In the comments
to the last post, Jeff Harvey points at an interesting article
in today's New York Times. It's an essay by Cornelia Dean about her experiences as Science Editor for the Times. My favorite part:
I encountered the attitude again shortly after I became science editor, taking up a position I was to hold from 1997 to 2003. I went to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a convention that attracts thousands of researchers and teachers. My name tag listed my new position, and the scientists at the meeting all seemed to have the same reaction when they read it: "You're the new science editor of The New York Times!?"
At first I was deluded enough to think they meant I was much too delightful a person for such a heavy-duty job. In fact, they were shocked it had been given to a woman.
This point was driven home a few weeks later when, at a dinner for scientific eminences, a colleague introduced me to one of the nation's leading neuroscientists. "Oh yes," the scientist murmured, as he scanned the room clearly ignoring me. "Who is the new science editor of The New York Times, that twerpy little girl in short skirts?"
Dumbfounded, I replied, "That would be me."
A few weeks after that I was in another group of scientific eminences, this one at a luncheon at the Waldorf. The spokeswoman for the group that organized the event introduced me to one of the group's most eminent guests, a leading figure in American science policy.
"Oh," he said kindly but abstractedly, "you work for The New York Times. How nice." The spokeswoman explained, again, that I was the newspaper's science editor. "An editor," he said. "How nice." The woman explained again, but again he could not take it in. "Oh, science," he said, "How nice." At this point the spokeswoman lost patience. She grabbed the honored guest by both shoulders, put her face a few inches away from his and shouted at him - "She's it!"
Not long after, I answered the office telephone, and the caller, a (male) scientist, asked to speak to several of my colleagues, all male and all out. "May I help you?" I inquired. "No, no, no," he replied. "I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to someone important!"
Even at the time, I could laugh at these experiences. After all, I was a grown-up person who could take care of herself. (I informed the caller that all the men he wanted to talk to worked for me, and then I hung up. As for Dr. Twerpy, he should know that he was not the first man to refer to me professionally as "that little girl." I reported on the doings of the other one until he was indicted.)
"Until he was indicted." Doesn't get much sweeter than that.