When we discuss implicit discrimination of women in academia with other people, we often hear that they find it hard to relate to what we mean. In general, their assumption is that men and women receive the same treatment, and that it is a matter of personal choice if and when women decide to leave academia.

This idea does not comply with research results showing that women are often treated and approached in different ways than men are. By collecting concrete examples of these experiences, we hope to show more clearly how and why women often feel like they are appreciated less and even unwelcome in academia. Publicly reporting these 'offences' is an important step towards eventually eradicating them.

Rules                 Report maltreatment


A few examples can be opened below.


The standard is a man

  • Can he answer the following questions for me?

    Dear Ms. Crone,

    For young newspaper 7Days (target group: 12-18 years) I am looking for a scientist who can help me. I would like to write a short article about spring and what that does to our brains and I hope he can answer the following questions for me...

  • Where is your husband?

    I was at a work party that professors and their partners were invited to. I was seated at a table with a couple of people I hadn't met before. The man next to me said: "Can I ask you a question? Which one is your husband?" I said, "My husband isn't here." Neighbor: "Yes, but where is your husband?" "He's at home." Neighbor: "I don't understand, who is your husband?" I said: "My husband isn't here, I am the professor." He didn't say a word to me for the rest of the evening.

  • Is my tie straight?

    I (a woman) frequently am the pro-rector at doctoral defenses - and I did so today. The external co-supervisor (a man) comes in during the preparations, notes that he hasn't met me before and I introduce myself. Before I can say so myself, the supervisor says: "She is the chairperson." The co-supervisor is clearly surprised, and reacts with a 'joke': "How nice we have woman here to see if my tie is straight. At work the secretaries take care of that, but I don't have them here." (My answer: "You will really have to take care of it yourself.")

  • Dear Mr. Crone

    Geachte heer Crone

  • Tie sale

    I was at a meeting for professors where most of the attendants were older men. I was talking to a female professor and we were standing near a table where ties were being sold. One of the gentlemen eagerly walked towards us and asked us if we were in charge of the tie sale.

  • The composition of the review committee: shoe size 42 and a ginger

    1. When we are compiling a review committee for research proposals, I note that there is no woman in the committee. The director of one of the research institutes says that there is also no one with shoe size 42 in it.

    2. An important committee needs to be selected. The Board of the Institute has compiled a list of names who are potentially suitable: 8 men. I ask why the board has put no women on the list, and name several suitable women. A male colleague answers jokingly: "I suppose now we also have to add a foreigner and a ginger!"n!”

  • Secretary

    I am a senior university lecturer and my office is next to that of the (male) professor. Two young female students: "Are you the professor’s secretary?". This happened despite a sign on my door saying "Dr.".

  • Just along for the ride

    I was in the financial audit committee of a Dutch research institute together with a male colleague. During the meeting, the employee of the institute only showed the ledgers to my colleague (who was sitting at the other side of the table). I waited for her to show the ledgers to me, but that never happened. So, basically, I was just along for the ride.

  • Mensplaining

    I have had several experiences of male colleagues, who are also professors, asking me what my expertise is or what I am currently researching. My answer can always be short, because he usually starts to lecture me about my own field of expertise. In the international literature this is called 'mansplaining', based on Men Explain Things To Me' (title of a book by Rebecca Solnit).

  • Alumni magazine

    After my PhD in 2012 I received a letter from the alumni association congratulating Mr. .... with his PhD and informing me that I would be receiving the alumni magazine. Up to the present day the magazine is addressed to 'Mr. ...

  • Taking notes

    Until recently, I was the only female Principal Investigator. During a meeting the minute taker was absent. When we were discussing who would take the minutes, all men looked at me. I was so bewildered, I actually did it.

  • The graduation ceremony

    At graduation ceremonies, there is a chairperson and a secretary. One time, when I was acting secretary, I was introduced as the 'secretaresse' (an office secretary). At another graduation ceremony, I introduced myself to the candidate's supervisor. His reaction: "I always thought dr. xxx was a man."

  • The doctoral defense

    At a male colleague's doctoral defense there are 5 men in the reading committee, though excellent female expertise present in the Netherlands. There are 2 supervisors, a man and a woman. The woman was the day-to-day supervisor and has known the candidate longer. However, the man delivers the laudation. In this way, the audience, which includes a lot of non-academics, is led to think that academics are men, or at least, academics who really matter.

  • Reception

    I am a female professor. I attend a reception for professors and their partners - alone, because my husband is at home with the children. At the reception, a lady comes up to me, says hello and then her first question is: "So, what does your husband do?" She obviously can't imagine that I am there as a professor and not as '...'s partner'.

  • List of telephone numbers

    The male professors are listed with titles and initials on the department's telephone list, the female professor with first and last name.

  • Invitation

    judi man1(Judi Mesman is a woman)

  • The Dean is a man

    (Leiden University doctorate regulations, 2014)
    11. Dean

    Once the Dean has received the copy of the Doctorate Committee's decision that the candidate may be allowed to defend the dissertation, the Dean determines whether the candidate is allowed to defend the dissertation. He communicates his findings immediately to the candidate, the supervisor, the beadle and the Doctorate Board, using form number 6.

