You don’t have to go to bed with him !

Shortly after I started working as a PhD student, I became entangled in a conflict with my male supervisor about how the research should be carried out. After a long and painful struggle, arbitration settled the conflict to my advantage.

In the run-up to the arbitration I had several meetings with the faculty dean. In one of these meetings he looked at me, and sighed: “What’s the problem? You only have to work with him. You don’t have to go to bed with him”. Absolutely gobsmacked, I was. To my surprise the professor and senior lecturer, both women, who attended the meeting remained silent. I had too much on my plate already, to pursue the dean’s remark.

Until now, I still don’t understand why my two senior colleagues preferred to keep quiet.

Story signed by: J. van der Pol

The story happened to me as a PhD at an academic institution in Flanders

Sexisme bienveillant à la sauce éthique

Je suis tombée enceinte au moment même où je commençais un contrat de recherche. Les débuts sont difficiles avec un de mes directeurs de recherche, surtout au niveau relationnel. A la fin de ma période d’essai, il me dit que c’est dommage, il aimerait engager quelqu’un d’autre, mais “comme je suis enceinte, il ne peut pas me virer”. Et puis, il disserte sur mes faibles compétences en recherche: je n’avais toujours pas fini le rapport de 100 pages qu’il attendait. J’étais là depuis 2 mois, c’était mon premier contrat de recherche. Pour conclure, il m’a dit que puisque j’étais si incompétente en recherche, il doutait de mes capacités à être mère. Il s’inquiétait pour mon enfant à naître. Normal, pour un professeur d’éthique. Quand je suis rentrée de mon congé de maternité, il attendu un mois pour me virer, comme le délai légal le prescrit. Mais à présent, je suis directrice de recherche.

Story signed by : Cilou

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year(s) 2005-2009 at an academic institution in Wallonia

Verbrannte Erde…

Mehrere meiner Kolleginnen wurden von Professoren mit klaren sexuellen Absichten angesprochen; in mindestens einem Fall war der Prof verheiratet. Natürlich waren diese Kolleginnen selbst diejenigen, die am meisten darunter zu leiden hatten. Aber auch alle anderen Frauen, die davon etwas mitbekamen, brachte es in eine schwierige Situation. Es zeigte, dass diese Professoren jüngere Wissenschaftlerinnen als Freiwild betrachteten. Mit diesem Wissen im Hinterkopf mit ihnen zusammen(zu)arbeiten (zu müssen), und dazu noch zu wissen, dass mindestens einige andere Fakultätsmitglieder dies auch wissen, aber nichts tun, ist ziemlich unangenehm. Es gibt zwei Fakultäten, an denen ich mich quasi nicht bewerben kann, weil ich mit Leuten zusammenarbeiten müsste, von denen ich weiß, dass sie jüngere Frauen extrem schlecht behandelt haben. Diese Institutionen sind nicht nur für die Opfer selbst, sondern auch für deren Freundinnen und Kolleginnen, die es mitbekommen haben, verbrannte Erde…

Story signed by : feeling with the victims…

The story happened to a friend of mine as a PhD student in the year 2013

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

PhD in babysitting?

A colleague of mine is a talented and promising PhD student. We share an office. Once our professor walked in and told us they were looking for babysitters in his neighbourhood and whether my colleague would be interested in singing up. I was amazed: not only is it not allowed to work next to your PhD project ( grant prohibits this) , my boss actively encourages one of our promising students to take care of other peoples children, instead of telling her to focus on her PhD, like he should. Another PhD student in the lab was at that moment struggling for money, he didn’t get his grant and there was no budget reserved to back him up. He never got the same question though.

Story signed by : sickandtiredofsexism

“Who washes the coffee cups after meetings?”


This is the story of me, and all my women colleagues. In every meeting, of whatever kind, the male professors never wash the dishes, the coffee cups, they take their computers and bags and leave, often not even thinking what happens to the post-meeting mess. Sometimes they make sure one person is responsible for the key and locking the door, but that’s it.

Always a woman, generally the younger one, or the one with less titles, assumed to have more time, and less complaining power, takes up automatically and ‘voluntarily’ the job. This is not only about men, but also about senior and women professors. It seems that the power fever can get easily viral…

Story signed by : Always random?

This story happened to me as a PhD student in the year(s) [unknown or cannot tell], around an academic institution in Flanders

“Do you have any other talent young lady, other than being so pregnant ?”

I participated in an election meeting for assistants with the two candidates Prof. X and Y, running for the dean position. I asked a question to X on his plan towards increasing women professors in the Law Faculty. I asked him why do we have so few role models and women around.

I was fully pregnant at the time. His answer was: ‘Well, yes, we have a few talented women’, he mentioned the names of one woman in Criminology, and a few in the Law Faculty, and he said ‘yes, they are very few’, clearly for him this was a matter of talent.

Then he asked me ‘what do you think young lady’, looking at my belly. I was fully pregnant and interpreted that, as been told openly, ‘that’s why we don’t have women professors, because you keep being pregnant all of you’.

He never gave me an answer to his plan as a dean to counteract the scarcity of women professors. I thought that was very sexist, being called young lady, and not being given any answer on his plan, but having asked the question back to me. I was not candidating myself to become dean. And what is more important it shows how unaware he is of the problem, thinking this is a matter of talent.

Story signed by : not so young, not a lady, and not pregnant anymore.

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2012, around an academic institution in Flanders.

“The Invisibility Cloak in Meetings”

I went to a meeting. A question was asked to which I knew the answer and so I answered: “yes that is the case, they will start with that soon”, waiting for people to ask me for specifics.The chairman (male) of the meeting ignored my comment and said that he supposed the answer was yes, as that was to be expected as they promised to start soon.

My answer was ignored completely. I sighed, exchanged looks with the only other woman in the room, and than repeated my answer. The only reason people didn’t ignore me the second time was because she asked me a follow up question. I wish this was the first time that this happened. It wasn’t, not the second neither.

Story signed by: V.

This story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2014, around an academic institution in Flanders.