a lot of “leadership potential.”

I was floored.

In this program, I’d be with employees in different departments, none of which are managers, nevermind department heads.

Worse, I found my male counter-part who I’d been hired with was not asked to be in the program, but instead was asked to be a presenter in the program.

I’m now looking for other opportunities.

Machine Designer 

From Casey

A lot of things have happened to me in my STEM career as a machine designer. I think the worst was that I passed by a group of my male coworkers in a hallway and one of them patted my butt. And then one of them giggled. My humiliation was much worse than I would have expected, and yes, I went home and cried. It was so unexpected and personal and I can’t find the words to express how deeply it wounded me. But I can explain WHY. There were 3 other men in that group who said nothing. Perhaps they thought it was amusing, IDK. No one confided to me that they thought that I had been wronged. By not saying anything they were part of a group, and this is the crux of the problem. Almost no one wants to challenge the status quo. At that particular company, to show support for me was to invite ostracism. So the entire time I worked there (on and off for 7 years as a contractor, they liked my work, and apparently I was a masochist) I felt alienated, isolated, and bullied (and I was bullied). Every day. Not a single friend. And resented too because of Affirmative Action (yes I overheard that many times and I don’t think they cared if I heard or not), but you know what? That was an excuse. Not a reason. My work was excellent and ought to have meant more than just a “female advantage”. It’s really something to feel that it is just you against so many others. Made me feel as if I was the problem. And I was. When I reported harassment for another reason later on, guess what happened? I got fired. As I said, I was good at my job, so I got more than just a couple of references. The people who were above me actively sought out other jobs for me. My peers were the problem, not the higher uppers. I don’t think the higher uppers were aware of my pain. Of course not. I kept it to myself. To do otherwise would have been to be perceived as weak. At least that’s what I thought. I have worked other places which were almost as bad, and some places with pleasant and supportive coworkers. Of course the awesome work environments came after the initial series of bad ones. Had I known there were better places to work I would have gone elsewhere rather than tolerate the BS.

Mechanical Test Engineer

From TRDChic

I work for an aerospace company in San Diego CA. I am a 28 year old female who has been there for 5 years. I have a bachelors in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a masters in aeronautical science from Embry Riddle. Every day is a battle for me…I started my career as a bright and enthusiastic new grad and jumped into my first position at the company. My starting salary seemed fair. Very quickly I met resistance with my new boss. I’d ask questions and he’d tell me “because I said so” was the reason for anything I’d ask. I’m trying to have a mentor relationship with him because I am new to the industry and the workforce. I push back. I go to meetings where they assume I am from HR or a secretary there to take notes. I laugh it off. Another male is hired to be in between myself and my boss. This one directs me to do things I do not agree with (engineering tasks) so I question his judgement. He screams in my face that he could get me fired. I calmly tell him to f-ing try it. I report this to my manager/director. They meet with me, tell me I misunderstood and to drop the whole thing. I don’t want to make waves in my new job…so I listen and shut up about the whole thing. I was promoted to engineer two and made a lead. I was given high meets/exceeds on my review. Then the novelty wore off. They took my position away with no explanation and put another man in between me and my original boss. Clearly I am too much for the group. I get moved to a new group, their way of getting rid of the problem. They make it seem as if its in my best interest. I did not ask for this move… but ok the new job seems fun, I’m resilient, I got this. The first official day in the new group I’m sitting in the group meeting and the new boss asks me to take notes and to run the slide show/projector for him during the meeting. I am already a bit combative and outspoken when it comes to being tasked with so called “women’s work” but I laugh this one off…maybe it was because I was sitting near the computer?? Then it continues…he puts me in Microsoft project training, says we need someone to work schedules in the group. I am a fairly experienced mechanical engineer being told that all I can contribute to the group is to manage schedules. Again, new group, don’t want to make waves so I do it. And boy do I. My schedules are freaking amazing. Maybe I can prove myself and get back to engineering! No one even glances at the schedules for these projects. Ok, now I’m pissed. But I’m a self starter. I go out and find my own work. I decide what training I enroll in and luckily this new boss doesn’t like confrontation so he leaves me be realizing I will NOT be his secretary. Fast forward 2 years. I work my butt off learning systems that only one other engineer in the group knows so I can contribute. I travel, I work long days AND I have completed my masters degree with a 4.0. I feel GOOD. I ask for a promotion. I bring in documentation showing all the work I’ve done and I bring in job postings for engineer 3 from the company website and I demonstrate how I qualify. He sends me to the director. Great!! Not… the director proceeds to tell me that because of my “issues” with my last boss and the fact that my degree is not an engineering degree that he will need to look into whether I qualify for a promotion or not. Wow. Slap in the face. I was in tears at the end of that conversation. Still, I fought and eventually they gave me the promotion. I was excited! Maybe they recognize my worth! Then I see the actual documentation for the promotion and subsequent raise. There are pay brackets for every position, entry level to more experienced. For an engineer 3, the position I was promoted to, the new salary they gave me did not even meet THEIR OWN DEFINED minimum for entry level. I was baffled. I asked my supervisor, he shrugged, avoided eye contact. I sent it to HR and the director. They said the form was old and the ranges shifted. and that was the end of it. No promise to look into it. No attempt to reconcile anything. I am STILL furious about this. Come to find out, the 2 males recently hired in my group (SAME JOB), 1 fresh from school, the other with a masters and 1-2 years experience are making tens of thousands more than me. The baby is at least a good engineer but the other guy…it baffles me that he is capable of walking AND breathing simultaneously….and he makes $15-20k more than me… I am doing everything in my power to LEAVE this place. It is breaking me down. I waited to be fully vested in all my benefits…waited for them to pay for some awesome training and a security clearance…but I can’t do this anymore. I know I am better than this but I feel so useless and cheated. I question my skills and abilities because being my first job out of school I was made to believe I don’t matter, I’m not good enough. It sucks. Senior management doesn’t care. HR doesn’t care. I’m a fighter but this is tough. When my fight or flight response is engaged I want to just leave and find a new job where I am appreciated but then I think of all the others that have no voice that are experiencing the same or worse treatment. I want to help, I want to fight. I am worried it will impact my career in the future…I’m lost.