  • The doctoral candidate is a man

    (Leiden University doctorate regulations, 2014)

    12. Candidate

    The doctoral candidate applies to the beadle for the defense of his dissertation, using form/appendix 7. The candidate can only defend his thesis after the Doctorate Committee has decided that he can be admitted to its defense and after the Dean has determined that he is admitted to the doctoral defense (see under 11). The non-scientific component of the dissertation and the propositions may only be duplicated once the Dean has given his approval. The wording and formatting of the title page of the dissertation and its reverse are subject to approval by the beadle.

  • A VICI-candidate is a man

    I was the only person in the waiting room, because I was the very last candidate for a VICI-grant interview. A lady from NWO came to pick me up. She looked around the waiting room uncertainly and said: "I am looking for professor ... " When I said: "That's me," she said: "Oh, of course, that is also possible!"

  • At the beadle

    I had two paranymphs for my doctoral defense, a tall boy, who had dressed in the required white tie beautifully, and my future wife. I had seriously attempted to look reasonable myself. But when the beadle picked us up, he wished the boy lots of luck - it didn't lead to him defending my thesis though.

  • The Ministry of Education

    When you enter the Ministry of Education in The Hague, there are bronze busts of all the Dutch Nobel Prize winners. They are all men. A great way to remind employees of the Ministry what the academic ideal is.

  • Mentor

    As an experienced research leader and manager, I have made myself available to be a mentor and assist younger colleagues in the context of their careers. A male colleague from another faculty who is dealing with all these issues for the first time is matched to me. At the introductory meeting, he gives me one look and says: 'They have appointed you as my mentor, but what could you do to help me further?'

  • Always a minority

    At the annual Spinoza-laureates dinner, all the women sit at the same table. All the other women present are either staff members of NWO or of the Ministry of Education. Some of the men complain: "Why don't you spread out over the other tables - now it looks like there are hardly any women!' When we are asked to respond to the topic of discussion, our opinion is referred to as that of the 'women's table'. When NWO reports of this evening in its magazine ‘Hypothese’, our table has been photographed from the different angles - this way, it still seems as if there was a fair amount of women present!

    The next year, the organizer says: "Not all the women at the same table again!"

  • The man probably is a professor

    Four of us, three women and a man, write a letter. All four of us are researchers with doctorates, but we aren't professors. We all sign the letter with our titles (Dr.) and our first and last names. In the response we got, the man was (incorrectly) referred to as professor, and the three others as Ms. No mention of their doctorate.

  • The laureate is a man

    I am in the selection committee for a prestigious award. Half of the candidates are women. The first criterion candidates are judged by is their academic quality. According to the instructions, the committee has to judge this in terms of 'the contribution of the candidate to the development of his field.'

  • Are there no great women at the university?

    After my doctoral defense, I was looking at the doctoral diploma I was awarded. An English translation has been including. It mentions that the doctorate has been achieved with ‘the wise counsel of our great men. Clearly, there are no great women at this university, even though there were several female professors in my Doctorate Committee...

  • The Dean is a man

    A Dean appoints one of the professors of his faculty to replace him in the Council of Deans in his absence.

  • The proxy is a man

    A Dean appoints one of the professors of his faculty to replace him in the Council of Deans in his absence.

  • The Scientific Director is a man

    The Scientific Director is responsible for ensuring the quality of the contributions to the faculty research programs of the institute and supervises the supervision of the doctoral students. He also ensures the quality of the supervisors of PhD students.

  • The student is a man

    ... permitting, at the request of the student and respecting what has been determined in the Course and Examination Regulations, him to take one or more parts of the final exam before he has passed the first-year diploma's of the coursed

  • The student is a man

    The Faculty Board can ... propose to terminate or refuse to register a student for the program if that student has demonstrated, through his conduct or statements, that he is unsuitable for the practice of one or more professions for which the program he has followed trains him.

  • The Scientific Director is a man

    The Scientific Director is accountable to the dean. He provides the Dean with the requested information.

  • The Dean of the Graduate School is a man

    The Graduate School is led by the Dean of the faculty. In that capacity, he holds the title of 'Dean of the Graduate School'.

  • The Scientific Director is a man

    The Scientific Director decides on behalf of and under the responsibility of the Dean regarding admission to a doctorate program. He hereby observes relevant further regulations.


Pregnancy and children

  • A young mother of three doesn't fit into a men's club

    Two years after being appointed part-time professor, I became pregnant with my third child. I announced that I would be absent for six months and even offered to resign my professorship. This was refused by the dean and the chair of the curatorium. Before my leaving, I had found a temporary replacement, planned everything for the coming period and received a positive evaluation from my curatorium. When my baby was just two weeks old, I was asked to come to the university for a meeting with the dean and head of the curatorium. During this meeting, I was told that my three-year contract would not be renewed. I was given no reason for this decision. Since I had received a positive evaluation before my leave, I was never able to understand what happened. Based on the very cryptic answer, I had to suspect that a young mother of 3 children did not fit into a men's club and held a professorship after all. 

