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
I started a new job in a Belgian University, so happy to have found a research position in an institution that was famous for its outstanding quality in research. Very soon after I started the new job, the male academic professor who had received the grant for the research project I was working for, started to act in a weird way with me. He would ask from me to greet him in a way that was inappropriate, and then would react aggressively when I would refuse to play his sexist games.
He kept saying I was an excellent researcher – and being actually more intelligent then what he had first imagine. (He suggested I looked silly when I was opening my mouth and behaved surprised to see I could actually write!) Of course that was all about manipulation, he would never have hired me had he thought I was silly. He suggested insidiously on how strong as a researcher I was, but not “warm enough with him”.
As I was starting to be more and more scared by his changing and aggressive behaviours, and told my director about it, a lady who I thought was clever and supportive. She insisted I had to change my behaviour and be “warmer with him”…. To her, the only problem came from the fact that I was not being warm enough with him. “If I wanted things to work out better… I had to act differently”, she advised me. Then she also gave me examples…. of what kind of behaviours she had with him so that he would “appreciate” her.
A little bit later, and despite the stated outstanding qualities as a researcher, I was fired without me being even explained why. As I was crying after being fired… this director told me: Don’t say I did not warn you… I was so traumatized and humiliated by this event that I just left, silently, and without even daring to put a complaint for harrassement.
I think that is a perfect example of a Belgian University professor feeling above the law and obviously knowing it is safe for him to act as such.
Story signed by : Alice
The story happened to me as a Post Doc in the year 2011 at an academic institution in Wallonia
Story header : Sexist harassment by a University Professor in a well-known Belgian University
My/my friends story :
As a young professor I was the first female member of staff in my faculty. The rector of our university decided to come to a faculty meeting to present his ideas for the future of our university. He began by explaining that there was a need to offer a wider range of courses to the students and he had decided that the best way to do this was to increase the hours during which courses could be taught. Instead of offering courses from 9 am to 6 pm, he wanted to start courses at 8am and have courses go until 10 pm. I decided to raise my hand to ask a question. As a single mother this educational reform would make my life impossible. I tried to politely suggest that this reform meant that all faculty members would have less and less time with their partners and families. His response was very clear, ‘you are here by vocation’. As most of the other faculty members were single men or men of the cloth, it was very clear that anyone who was not 100% committed to academia didn’t belong. Since that moment it has been even harder to feel at home in my faculty.
Story signed by : You don’t belong here.
The story happened to me as a Prof. Dr. at an academic institution in Wallonia
J’ai récemment reçu un courrier en rapport avec la publication de ma thèse. Un simple accusé de réception, par courrier électronique, écrit par la secrétaire de l’éditeur. La seule chose que ma correspondante sait de moi, c’est que je suis une femme et que je viens de terminer ma thèse.
Du coup, son courrier commence par… “Chère Mademoiselle”.
Selon le dictionnaire, “Mademoiselle” est l’appellation employée pour désigner “une jeune fille ou une femme (présumée) non-mariée”. Donc, dans l’esprit de ma correspondante, une femme qui a fait une thèse est forcément jeune ou, à l’inverse, une vieille fille dans ses bouquins.Je ne suis ni l’une, ni l’autre. J’ai 38 ans, un homme et des enfants, ça va bien merci.
Est-il tellement inconcevable qu’une femme mariée ou plus âgée puisse faire des études ? Le doctorat serait-il inconciliable avec la vie conjugale (et je ne vous parle pas de la maternité) ? Lui viendrait-il seulement à l’idée d’écrire “Cher jeune homme” si j’étais un homme ? Ça n’a l’air de rien, mais le mot “mademoiselle” est tout bêtement condescendant, réducteur et archaïque.
Il est doublement aberrant qu’une femme puisse encore être caractérisée par sa situation matrimoniale et que celle-ci soit considérée comme incompatible avec une thèse.
Story signed by : Ms Jekyll & Dr Hide
The story happened to me as a PhD in the year 2014 at an academic institution in Wallonia
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
Juillet année 0: “Vous allez adopter … c’est merveilleux, quel beau projet de vie et blablablabla”
Juillet année 1: Une grosse conférence internationale est en chantier, j’en suis la cheville ouvrière (cheville étant féminin) et j’annonce mon départ imminent pour aller chercher les enfants… “C’est catastrophique … vous savez que le droit ne prévoit rien pour les congés d’adoption (ce qui à l’époque était assez vrai) … il n’est pas question de jouer les prolongations, cette conférence est trop importante pour l’Université!”
Je suis sortie mortifiée, pire, coupable d’abandonner le navire … Un navire qui à l’époque n’avait que des capitaines (et ça c’est masculin).
Je suis aujourd’hui prof ordinaire (membre du club des 10%) et me bats pour que ce genre de culpabilité perverse ne brise plus les projets et les vies de mes collègues femmes … mais aussi hommes.
Story signed by: Coco
The story happened to me as a PhD in the year 2000 at an academic institution in Wallonia
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
Je n’étais pas à temps plein comme académique et luttait depuis quelque temps pour que mon temps soit augmenté. Ayant annoncé au Doyen de ma faculté que j’étais enceinte, celui-ci en a profité pour me dire: mais quand tu reviens de ton congé de maternité, tu ne voudras plus être à temps plein alors ?
Story signed by: Severine Dusollier
The story happened to me as a Dr. Prof. in the year(s) 2005-2009 around an academic institution in Wallonia