Archive for the ‘You can’t be a professor/lecturer’ Category

Today I was in my office catching up on some grading. My door was open and a faculty member at another campus location whom I have never met came by to talk about an undergraduate symposium I was organizing. He stuck his head in, saw me at my computer, surrounded by papers and said “I don’t suppose Professor xxxxxxx (me) is in, is he?” I looked at him and said,”yes, I am. Can I help you?” He had the nerve to act surprised, but not embarrassed at his mistake.

‘Ms Y’

Posted: May 6, 2011 by Jender in You can't be a professor/lecturer

Sent an email to male Professor X at another university, inviting him to participate in a conference. Addressed my email to Professor X. Received a polite response back addressed to Ms. Y. Signature file on my email clearly indicates that I am a professor.


This occurred at a philosophy conference a few years ago. I was traveling with my spouse who waited off to the side while I checked in. In front of me were four men who were also checking in to their rooms. Three of them seemed to know each other and maybe were traveling together. As the three men finished checking in and turned to leave the fourth man who was not part of their group introduced himself as a philosopher and they happily began chatting with him.

That the fourth man was part of the conference was actually obvious; the conference was being held in a university building which had a “hotel” inside it; I doubt anyone was who was not associated with the conference was staying there. The group of philosophers chatted with the fourth man a bit. When it was his turn to check in, the three others seemed to notice me in line behind him. I smiled and was about to confirm that I was a philosopher too. However, I found that their glances in my direction seemed either uninterested or puzzled. I continued smiling and they simply turned away and continued their conversation with the fourth man as he checked in and when he was done they walked off together. I shrugged it off and figured that maybe I was not dressed like a philosopher or maybe I had waited too long to say hello. After I checked in, though, I walked back over to my spouse who had watched the whole thing and immediately commented, “Those men just looked right
through you. Do they not realize that women can be philosophers?”

On a brighter note, I saw the fourth man—who had never been able to make contact with me earlier since I was directly behind him in line—in the lobby later that night. He immediately introduced himself, saying, “I assume you are a philosopher too.”

Not a secretary

Posted: November 24, 2010 by Jender in You can't be a professor/lecturer

When I got my first job as an assistant professor, my office was one of the first ones students would see upon entering the department, and I liked to leave my door open. I was constantly deluged with students seeking forms, paper clips, etc, as they took me to be a secretary. Even after I placed a sign on the door reading “This is NOT the department office”, and giving directions to the office, the errors continued (though they dropped down to one a day). You might think this was just a matter of location. But after I moved to a new office (I was understandably eager to do so), various men had that office. None of them was ever mistaken for a secretary.

“Where is he?”

Posted: November 6, 2010 by Jender in You can't be a professor/lecturer

I’m a female philosopher. Last year I went to a high school in the UK to give a talk to their philosophy club. I was signed in as ‘Dr X’ by the school secretary, who gave me a name tag saying ‘Dr X’ to wear while I was visiting the school.

After the talk, the teacher running the philosophy club walked back with me to the secretary’s desk. We stood together at the secretary’s desk as the teacher asked the secretary if she could please call a taxi for Dr X. ‘Certainly,’ said the secretary. ‘Where is he?’

I was still wearing the name tag.

I am a young female assistant professor. I was waiting at the gate for a flight to the city where a major conference for my field was being held. I saw two other professors in my field, from a different university in the same city. I tried to catch the eye of one of them to say hello; we had both spoken at a small workshop the year before and spoken several times during it. He did not notice me. Instead, he remarked to the other professor that he was surprised to not see any other professors at the gate waiting to go to the same conference. He happened to say this just as he was looking past me – he eyes crossed my location but never focused. Evidently I don’t look like a professor. He was about ten feet away. I decided not to go say hello, and felt inclined to remark that he may not have seen any professors, but it wasn’t because there weren’t any. I did not, however, as I am untenured and he is an important figure in my field.

You must be Z’s wife

Posted: October 30, 2010 by Jender in You can't be a professor/lecturer

I work in the philosophy of maths and science, which is a fairly male dominated environment. A few years ago I was, as is often the case, the only female invited speaker at a conference, and the youngest to boot. On the first morning I was having breakfast with some of the other speakers, and a speaker who I hadn’t yet met (an older mathematician) came and joined us at the table. He prided himself in going around the table and working out who everyone was: “You must be X; I really enjoyed your article on Y”. When he came to me he said, “And you must be Z’s wife.” (Z, who I was sat next to, was a scientist in his 60s.) Oh how we chuckled when I revealed his mistake.