  • Quite cute kids

    “You actually have quite cute kids, considering they spend 3 days a week in daycare and barely see their mother.".”

  • "People without children and caring responsibilities have better access to a grant than I do."

    I received my PhD 10 years ago now, but I have arguably been able to do significantly less than 10 years of research due to having several children and performing heavy extra care duties. I would like to apply for a grant, but this has the criterion that only researchers who received their PhDs between five and ten years ago can apply. However, this grant appears to have no extension scheme, so I cannot submit my idea and compete. In short, people without children and caring responsibilities have better access to this grant than me.

  • You're the right age for that now

    At meetings about applying for grants we only discussed the new rules for maternity leave ("you're the right age for that now") and not my research plans.

  • Not automatically a reason for extension

    When I became pregnant with my first child, while I was a graduate student, I followed all the administrative steps (applying for maternity leave, requesting an extension, etc.) to arrange my leave. When I was six months pregnant I still hadn't heard anything, so I contacted Human Resources. They said that there were some problems and pregnancy during a PhD tract is not automatically considered a justified reason for an extension. Couldn't I just fund my extension from my research budget? I only got my extension after an extensive mail exchange, in which I extensively quoted the Collective Labor Agreement.

  • Not supposed to get pregnant

    During a lunch with (male) teachers on the first day of medical specialist training one of them says, extremely seriously that you are obviously not supposed to get pregnant during the training. A female student who dared to get pregnant was pulled from the training for that reason.

  • Remember

    A few weeks after I got married, my supervisor told me that a colleague is pregnant with twins. "How nice!" I say. He answers, "Remember not to do that yourself! She already has a PhD, so that is fine, but you have to finish yours first." Obviously, it is assumed that it is impossible to combine working on a PhD and having a baby - at least, for a woman. The supervisor had both his children while working on his dissertation.

  • You must have planned it

    When I tell the (male) professor that I am pregnant with my second child, he furiously says that I must have planned it that way, so that my maternity leave would start just before the random six week extension of my research time he had arranged for me (because he needed an assistant for that period).

  • That is the risk

    When I became pregnant of my first child I was working as a post-doc during a fast-track project of an NWO Objective (not my personal grant). It was a two-year project. Because I was going to be on maternity leave, we wanted to move the end date of the project up a few months, so that I could still work on the project for the full two years, with a 4 month break for my pregnancy and maternity leave. At first, NWO said no. It was a fast-track project, so it had to have a fast-track execution, the two-year term could not be exceeded. My supervisor had to network his ass off (at the university and NWO) to move up the end date. During the meeting, one of the big shots at the university said to him: "This is precisely what the risk is if you hire a woman in that age category."

  • Break up with him

    At a conference I met a senior researcher from another university. These people tend to complain a lot about how female graduate students and doctors always work less when they have children. I usually react to this by saying that it doesn't always have to be the case, and that men with children tend to work less nowadays too. Then I say that my husband is a stay-at-home father and that working less is not a desirable option for me. This time, the senior researcher asked me why I was with a man without ambition and told me to break up with him.

  • Testing how ambitious I am

    As soon as I became pregnant, my female professor told me that this would be a test of how ambitious I am. I have a EU scholarship and an NWO VENI grant, but now I have returned from my maternity leave, I find that I am not involved in a lot of projects that are started, even though they are connected to my research or even involve ideas that I suggested. She doesn't seem to have any time for me and keeps coming with different reasons why it would not be a good idea to open the applications for my own graduate student. There are a lot of implicit actions making me feel like she has given me up...

  • Veni deadline

    When I phoned NWO about the deadline for the application of a VENI grant (I got my PhD at the end of December, the deadline is usually in January and I was hoping to be a part of the round that ends three years and one week after my doctoral defense if I managed to send in my application before my defense date), they told me in a friendly way that I could spend the coming year having another baby, and then try again.


    A RUBICON grant laureate: At the moment, I do not have the right to paid maternity leave; NWO says Cambridge has to pay and Cambridge refers to regulations saying that NWO has to pay. After I asked around, I found that I am not the only person having to take unpaid maternity leave during a RUBICON. In fact, there are people who have given up their RUBICON grant because of this problem.

    Three female RUBICON laureates and the male partner of a RUBICON laureate addressed this problem in a letter to NWO. In response to this letter, NWO has adjusted its policy, and now guarantees payment for RUBICON laureates in case of maternity leave (see NWO website)
    Read the RUBICON maternity leave petition here (in Dutch).

  • Three children

    Yesterday evening, at a dinner of the Journal Attachment and Human Development I was talking to a fellow researcher who is considering having a third child. She mentioned this to her (female) supervisor this in an informal situation and she had told her that she did not know any successful female researchers with 3 children .... (the person to whom this anecdote was told is also a very successful female professor and institute director with three young children).

