2010-05-26 - 5:30 p.m.
...yes, it still happens in this day and age...
In the past few years I've made a pact with myself NOT to focus on this topic because I find that it depresses rather than enables me...but the topic has come up several times in the past month, and so I need to bring voice to sexism in the academic science world.
I'd like to begin by stating that I'm in a pretty good position, and I feel that, although I've had some bad experiences in the past, the occurrences of sexism have either become smaller or otherwise are just less important to me - probably because I am both more confident and in a more powerful position. Both of these factors allow me to shrug off smaller incidences that used to cause me more problems. But sometimes...they do build up.
So what are the examples that I've faced recently:
Q&A AT SEMINARS - I am sitting in a room full of 98% men. My hand is the first to go up. And yet, the male 65-yr-old speaker manages to go around the room and answer all the men's questions before he even sees my hand. When answering my question, he seems (a) surprised that I might know what I'm talking about, and/or (b) seemingly disregards my question out of hand as stupid. (thank goodness I have lots of experience and I'm not a female just starting grad school. This would be intimidating. And I remember all too well that it was.)
ADMINISTRATION - I ask the staff for help with a purchase. The staff bring the problem back to me and tell me that they cannot assist me. I spend about 2-3 hours resolving the problem, only to learn that the same problem was resolved for a male colleague of mine two months ago, by the staff. The problem was never even brought to his attention. Similarly, I do my own admin for a full year - until I discovered that the staff have been administering grants and purchases for my male colleagues.
COMMITTEE WORK - Add up the number of committees behind your name. Then add up the number behind those of your male colleagues. Yes, the numbers are still fascinatingly different in this day and age. (and fortunately this has not applied to me in the past year since I requested a release from five committees).
SALARY - With a previous employer, the incoming male and female salaries differed by more than $10,000/yr since 1998. Guess who made more?
STUDENT EVALUATIONS - I wonder if any of my male colleagues have ever been described as "moody," as "unable to gain control of the classroom," or "not knowing her stuff." Study upon study shows that women get lower evaluations for the same work. And it's not just the men who do it. We women see other women differently as well.
STUDENT RESPECT - I've had recent experiences with students of different cultures, where it has become abundantly clear that the student is simply incapable of listening to my input (or that of any other woman in the department; or that of any publication written by a woman).
ATTRIBUTION OF SUCCESS - When on a publication with male colleagues, or when putting together a seminar, or supervising a student, or contributing to a special issue...It's the male colleague who gets the kudos, no matter how much work you put in. Not everyone does this! But I have seen it and felt it enough (even the past month!) for it to smart when it does.
SELF-PERCEPTION - Small comments - "You sure know how to pick the bum students!" and "Wow, you're work has really improved since you came here. I'm impressed with your growth" (huh? I'm a faculty member. Not a first year grad student....right? could this really be intended as a compliment?).
Yes, these little knocks are mostly pretty small. And for the most part, they are ignored and we move on. But sometimes, slowly, they add up to a lowered self-esteem. I begin to think that, yes, I really AM the moody, demanding bitch who asks too many questions at seminars and who doesn't know what she's doing, and that it is just easier if I do my own admin. I DO need the backing of a male colleague to have my advice listened to.
Glad to get this off my chest.
leave a note
...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29