meetings and perceptions

Sabine Dippel sabine at hlrz28.zam.kfa-juelich.de
Wed Oct 8 02:20:24 EST 1997


Hi,

I've been following the meetings discussion for the last few days, 
and now want to add some "cumulated" comments.

To start with the last point that came up here I -- I have never experienced
people making passes at conferences. However, this might be due to the small
number of women in my field. I admit having heard people mention that 
"conferences might be a good place to meet women", only to get laughed at by
male colleagues that probably a physics conference might be the wrong sort of
conference for this endeavour. Anyway, I guess that means the problem would
be there if the number of men and women in these conferences were more 
equilibrated. (Suprising in a way - you would expect the opposite...)
And, Laura -- if people do make passes it you -- it is THEIR fault, not 
YOURS, and there is no reason you should feel dirty (but every reason they 
should). I think (though I never had to try it out) the best way to handle
such a situation is not to be quiet, but repeat the "offer" loudly ("Did I 
get this right? You propose we ....?") -- I don't think that particular 
person would risk such public exposure again, except if he's a perfect jerk
(which, maybe, he must be to come up with that sort of offer). Anyway, I 
also have the impression that things are more relaxed in this respect in 
Europe than in the US -- both as far as sex and alcohol are concerned. 
(Yes, we do drink at conferences - but not more or less than we usually do,
so I guess we are able to handle it.)

On the question advisor vs. student or post-doc speaking -- I agree with 
Aloisia that situations can arise where it's better to have the more experienced
person present the work, but generally I think that whenever possible (i.e.
whenever the student/post-doc is present at the meeting) the person who actually
did the work should present it. But, though practice helps to get comfortable 
with this situation, there are some people who never will be comfortable with
speaking publicly -- surprisingly I have seen this pretty often in people who
present excellent work, and whom hardly anyone would dream of attacking -- 
nevertheless, these people seem to feel most vulnerable, maybe because they see
the small deficiencies in their work all too clear, and don't realize that 
nothing and nobody is perfect. 

On the question of why there are usually so few women speakers, I don't have 
a general explanation, but somehow it seems that men are usually more visible 
than women to men organizing a conference (which is most often the case). Only 
if people make a conscious effort to invite women, they end up having the share 
they should. My advisor usually has a pretty large number of invited female 
speakers -- I think because he makes the effort of inviting the woman on the team.
I don't know what the reasons are - I think it's a mix of thinking that it's good
politically  and the experience that on average, the women's talks are better 
than the men's. 

Sabine

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