  • Meeting the baby

    I am visiting a university lecturer who just had a baby. I ask her if she was taking maternity leave, and she said yes, one month. Then there will be a construction of taking the baby with her in the train, to the day care across the street from work, and back home in the train in the evening. She would rather take a longer leave. I asked her, why don't you take 3 months if that is what you need, and she said my department head said I couldn't, I could have no more than one month. Isn't it just her legal right?

  • Abortion

    In a study, young researchers are interviewed about their career experiences and perspectives. The colleague conducting the interviews reports the results: One female PhD confessed to me today that a female professor asked her friend (a PhD female too) to consider the possibility to abort the baby when she learnt about her pregnancy. The experiences are so scary.

  • Contraception

    On the occasion of the announcement of a pregnancy at work: haven't you heard about contraception?

  • Nobody asks fathers anything

    A young father: my female colleagues with young children are often asked how they manage to combine their family with their work. Everyone understands when they have to leave early to pick up their children. I have the exact same logistical problems, but nobody asks me anything...

  • Can't you just stand?

    I was asked to participate in a panel. I would be heavily pregnant at the time of the panel and asked three weeks before if it could be taken into account that I cannot sit on high stools/chairs because of my pregnancy. The communication advisor of the organization answered me that there are indeed high stools, that nothing can be changed, if necessary someone will help me 'climb on the stool'. After calling back to discuss alternatives (since Corona measures make it difficult to help me climb on a stool at one and a half meters distance), I was asked if I could not just spend the panel standing (for 40 minutes). Pretty surprising and disappointing answer from an organization that advocates inclusion and diversity in science...

  • Your stress is probably caused by your pregnant state

    During a job interview where all committee members knew I was pregnant, I was asked what kind of equipment I would need for my experiments. In my answer, I addressed not only the equipment but also the need for a good lab manager, because in my past experience, using certain equipment can be quite stressful without proper technical support. The only man on the application committee then remarked that this stress was probably mostly caused by my pregnant state anyway. By the way, I did get the job..


All male panels

Dual standards

  • Imbalance in distribution of tasks

    My supervisor passed away at the age of 90. During an international conference we will organize a special session to honour him. The chair divides the tasks between the panel members. I am a professor and the only woman on the panel. The chairman suggests that I will talk about my supervisor as a person; all other panellists talk about his research. I answer that of all panel members I have published the most with him, so I will happily talk about him as a person, but also about our academic work...

  • The rules of the game are continuously being adapted

    The progression from UD to UHD has been made very difficult for me the past 10 years, as the criteria that I have to meet to make the next career step are constantly being adjusted. When, due to the lack of perspective and transparency in my current job, I also started to work abroad to continue developing my track record, this is also used against me. This with the reason that everything I have done abroad does not count. Meanwhile, three of my male colleagues have been promoted, all with a shorter publication list, google citation index and a lower track record in bringing in research funding than me. The problem is that the promotion committee consists entirely of men, and that as a woman you are very dependent on the goodwill of your professor to get promoted.

  • "I am so sorry I cannot make you happy"

    After months of selection procedures and an interview to get appointed to a Chair, the dean of the faculty and chair of the selection committee called me to say I was their top candidate and would be offered the job after their final meeting. Back then, I had just been promoted to Full Professor at a University in the USA in the two departments I was part of. Returning to the Netherlands with my children in full expectation to stay, the committee had decided to appoint a male candidate, who had been a runner up. When I inquired with the chair of the committee and dean of the faculty to hear their reasons, he told me literally "I am so sorry I cannot make you happy.", without any further clarification...…

  • Remarkable procedure new professor

    After an open procedure for a professorship, in which a woman was the only suitable candidate, it was decided not to nominate her. Then, using a quiet procedure, another person is nominated and appointed - a man.

  • Delegate

    I am in a meeting with the rector because I was awarded a large research grant. The rector says: "It is my experience with women in management positions that they can't delegate." I say that I am pretty good at it, and then he says: "I still see it in most women, so don't forget to delegate!"

  • A lot of work

    The University Committee on Research of our faculty consists of only men: mainly professors and two senior university lecturers. I (a female professor) think there should be a female colleague in this committee and I discuss this with my manager. I say that I wouldn't mind being a member of this committee (which determines research policy). My manager puts his hand on my arm in a patronizing way and says: "You do know that's a lot of work, don't you? You shouldn't want that." A few months later I am asked to become Educational Director. My manager thinks it's a good idea. But isn't that a lot of work too?

  • A brilliant supervisor

    As a response to a grant application I submitted I received a reference report containing the following paragraph

    She has published some papers … in the XX group - but I believe that can be attributed to XX’s brilliance."

    XX is the professor in charge of the group where I did my postdoc research. True, he is an expert in this field, but during my postdoc I met with him around 1 time every 4 to 6 weeks, and for the most part, I did my research independently and autonomously. He is the last author on all my publications, as, in my field, that is the way the PI is indicated.

    Something similar also happened to me at another grant application, where the comments were as following:

    "I have found without doubt that the applicant has sufficient ability to produce research outcome of some competitive level if her research environment is satisfactory. Among the past publications, refereed articles X and Y, for example, are unique achievements with high originality. We have to note here, however, that these studies were performed as her doctor-course study, and I cannot exclude the possibility that the applicant followed the idea by her supervisor(s).”

