I've been slacking off in being a #ladyscientist. I've been too busy writing proposals, teaching my summer undergrad, going to NERM, and watching the Womens' World Cup to be #distractinglysexy in at least two weeks. LOLno. But those are the reasons I haven't blogged about Tim Hunt's incredibly dumbass comments. In the meantime, others have done an admirable job blogging and tweeting about it. So my blog post will actually be about a discussion that was prompted by it.
NERM was in Ithaca this week. For those of you who aren't chemists, it's the Northeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Anyway, I had dinner with two MIT classmates - S, who worked with me when she was an undergrad and I was a grad student, and AV, who is also an inorganic chemist but worked for a different advisor as S and I. Both AV and S are professors now. We were discussing the Tim Hunt comments, and our own experiences, and ended up reflecting on our time at MIT.
I had a very good experience in grad school at MIT, and did not notice any sexism until I started interviewing for faculty positions. I have since wondered if I was just clueless and didn't notice the more subtle stuff, but I sure as heck started noticing stuff once I left MIT. I mentioned this to S and AV, and they said they noticed the same thing. AV thought it was because it was totally normal there for genius to occur in unexpected, nonstereotypical packages. My theory was similar to AV's - we were all expected to be competitive; getting results in the lab mattered a lot of more than anything else. No one cared if we were ladylike or not. I was able to be a total fucking honey badger. S said she got the impression that inorganic chemists noticed gender less than organic chemists, and encountered more bad experiences when she went off to grad school and postdoc than she had experienced at MIT. It probably also helped that this was in the early days of the internet, so we were sheltered from hearing about incidents at other schools or idiot comments from dinosaurs.