Manufacturing Engineer 

From Anonymous female

Many stories I’ve read on here sound very similar to many situations I’ve encountered. For years, a lifetime of being brainwashed into believing sexism is in the past. It is alive and thriving. When I got my first degree, an associates in HVAC, I had even passed the state board contractor’s exam (which had <20% passing rate), I was laughed at by every company I called when I tried to get a job. I wanted hands on experience. Years later after getting a BS and becoming an engineer, even though I had licenses, my local HVAC supply store refused to sell me (electrical components not requiring a license) parts to work on my own AC unit, without even asking for my license or if I was affiliated with a business. It was a chain store that, in another town I had lived, a sister store with a different manager sold supplies to me regularly before. Looking back, I should have reported them.

During college, I had this one professor that seemed to give me a hard time no matter what I did. One day in class, he gave us our graded lab assignments. Mine was in the covering outlined in the syllabus. The order, spacing, font, content and everything was exactly to the syllabus. The guy next to me picked up my assignment and read it. He busted out laughing. I had a C and he got an A. He said “they basically say the same thing, but yours is better,” and he handed me his barely legible, hand written, torn-out-of-a-spiral-notebook with shreds hanging all over, lab homework that warranted an “A.” This was just the tip of the iceberg of what this bigoted professor put me, and many other women through. Again, I had been brainwashed to believe sexism was a thing of the past.

It was working here that finally broke me and woke me up to the realization that discrimination against women is VERY real, and we are being brainwashed into believing it ended with the 70’s. I still deal with it every day. After having been laid off, I landed my dream job! It was the job to put me on the radar and have my career set for life!!! One of the biggest name defense contractors there are. For a while, I’m the only female Manufacturing Engineer on site. I sit with my peers at break, but they talk like I’m a ghost or invisible and they can’t hear me. So weird!!! Then, they move tables and make it so obvious, I just take breaks in my car. Long story short, I was completely ignored, even when I spoke directly to my peers, and I can’t stress this enough, it was like I didn’t exist at all. I worked there over 2 months before I found out I was supposed to attend a weekly meeting with everyone. we worked in a missile factory, around many things that will kill you. Alarms went off, and I had no idea what they were for or what to do, and they all left me sitting at my desk. Week one, I was asking about something and the manager started making fun of me in front of other people. The next few days, he told me how he didn’t think women should be in certain positions. Over the year I worked for him, took his twisted psychological abuse and experienced mob-bullying from his crony engineers, I left work crying almost daily. Several months after I started, another woman was hired, and they basically treated her the same way. I thought it was just me. The insults from this manager were personal, and the way my coworker’s treated me was horrific. I was so beaten down. I moved to another building. It was much better, but I was stuck on night shift, and I had a child in school.