    This regards two publications where I was first author, in a top publication in my field (impact factor 13). True, my supervisors (both men) were co-authors. A satisfactory research environment is important for all graduate students.

  • Independence

    In a review of a research proposal I submitted, the referent states several times that I possibly lack independence:

    The applicant is a young researcher who in a short time has published extensively and in top journals. She has many (only I think) senior co-authors and has not yet proved her independence. 

    This is factually incorrect - the referent obviously doesn't know my co-authors or didn't make an effort to look them up. And anyway, when I wrote the proposal I was first author in 6 of the 14 papers I published, some of them even with junior authors, I was first author on 3 out of 5 working papers, and the other 2 were my graduate student's. And the rest of my track record (organizing workshops, being awarded a prestigious post-doc grant and other grants, several academic trips abroad, etc.) actually shows a lot of independence and a strong international network. Further on, the referent gives my proposal the kiss of death when explaining whether I belong to the top 10% of my field. I cannot say. I can say that the applicant has an impressive publication record in top (mainly social) psychology journals. Most of the papers are however co-edited by senior researchers. It is therefore a little difficult to know the application's independent contributions.

  • Can you really do that?

    At an international conference, a male fellow graduate student and I were sitting at the table with some male colleagues. He and I were exchanging experiences about our fieldwork in far-off places when one of the older dinner companions interrupts us, and asks me: "Is that even possible? Can you do that? Doing fieldwork all alone out there? Can you really do that? Wow, I'm impressed! But what does your husband think?"

  • The clock is ticking

    Towards the end of my graduate program, one of my male supervisors asked me what my plans were for after my graduation. I said I would like to get some experience abroad, at a good institute. Then he told me I would have to hurry with my 'ambitious plans', because I was single and almost 30 and 'the clock must be ticking by now'. He didn't think I could expect to create a stable family environment if I met a husband abroad and wanted to return to the Netherlands after 2 or 3 years...

  • Hysterical

    I was helped with the preparation of both VENI-rounds (writing the grant application and the interview) in my own (work) environment. For instance, I was advised not to be too defensive, to smile a lot during the interview and not to be too serious, to take care not to come across as 'arrogant' en not to write 'hysterically'.

  • Quite well

    A male professor said to me at a reception: "I am so glad I didn't apply for your position at the time, because you're actually doing quite well." The implication was that he would have got the position if he had applied.

  • Prove it first

    A research-physician, nearly graduated with wonderful publications, with half a year's work experience as a full doctor, with good references, a mother of 2, applies for specialist medical training. She is rejected for the training in order to get more clinical experience. Why? Because she had to prove first that she could still deal with this high-pressure, responsible job now she was a mother.

  • Contribution of co-authors

    One of the reviewers of my research proposal commented that my cv was very good, but that it was 'unclear' what the 'contributions' of my 'co-authors' to my projects and publications. He/she doubts how much of my work (I am usually the only author of the publications or first author of co-authored texts) I actually did myself. It is not a blind procedure: the reviewer could see that the co-authors are for mostly men.

  • Impatient

    A somewhat modest female colleague was invited to become a professor and Head of Department elsewhere. The current Head of Department said: "You actually have a very good CV". When she informed about the progress of the appointment, the reaction was: "You are so impatient!".

  • Snappy woman

    “My Scientific Director told me that I shouldn't disagree with him during a meeting, but I should tell him before the meeting if I disagree with the plans proposed. He says I always react like a snappy woman and that no one cares for that. Now I always consult with him fore the meeting and keep quiet during the meeting, and it's fine!"

  • Self image M/F

    “At the Academic Leadership course a woman said: 'I evaluated myself a bit more negatively than the people around me evaluated me, but that probably goes for everyone.' A man says: 'I evaluated myself a bit more positively than the people around me evaluated me, but that probably goes for everyone.'


  • Educational Director

    Two different people in different faculties at different universities. The cases are practically identical. In both situations a man was asked (at an earlier stage) to become Educational Director. Both men make a promotion conditional to them accepting the position (in one case from senior university lecturer to professor, in the other from university lecturer to senior university lecturer). Both conditions are met.

    In a subsequent phase, in both cases a woman is invited to accept the position of Educational Director. They are in the same academic phase as their male predecessors, actually, with a bit more experience and a slightly better CV (with more first author publications). Both women try to negotiate the same (commitment to) promotion. They are told: "First show us how you perform in this position for two years, then we will reopen the negotiations."

  • Professional is aggressive

    A female colleague, the leader of a large research project says: when I send a professional email to one of my members of staff, asking them to do something, or providing them instructions on how do to something, I am told I am too 'aggressive', because I didn't introduce my request with personal questions, asking how they are doing. I checked to see how my male colleagues do this, by seeing how they embed requests in their emails. They do exactly the same as I do, but that isn't considered aggressive.

