academia

CC

I’ve been working for almost 10 years in academia, in a variety of countries, along a variety of cultures and ways of thinking, which I happen to love. I am now in a researcher at a top Japanese University. Although I have a passion for many things Japanese, slowly, I’ve been becoming more and more aware that Japan is a highly conservative and sexist society. Loving this culture makes it hurts more when situations like this happen in contexts where the thinking should be more evolved. Unfortunately I have to share an office with a professor that is one of those “in your face sexist” older japanese men. In a casual conversation, he told me with a big smile that he believes women are genetically different from men because they tend not to challenge established ideas. This men has several students and subordinate female academic staff working with him. He also worked some years in the West, but clearly did nothing to his way of thinking about women. In another occasion he told me it was my responsability to clean the office we share. He also told me after I didn’t immediately pick up a delivery from my boss, because I didn’t know it had arrived, he told me off by saying that I should improve my communication with my boss. As soon as I started my position, he made sure to tell me I was only in his office because he allowed me to. The examples go on and on. I am just thankful I don’t work with him directly and my are of research is nowhere near his area of research, but it makes me angry people like this can still do whatever they want with women in 2020.

CC

After telling my boss about a string of several sexist, boderline racist and innapropriate “casual consversations” with an older male professor that shares my office twice a month, she shrugged it off by saying “oh he will never change his ways, better to avoid him”. So I now have in my diary the days he is scheduled to come in so I work from home on those days. I might have to change office in the next few months as well.

N

I have recently been baffled by a professor X saying to me “I am really doing my best to encourage women to pursue a career in science, but it is really hard. I’ve started thinking that maybe it is just something in the women themselves. I talked about it with Y and we’re pretty much on the same page.” I’m noting here that both X and Y are white, middle class, male full professors, but that I consider especially X to be a very nice, kind and helpful man. I explained to him all the reasons why I think what he said is BS. However, I do not think he has changed his views. And I wonder: if this man, of all the academics I know probably one of the fairest, nicest and most helpful, thinks this way – how are we ever going to make a change? And how do I convince the man otherwise?

Alexa

I am happily married ( to a man ) for several years, no children, and pursuing a career in academic surgery. At a recent large, family gathering, having been telling my aunt (a teacher!!!) my upcoming career endeavors, she leans in to give me hug goodbye and whispers into my ear ” I wish you a baby”.

Kathy

I work in higher education. The other day, my boss (the assistant Dean) refered to a department made up as primarily women as ” a bunch of Barbie’s”. When I objected, he replied ” what? I would call a bunch of men Ken’s”. This person with a PhD, doesn’t get it.I am looking for another job.

Professor GN

I am a female professor, a very successful scientist and teacher, and I am also a mother. I earned tenure and have been promoted in spite of having a critically ill infant, a miscarriage, and an adopted child. My department is about 50% female. In a 6 week period a couple of years ago, I heard the following comments from male professors in my department: 1. About a highly qualified candidate, “I’m not going to hire her because she has young kids and she won’t be willing to travel for this job”. When I pointed out that this was illegal and that the candidate should be asked about her willingness to travel, I was told “I didn’t say that” I have a witness. This man is a father.WTF ?? 2. Male colleague said, “I met with a graduate student who has multiple children. Her resume was great. I don’t know how serious she will be so I am no longer interested”. When I said that this is illegal, I was met with silence. The student is exceptional and has received many awards in addition to being an involved mom. 3. Discussing a staff member who is very competent, my colleague said “We’ll see what she is like AFTER she has the baby.” This man is a father. Does competence get thrown out with the placenta ? 4. Several dismissive comments about a highly productive female colleague who had a third child—as if there is an allowable threshold for fertility in academia. Nasty Comment made by a male professor with the *same* number of children. Reflecting on all of these statements, I cried in frustration. It is not enough to have a family and still kick ass at work—you may still be seen as a slacker because you have created another human inside your body. I wanted to scream “Don’t you know that I have a uterus, you jackass, and I am not afraid to use it?!” These men are not ignorant pigs. They would consider themselves supportive of women’s equality. These comments were offered so casually, that I think that the speakers did not even see them as offensive in any way. It felt very cruel to me and I never thought I would be dealing with overt sexism in the 21st century.

anon, via email

Worked as a research assistant in college. I was told by 2/3 of my colleagues on that project, “You know you only have this job because you’re a woman, right? The advisor prefers women.” This is despite the fact that I had the highest GPA in our research group. Same colleague when I was applying for my dream job after graduation: “A lot of people are applying for this job, so don’t get your hopes up.” He didn’t say that to our male colleagues who applied. I got the job. Easily. Almost every job interview I’ve had includes “What does your husband do for a living.” My husband has never been asked that question.

Skirt

In a workshop about our workplace culture and gender diversity one of our male directors decided to refer to the women of our organisation as “the skirt”.

anon, via email

I was a temp PA at a University, I really liked my role and the team and was happy there. Until my role changed slightly and the person I was a PA for changed. He was still nice but far too friendly and would always comment on my clothes, read the slogan on my t-shirt, comment on the colour of my jumper- seemingly innocuous but uncomfortable and unprofessional. In fact I was so uncomfortable around him that I would try to avoid him which is very hard as a PA, and wouldn’t even walk to the toilet on my own. Then at the Christmas party he proceeded to tell me how ‘stunning’ I looked whilst very close to my ear and entire body. I then felt his whole body push against mine as he let out a quiet grunt into my ear and he rubbed himself on my thigh. I was trapped between him and the bar so had nowhere to go. It was disgusting. Back at work after the Christmas party he told me on 4 separate occasions how he had told his wife how I can understand him in a way that she never could. It was awful. I finally cracked and said ‘I’m just good at my job, it’s not personal’. Anyway, my contract wasn’t extended.

SB

I recently took a lecturing post and, along with another new colleague, was being introduced to the cohort of undergraduate students. The male colleague was introduced as Dr. [Name], I was introduced only using my first name despite, of course, also having a doctoral degree and the title Dr. In this same university my boss – attempting to praise a recent achievement – put his arm around my waist at a university social event and declared “babe we are really proud of you”. Babe?! Slightly inebriated, he then went on to text me a flirty message complementing my appearance after I had left the party.