I rarely post something as personal as this.
During one of my freshman physics class (2003), a professor was telling a story about his experience witnessing the launch of a spaceship in the ’70s. And then he proceeded to add, “There was no woman in the audience, I guess they were not interested in it.”
As I was telling this story to a guy, he responded, “It is common for people of his age to not be caught up with the social change that has occurred in the past decades. Some people never caught up. In their mind, they are not doing anything discriminatory.” And when I told him I had wanted to tell him off, he asked why, and I told him that so the professor would have the chance to change and other girls in the future would not have hear that again. The guy responded, “Why do you want him to change?”
I was appalled by both the male professor and the later response.
I paid my tuition. The professor had been trained specifically to know what is appropriate and what is not. I will not be told and labeled by someone who is supposed to inspire me, teach me, and get paid for those things. And no, I do not want the professor to change his views, but he should know what is appropriate to say in his position and in the classroom setting. Telling him off would be actually good for him, so he wouldn’t make the same mistake at a worse situation. He should keep his viewpoint to himself, I did not pay my tuition to listen to his personal opinions of women.
The guy I was talking to just could not connect to my situation, he never had to go to a school full of girls with a teacher telling him he is not made for the class. He never had to look for a male role model in science, there are so many of them. He never had to tune out the girls talking about how guys are terrible at science sitting behind him in class. His response nevertheless shows how there are still a lot of people who just don’t understand why it is important to abolish sexism in academia.
I got a postdoctoral position. Although my boss is a female professor who was hired as an assistant professor just a couple years ago, she told me that I should dress like a postdoc. I don’t think she meant that I was not dressing properly for the job, I think she meant it is harder for people to take me seriously because I am a girl who still looks young. Girls are judged more harshly in academia.
Still not convinced? Here’s a survey about male professors just need to “appear” to hold office hours while women actually have to hold it regularly:
First, Yale professors reported that they make themselves accessible to students, with 72% of professors reporting that they hold regular office hours. Interestingly, women professors (86%) are much more likely than their men colleagues (50%) to hold regular office hours and to meet with students by appointment. Even though professor accessibility appears high, professors noted that fewer students come to office hours now than in years past. Still, according to the student survey, men (3.6 times a semester on average) tended to attend office hours more than women (2.6 times a semester on average).
Meaning, although female professors make themselves more available, students still go to the traditional role models, male professors, for help more, and male professors can say they are available for office hours, but they don’t have to actually have them. No wonder we try harder to be perfect and struggle more to “have it all“.