  • Sensitive women's title

    I was asked to serve on a policy advisory committee (BAC). Prior to the meeting, I received a list of the names of all BAC members. It was notable that all male members received "Prof. Dr." in front of the name, but in the case of myself and the other female member, it also included "Ms." in front of it. To bring this to my attention, I emailed the HR person from whom I had received the list, saying that for a next time it would be better to give all professors the same title. In response I received: "It is true that in the overview a sex designation is used for the female BAC members and not for the male ones. I will of course take your suggestion into consideration." I was also told that "this does tend to be sensitive, especially with women." I was thus outlined as the "sensitive woman, who was bothered by it. By the way, the women were also listed UNDER the men instead of in alphabetical order, but I decided not to mention that.

Positive discrimination

  • Very easy

    When our department was looking for a temporary Head of Department, I was told that I was definitely considered, but that they thought I wouldn't want to do it because I probably too busy with my small children.

    Later on, when I was appointed professor, the reaction of a fellow academic was that it was not a miracle, because it is very easy at the moment to become a professor if you're a woman.

  • Meaningful wink

    I have been appointed senior university lecturer, in a tenure track position. This track is intended for me to qualify as professor. When I discuss this with a colleague, he says: "Of course, you'll get to be a professor: you are a woman." I tried to object by saying: "Well, I still have to fit the criteria." He shrugged and gave me a meaningful wink; he didn't think so. This disqualifies me in advance, for when I do get the position, because that will obviously not be based on my qualifications..

  • Shared award

    At the end of the first year, an prize was awarded to the student with the best grades. Coincidentally, a fellow student and I both had the same average, and we had to share the prize. After the prize was awarded fellow students told me I had only got it "because I'm a woman.

  • Even though you're a man

    At his first attendance of the professors' meeting, a new fellow professor, a man, is welcomed by the chairman. He is congratulated by those present, including a number of very successful young female colleagues. One of his new colleagues, a man, then says: "How good, you were appointed even though you're not a woman!" When I tell him I find this remark inappropriate, he looks at me as if he doesn't understand. It was just a joke.

  • What does it matter?

    In a presentation of our research, I showed a graph from the Dutch Monitor Female Professors (LNVH), indicating that, at the current rate of development, the target set for female professors will not be achieved by a long shot. The audience's reaction: "What nonsense, there have never been so many women appointed professor!" At the same presentation of our research data, indicating that women are evaluated significantly more negatively than men, the reaction is: "It's just a couple of percent, what does it matter - this doesn't mean anything."

  • Mentoring programs

    I tried to discuss the possibility of mentoring programs during my last interviews with men for the study I am conducting for the Equal Opportunities Office. I asked some men, if they wish to have a mentoring program for men. They are negative and do not feel concerned by these programs.

  • Ambitions

    I have two children, including a 18-month-old baby. My husband is a full-time stay-at-home father. When there the position of Scientific Director opened up and I wanted to seriously consider applying, I was disregarded as a potential candidate. Upon inquiring, my colleagues indicate that this can not be a serious option for me if I have a baby.


Inappropriate behavior

  • "I didn't know there were whores running around here these days"

    During my undergraduate final project, I do research in a lab. I am regularly alone in the lab to work with equipment or in the fume cupboard. One day, I am wearing a skirt with thick tights and boots. I am alone in the lab and standing by the fume cupboard when an associate professor enters. He looks at me, walks silently into the room and starts working with a device and then, out of the blue, says, "I didn't know there were whores running around here these days".

  • "Oh, you don't like the colours of my charts?"

    During a poster session of a conference, my (male) colleague and I look at the poster of someone from another research group and discuss the results of that researcher. After a few minutes, I thank the researcher and say that I will continue to look at the other posters. To this his response was "Oh, don't you like the colors of my graphs enough?". When my colleague also leaves a minute later, the researcher thanks him for his attention.

  • Success played down as undeserved

    During a dinner, a male colleague tells me that there is gossip in the department that I owe my current job as assistant professor to sex with my supervisor. Even though this would not be true; he tries to make me insecure by saying this. It's sad, but it worked. For a long time, I have had negative thoughts about my own abilities as a researcher. 


    While preparing for a presentation for VENI, I am told by a female professor that I have an advantage over my male competitor in the department. Namely, that I look 'exciting' and he doesn't.t.

  • If you ask me nicely

    One of my male colleagues likes to call me 'doll face', as a friendly term. He has made inappropriate remarks on several occasions, like "Why is a nice girl like you do such boring research?". Today, he thought it was appropriate to interrupt my meeting with a student for no reason and say: "If you ask me nicely, I will give you a piece of cake." The cake wasn't his - it was two tables away, for the whole institute.

