How to respond to a sexist dig

…Not long ago, during a meeting of a somewhat prestigious committee, I openly disagreed with another committee member. He responded by noting that I was there only because “we needed a woman on the committee”—unlike the men, all of whom were apparently invited to serve because of their superior talents, wisdom, and experience.

He was trying to undermine me, and, therefore, my argument. My response was to ignore his statement entirely and continue to make a case for my opposing view. By remaining calm and professional, with a focus on the topic at hand, I think I was more effective than if I had acted defensively, traded insults, or walked out of the room in anger.

In fact, I think that by acting as if I belonged on that committee along with my esteemed male colleagues, I showed them that I did, in fact, belong there (in case anyone needed convincing). I spoke up, but not specifically about the insult.

So have I failed academic womankind by allowing some apparently sexist comments to go unremarked in any overt way? Or am I being mature and professional, slowly and quietly changing minds and behavior about women?

What’s a well-behaved female professor to do?

Read the full story in The Chronicle of Higher Education.


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