Long story short, I had transferred within my “dream company” after a negative experience, to a job I absolutely loved. The downside was sharing a cubicle of (literally) a modern day Archie Bunker. I had just transferred from a HORRIBLE place within this “dream company” and didn’t want to “rock the boat.” I loved my job, but I took a lot of crap. My lead was a wet-behind-the-ears ladder climber that shouldn’t even be in a technical field, so he was extremely insecure and was very unethical as a result. One day, in front of my lead, my coworker started making fun of me for something I said, turned toward me, grabbed his crotch, shook it, and kept shaking it, saying “Are you going to cut it off??!” I was floored at this behavior. Please note, this is the same lead that had already knit picked every move I made. He would criticize my voice if I didn’t speak in total low feminine whisper monotone, I was not allowed to laugh or joke like the guys (I don’t even cuss or talk inappropriate). I reported this to HR, and my “lead/ladder climbing witness” claimed it never happened. He made me out to be a liar. I was “the problem.” This coworker had worked for this company over 30 years, using racist, bigoted language against people and got away with it. Why did I think that would change? I left that company and threw away a great career because it was giving me a nervous breakdown.

After a couple decades of “welcome to the real world of how women are really treated,” I’ve developed this huge pet peeve. It’s expected to be discriminated against, and to be completely assured we are completely inferior to the great white male, but it’s beyond an insulting slap in the face when another woman, especially one trying to achieve a higher position, treats us just as inferior as men do, and worse. My own mother was like that. Our whole family is. According to society in the south, one must have a penis to know how to do anything productive other than make cornbread or sweet tea. Just put a bullet in my head and get it over with.

From Anonymous 

I interviewed at a small IT firm as a network support technician. I had two very successful interviews and felt that I got along really well with all of the staff that I spoke with during the interview. On the tech side, I very much was qualified if not overqualified for the position and could answer all the questions they asked.

I did not get the job. I was shocked. We had even talked about getting the paperwork together. This is a direct quote as to why from the hiring manager:

“I would suggest presenting a warmer side of your personality (that I’m sure you have) to others. We’re a very laid back (casual) group of folks here. When we’re dealing with customers we want to respond to their issue but also do it in a way that demonstrates warmth and caring…a soft skill approach that connects with folks on a deeper level. Hope that helps.”

I get a strong feeling that a couple of things are happening here:
1) They would never tell a male candidate for a technicial position that he needed to be more ‘warm’ or ‘soft’. They expected this to an unreasonable degree from me because I am a woman. Had I managed to get the position, I probably would have been pidegonholed into support and customer relations instead of the tech position I wanted.

2) They did not want to pay my modest asking price of ~45k.

I will note that I picked up on the casual atmosphere of the organization when I was there for the first interview. I tried to be more relaxed and jovial in the second interview, even cracking a few SFW jokes and puns where appropriate and talking about where I grew up. I keep trying to figure out what I did wrong, and I am so upset because I actually wanted this job.

I should have known something was wrong when every technical interviewer I met was a white male. Or when they told me about how they had a girl in software support who was transferred to HR because she was ‘better at HR’, despite having the same technical degree as me. It’s disheartening. But as a recent graduate of a CS field, it’s good to know what I am up against.

Solidarity to you all.

Boys Club 

From Alissa 

While interviewing for a QA Specialist position at a mobile gaming studio, my male interviewers asked me these following questions/said these statements:
“I’m curious… how are you going to adapt to our boys club atmosphere?”
“Going back to school makes you seem highly unmotivated. Why not learn these skills on your own for free? …There are two men in our department that went to a better school than yours.”
“But you don’t have any QA experience. …Oh you do? Well I didn’t look at your resume beforehand.”

I Don’t Know Anything 

From Alissa

I was working as a manager at a store that sells video games, and a man came in with quite a few questions. I was also training a new hire at the time, so I jumped at the chance to help this man.
Well this customer did not agree with my answers, and instead of asking for clarification he turned to the new hire (also a male) and said “she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
This customer then refused to talk to me for the rest of his shopping experience. And even though the new hire could not answer any of his questions, he didn’t seem to mind. The customer even apologized to the new hire for his lack of knowledge! And he kept saying over and over “she doesn’t know anything” as if I wasn’t within earshot.
Before the customer left, he thanked the new hire for his help and then advised him to train HIS employees better. Meaning he assumed the male new hire was the manager, not me.

From Cinerdella 

When I told my parents (my mother a school nurse, my father a CIO) that I was applying to graduate school to be a software engineer, they asked me questions like:
“But will you have time to date?”
“Don’t you think that material is a little tough for you?”
“How will you get a job in the industry? You should do something easier, like nursing instead.” (as if nursing is easy)

My own parents, of all people, were gender biased and against me going into a STEM field.