  • A flirting Educational Director

    As a lecturer I occasionally consult with the director of a department in which I teach. The conversations are uncomfortable because he pausing the conversation to stare at me or he pays a lot of attention to my legs. After one of the meetings he sent me an ambiguous email in which he said that it was 'very stimulating' to think about the subject of the conversation. A few months later, I am the chair of a meeting with all the students and teachers of the program. The Educational Director sits down in middle of the front row, stares at me and flirts with me. Afterwards I let him know by email that I felt uncomfortable and ask if he would like to take this into account and will not look at me that way in the future. At a later meeting he does not look at me anymore, but spends almost the whole meeting looking at the ceiling. If I want to discuss it later and indicate that I still find the situation a little uncomfortable, he shouts angrily: "Then we can not cooperate anymore, this is your problem. I am already taking it into account, the only other thing I can do is wear sunglasses ".

  • Mentor-pupil relationship with professor during my studies

    During my studies, I developed a kind of mentor-pupil relationship with a professor I met in my first year. Sometimes, I saw him looking at a me in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable, but I thought that it was all in my head. For a long time, it was my plan (and his too) for work on a doctorate dissertation with him after my studies, but that changed when he touched my butt at a party several times, even though I pushed him away. Now I found a PhD position in a different department, with a female professor, in a totally different field, because it didn't seem like a good idea to be dependent on him. It's a shame though, I liked that department.

    While I'm writing this, I realize how hard it is for me to talk about it (even though it is anonymized). A few of the thoughts crossing my mind: "I don't want to publicly shame anyone. But what if I do, I did nothing wrong? Shouldn't I have told him? But how? Maybe I led him on? I am gay and he knows that. I had too much to drink too, doesn't that make it my fault? I don't think so. Maybe he didn't mean it that way? But which way did he mean it then? Maybe it was just a small mistake? I hope so."

  • #MeToo

    At a party in 2004, my former co-supervisor asks me to step to the back of the room, because there was a lot of noise. There, he kisses me unexpectedly. I try to discuss it with him the week after it happened and he says: "I am in love with you and if you do not a relationship with me, I will never work with you again." I cry, and I see my future fall apart. I tell him that I am not interested and that, in fact, I am angry. Then he tells me he never wants to see me again. I am shocked. After 2 days I go to our institution's Confidential Advisor within our institution. All I can do is cry. This is the field I want to continue working in.

    I have several meetings with her. She advises me two things: "Seek support from female colleagues and think carefully before you officially report this, he is a professor, it is going to be your word against his." I keep my mouth shut and do not make an official report. Two weeks later, when I am there for a presentation, my former co-supervisor is there. He interrupts my talk after 5 minutes and tell the audience that what I am saying it is not true. After the presentation, I go up to him. He has a group of women standing around him. I say, in front of everyone: "You will never do this to me again." After that, I keep my distance. I never worked together with him and I temporarily chose a different focus for my research. After a few years, he left to work abroad.

    I found it difficult to share this incident with people. 'Metoo' and Athena's Angels are providing me the support I need to do this. In retrospect, I think I didn't get the help I needed. Good help would have helped me process the trauma. Good help would have helped me to see that my former co-supervisor's behavior was very inappropriate. This was a blatant case of inequality of power and manipulation.

  • How dare you

    A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a colleague (a professor) and I asked him to improve the access to certain facilities in his department. Today, a member of the supporting staff of the department, came to me and demanded some answers. How did I dare to contact his head of department and I knew that if I had any questions I was to come to him. After the storm of reproaches, I couldn't help but wonder if he would have barged in on me that way if I had been a man.

  • Well, well, Ms. professor

    In response to an email in which I state that I disagree with a male colleague (a professor) I get an email with no salutation, with the following opening line: "Well, well, Ms. professor, you are up on your high horse!" That this mail was intended to show me who is really in charge, is obvious.

  • Unacademic imaging

    I was interviewed by the newspaper, for an article about my research. The article included a small portrait photo of me from the university's picture library. One of the newspaper's readers thought it was necessary to send me the following reaction: "Interesting subject. I don't think the photo in the newspaper is appropriate, as it incites very unacademic thoughts in my and probably in a lot of other men."

  • Hello gorgeous

    During a festive dinner on the occasion of an anniversary, I am greeted by the chairman of the board with the words "Hello gorgeous".

  • How can you concentrate?

    When I was preparing a course as a TA together with a colleague who was the male lecturer, a male guest professor walked in on us. He turned to the lecturer and said "Can I ask you something? How can you concentrate on your course, when you are sitting next to such a beautiful girl?". Just in case, I was dressed and behaving appropriately for work. I was shocked but somehow managed to reply "Can we keep it professional?". Needless to say, after this we were both very uncomfortable, the lecturer kept blushing and his concentration was completely gone indeed. Later the guest professional apologized to me but I am still not a fan of these kind of ‘compliments’.

  • That girl

    The chair of the department often refers to female colleagues as 'that girl' if they are women, even if they are women over 40.

  • Hearts and kisses

    Professional email from a colleague, signed with 'hearts and kisses'.

  • Upside down

    I am quite small. It has happened to me twice that a large male colleague grabbed hold of me in the hallway, lifted me up and turned me upside down. After the first time I made it clear that I didn't appreciate this. He still did it again. What could I have done about it?

  • Was I asking for it?

