Leslie Kay lmk2 at
Tue Jul 20 22:41:51 EST 1993


I need some advice on interpersonal conduct.  I have had the occasion
several times to attend conferences where the ratio of men to women
was something like 5:1 or 8:1.  I have found that it is very difficult
to develop professional friendships with some of the men, and that
very often they mistake friendliness for sexual interest.  I've examined
my own behaviour and even asked some of my friends, and I can't seem
to pin down anything I may be doing to encourage this, and I find it
very disturbing.

The general situation is this: 50 - 100 scientists cloistered with 
each other for a few days or a couple of weeks.  I like to meet people
and I am very interested in talking with the other scientists there,
discussing our work, joking (neutral jokes), and so forth.
Well, very quickly I find that one or two of these men are acting
a little inappropriately, sitting too close, looking into my eyes with
long pauses, asking to buy me drinks (which I usually refuse), and 
generally following me around to the point that I have difficulty
talking with other people.  I try politely to excuse myself and go talk
with others or try to sit at another table at meals, but this often works
only temporarily.

I have talked with other women who have had this kind of
problem, so it's not just me.  I end up feeling like I don't
know if they are genuinely interested in my work or just trying
to start an affair or whatever.  I prefer to keep my professional
relationships separate from any romantic involvement, and I 
am also involved with someone (which doesn't seem to deter them).
On the other hand, I like to meet people and make connections,
so I'd like to know how other women handle this problem.  I 
tried talking more with the married men, but this didn't seem
to make much difference.  Also, I know that there will always
be the possibility of some element of sexual attraction, I just 
would like to be able to separate out the professional relation-
ships and enjoy the conferences.


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