For the most part, everyone fails to notice and then to acknowledge the fact that a career in science is less welcoming to women and that sexism truly does exist. Throughout my undergraduate degree, my classes were primarily female, my TAs were female, my instructors were female, and when I entered the work force my colleagues were primarily female. I didn't notice sexism until I was 22 years old participating in my first field program. As on any field program, you review the health and safety protocols, and tasks are assigned. This was the first time ever I wasn't assigned a task, and it was explicitly stated that it was because I was a young 'green' female and 'didn't look strong enough'. I mean, how 'strong' do you have to be to grab an EPIRB from inside a boat, or to distribute life jackets? This experience was seemingly small, but these small instances continued throughout my career.
Male co-workers made inappropriate remarks towards me, with the excuse that I was kind to them so I MUST be interested in them. Is it okay that so often women have to completely change their personalities in the field, becoming seemingly 'cold hearted' because males in the work force can't avoid hitting on their female colleagues? And when other people are privy to the inappropriate gestures it is you that has to change you behaviour, because the fact that you are kind is 'giving him the wrong impression'. It doesn't stop there though, because as soon as you change your behaviour and become less kind, you are then criticized further for having 'changed'. I'm 30, and I've been out of my undergraduate degree for 8 years, and I've experienced this several times. So what gives?
I know that these issues exist in every workforce, I was warned, but I never saw it until I saw it... and I've never stopped seeing it since.
Should I have to call out a male colleague for commenting on my shirt and what is beneath? Before your mind wanders let's describe the shirt - it is a grey t-shirt, high neck, you could picture it being similar to a shirt that your stereotypical dad would wear. In my opinion, I shouldn't have a male colleague that thinks it is appropriate to make such a comment in the first place. Recently, the accumulation of experiences that I've had in sciences that I find to be inappropriate have led me to no longer have a tolerance. So yes, I feel comfortable calling people out for their behaviour now, but what about those women that are just coming into science, starting to experience these things? How can we improve science, and the world in general, so that they don't have to experience these sorts of things and get deterred from pursuing the career that they have been dreaming of all their lives? I want them to succeed. To feel comfortable.