are you the secretary?

SL Forsburg susan_forsburg at
Thu Feb 22 21:20:10 EST 1996

Hilary Bates wrote:
>    ....(snip)....
> Nevertheless, *visitors* to the department often
> assumed I was a receptionist or a secretary because I was sitting
> at a desk with a computer on it (I was also close to the entrance
> which probably didn't help), and would ask me about someone's
> whereabouts, and I got fairly tired of saying "Perhaps you should
> ask his secretary..."

Ooooh, I hate this one!  I have a fairly typical faculty member's
office, desk stacked  with papers and piles of journals of the floor,
and COMMONLY people come to the door and say "are you x's secretary?"
or "do you know where x is?".  Often they are new postdocs. 
At least I've gotten used to the "oh, are you
x's postdoc?"  I get that one, too, but that may be due as much to
age as gender. My favorite was the guy who said "Is this Dr Forsburg's
 lab?  Do you work for him?"

 I have even had people hover in the doorway when I am going
over data with someone from my lab, you would think the autorads
would give it away,  but they still ask me about x rather than asking 
the people wandering past them in the hall. Granted, it's almost 
impossible to FIND anyone's secretary around here, the place is quite
labrynthine, but the assumpution is obvious.
And they NEVER ask the older man in the neighbouring office if HE 
can find the hanging  folders...although he is very organized and 
probably could better than I!  ;-) 

Another thing that bugs me (maybe I've noticed this because of the 
incidents described above) is how RUDE some scientists are to 
 administrative staff.  Men and women are both guilty of this 
one....why do so many people assume that the administrators and 
secretaries can't be as smart as they are?  or that the absence of a
PhD gives them the right to be rude? They act as though acknowledging
that someone can be intelligent without a PhD in science threatens
them, or they score cheap points because their staff
arent familiar with arcane bits of knowledge. I really detest such
gratuitous discourtesy and I don't understand it.

-- susan

S L Forsburg                             
susan_forsburg at
 "I don't speak for the Institute,         
 and the Institute doesnt speak for me."

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