What it’s like to be a woman secretary in philosophy

Posted: December 12, 2010 by Jender in Uncategorized

I am a female college graduate who works as an academic secretary in a semi-diverse Philosophy department with several female professors and graduate students. It is important to note that this is only a temporary job for me, as I would also like to attend graduate school in my own field in a few years.

One of the things that most troubles me about the professors and grad students in our department is that most of the female professors and grad students have made little-to-no effort to talk to me or engage in any type of discussion beyond basic office work questions. To be fair, some of them—particularly grad students and one or two professors—have shown an interest in myself and my research (most often at events outside of work), but the majority of them have not and have even been quite cold. What is so surprising is that the reverse is true of the majority of our male professors and grad students.

The male professors and grad students in our department visit with me on a regular basis at work, and our male professors encourage me to take their courses, go out of their way to help me set up meetings with professors they know in my major department about graduate work, ask me about my academic interests and engage me in deep and thoughtful discussion—even approaching my views and research as if they are valuable and insightful, give me encouragement about grad school applications, offer to read and critique my writing sample, point out interesting and pertinent research in my field that they come across, and treat me like an intelligent human being. I have never once been treated like a sexual object or a less intelligent person by our male professors and/or grad students.

Perhaps our female Philosophy students and professors would like to distance themselves from someone like me, in order to appear more professional, but if our male professors and grad students are treating me as kindly as they do, I can only imagine that they would also treat their colleagues this way.

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