Merry Sexist Christmas

As a young unmarried woman with a child, it must have greatly surprised my new all male colleague members, at a relatively conservative institution and faculty, that I was hired as a professor. They made it quite clear to me from the beginning that my ‘marital/parental’ status was not acceptable. This implicit bias was made very explicit one year at our Christmas dinner. This dinner like all other staff meetings was held in the evening and involved consuming lots of alcohol. As I was not married it was hinted at that it was not appropriate to bring my partner (the father of my child). When I explicitly requested permission, it was approved but begrudgingly. When we were already at the dinner, the head of my department raised a glass to all the members of staff and ‘their stay-at-home-wives who made it possible for them to important work’. This excluded my partner both for his gender and was an explicit criticism of our status. It also suggested that one could not be successful in a two-career household and that stay-at-home partners did not do important work. What a beautiful Christmas message.

Story Signed by: Nemesis

The story happened to me as a Prof. Dr. at an academic institution in Wallonia

Vrouwen aan de haard in plaats van in het professoraat

In de periode na mijn doctoraat hadden we op de faculteit een zeer vrouwonvriendelijke beoordelingscommissie. Ik herinner me dat ik ooit kandideerde voor een plichtvak in onze opleiding, dat aansloot bij de discipline waarin ik jaren lang als assistent actief was en oefeningen verzorgde. Ondanks mijn goed gevuld CV haalde ik de eindmeet niet. Een lid uit de commissie sprak later uit de biecht en liet optekenen dat een ander lid uit de commissie, amper vijf jaar ouder dan ikzelf dus helemaal niet van de “oude generatie” zich had laten ontvallen dat vrouwen niet thuishoren in het professoraat, wel aan de haard…
In diezelfde periode kandideerde ik ook voor een ander vak. Eén van mijn tegenkandidaten was een collega, die later ook mijn echtgenoot werd. Hij had een mooi CV, maar ik had zowat vier keer zoveel publicaties achter mijn naam staan dan hij. We moesten op dezelfde dag verschijnen voor de beoordelingscommissie. Ik kreeg een spervuur van vragen over onder andere mijn publicaties. Sommige leden wisten zelfs niet eens waar ik mee bezig was – van dossierkennis gesproken. Mijn collega kwam na mij en was in vijf minuten terug buiten. Er kwamen geen vragen, geen opmerkingen. Drie keer raden wie eerste gerangschikt werd en wie tweede. Juist, ja.

Story signed by : helemaal vrouw

The story happened to me as a PhD in the year 2000-2004 at an academic institution in Flanders

You know you will have to chose between PhD and children, don’t you?

At that time I was a researcher under contract, seriously thinking about doing a PhD. I told it to a male colleague, a young professor, who had graduated 6 months earlier.
He told me, as if it was obvious : “You know you will have to chose between having a PhD and having children, don’t you ?” He was married and his wife stayed at home raising their children. I was young, afraid and absolutely not self-confident. I changed my mind.

It took me a few years and two children to realize that I did not had to chose between family and career. I started my PhD after my second child’s birth and completed it in less that 5 years. Faster than my male colleague.

Story signed by : Professor Myself

The story happened in the year 2000-2004 at an academic institution in Wallonia

Vrouw mocht voorzitter examencommissie niet vervangen

Toen ik jaren geleden secretaris van de examencomissie was, zou ik volgens de gewone gang van zaken de voorzitter vervangen op de plechtige proclamatie, wanneer die niet kon aanwezig zijn. Het Bureau van de Faculteit besloot echter dat dit niet kon “omdat het een plechtige aangelegenheid was waarop ouders kwamen luisteren.”

Toen er meer uitleg gevraagd werd aan het Bureau, stelde de decaan dat er een ongeschreven regel was dat docenten niet publiek konden proclameren en dat hiermee de zaak gesloten was. Het jaar erna stond er een mannelijke docent op het podium ter vervanging van een afwezige voorzitter.

Story signed by : Cad

The story happened to me as a Professor in the year 2000-2004 at an academic institution in Flanders.

Elderly Male Professor Takes An Interest in My Philosophical Bosom

As a PhD student, I was walking down the hallway of our campus building with a male student, also a PhD student in our program. An older man was coming towards us, and approached the male student to say hello. As he conversed with the male student, he blatantly stared at my chest the entire time. I felt very awkward, and wondered who this rude older man could be. He did not say hello to me, or ask my name, or introduce himself, but continued to gawk at my chest in a lecherous manner. Naturally, I did not want to introduce myself to him, given this behavior, so I ignored him. He was inviting the male student to play golf with him one day after class. After he walked away, I asked the male student, “who was that disgusting old man?” He replied, “Oh, you don’t know him? He is full professor here in the department.” After this incident, I started inquiring about his classroom behavior among some of the female undergraduate majors that I knew– not in any accusatory way, just general questions about what his classes were like. Nearly every woman I spoke to said that he consistently dismissed, belittled, and/or ignored any ideas or questions of female students, to the point where none of them felt comfortable in class. This was my first year of graduate school, and gave me a taste of what academia can be like for women– which was very eye-opening for me, because I assumed that intelligent and politically aware people such as I imagined philosophers to be could not possibly be this misogynistic and obnoxious.

Story signed by: Oryx Crake

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year(s) 2000-2004 in an academic institution not in Belgium

“A mother should be with her kids at home”

I was doing my postdoc abroad, and became pregnant for the second time.I met a former postdoc of that lab, and she said “ah, I heard you’re going to leave science?”. I was surprised because I never told anyone that was my plan, so I asked where she got that idea.

It turned out my lab head had told her that “because now that I would have 2 kids, I would not be able to stay in science”. For him, having kids and not staying at home for them as a mother, was unthinkable. “Why else do you have kids of your own? To have them raised by somebody else?” he once asked me. He also had 2 kids, and had his wife (also PhD!) stay at home for them.

It’s more than 10 years later, I have 3 kids now, and I’m still in science…

Story signed by : scientist & mom

This story happened to me as a Post Doc in the years 2000-2004, around an academic institution in [Not in Belgium]