    Years ago, after a dinner with a group of guests from abroad, a much older lecturer kissed me on the lips and said 'I want to fuck you'. I thought I was probably asking for it. Now I'm 35+ and have children, it has all calmed down, but sometimes I am surprised that I still work at a university.

  • Baggy clothes and sneakers

    When I was younger, I liked to wear dresses and pretty shoes with high heels. I got so many remarks about the way I look at work that I started to wear baggy clothes more often during the years, and always wear sneakers.

  • No more overtime

    At a reception after a doctoral defense I was talking to some other people. A colleague from my department stands behind me and whispers in my ear: "I'm going to fuck you up the ass." Since ten I am a bit afraid to stay in the office when most of the people have gone home.

  • Pinch on the bum

    At a reception at a conference I am waiting to order a drink at a busy bar. One of the other visitors of the conference pinches me on the bum. I am flabbergasted and turn around. It is so crowded, I can't see who did it.

  • A follow-up

    It was my first international conference, years ago. I presented my research, and it went well! A much older colleague complimented me on my research and invited me to follow up on my paper with him. When I realized he intended to do this in his hotel room with a bottle of whisky, I made myself scarce as quickly as I could.

  • Sinterklaas party

    When I was a graduate student, we celebrated Sinterklaas at work, with ginger nuts and hot chocolate milk. Two colleagues dressed up as Sinterklaas and Black Peter. They also had some Dutch courage to prepare for the party. Sinterklaas invites one of the secretaries to sit on his lap. 'Let's see if Sinterklaas's staff is firm,' Black Peter shouts.

  • Spa

    Once a year, we have a department excursion. The male members of staff suggest that we take a trip to the spa. When the (female) graduate students say that they don't think this is a good idea, it is called 'lame'. We ended up going to a swimming pool instead.

  • We like having you here

    I have been invited to a strategic meeting for the university, with representation of all the relevant administrative position. I am the head of one of the largest institutes in the university. On the way in, I say hello to one of the organizers, and I thank him for the invitation. He takes his time in looking me up and down and says: "We always like having someone who looks like you here."

  • I didn't hear anything

    I give a public lecture - 45 minutes of passionate presentation. The public is very interested in what I have to tell. At least, that's my impression. Afterwards someone comes to up me - I think he wants to ask me a question. But his reaction is: "I didn't hear anything of what you said - I was just looking at you."

  • You, of course, practice in bed every night

    A research institute invited me to present my doctoral research. The evening before the presentation, a dinner is held with the speakers. At one point the conversation turns to Freud and his ideas about sexuality. When I contribute to this conversation, one speaker (m) responds with "how is it that you know all this?" After which the director (m) of the research institute replies that "I practice with my boyfriend in bed every night of course."



  • More complicated than a vacuum cleaner

    When I was a graduate student, I taught a class in a large lecture (> 300 students), and 1 of the two beamer screens wasn't working. When I told the man of the technical staff that my laptop connection didn't seem to be the problem, he said: "Well, it is a little bit more complicated than a vacuum cleaner."

  • You already have a husband with a job

    After I got my PhD, I applied for a post doc position abroad and ask one of my supervisors for a letter of recommendation. He answered that he had had the same request from one of his male graduate students, who was going to apply for the same positions, and that he obviously would recommend me, but that he preferred the male candidate, and that that would be reflected by the letters. When I asked him if he preferred the man because he thought he was a better candidate for the position, the answer was: "No, I don't. But he is the bread winner, so he really needs the job. You already have a husband with a job."

  • Stain removal

    One of my male colleagues spilled something on his pants. We was standing next to the tap and asked one of the secretaries for hot water (?!). Then he turned to me (one of his female fellow professors), saying that women are just really good at stain removal.

  • Not even that stupid

    In a committee meeting at work the chairman says, after I my contribution: "What she says isn't even that stupid..." and repeats my contribution.

  • Other things to enjoy

    My employer had to cut costs and projects would be stopped. My boss called me, after the administrative meeting in which the decisions were made, to tell me that the project I was in charge of was going to stopped. "But," he said, "Fortunately, you have other things to enjoy in life, like your children!"

  • Something nice to look at

    A young female colleague and I wrote a paper for an important conference. It was accepted. My boss's paper wasn't. He dismissed it as: "They just wanted something nice to look at."

  • Men are just better

    I've had a class last week in which the only male student in the group seriously announced that "men just are better" and one of the female students told me that I was "overreacting" when talking about bias. (But I've also had colleagues tell me that.)

  • A women can't teach this course

    Two students actually wrote in the evaluation of my course on the psychology of gender that I was obviously a feminist and they did not think the course should be taught by one. I agree, the psychology of gender should really be taught by a chauvinist pig…

  • Women are too emotional

    A few female lecturers object to the fact that there aren't enough consequences imposed on a proved case of plagiary by a student. The chairperson of the exam committee doesn't take this protest seriously: he says that women are just to emotional in their reactions.

  • What are you whining about?

    Yesterday I had the wrap-up session of my leadership course. We discussed how everything had gone in the course, and one of the parts was a return session with the supervisor. For this session, the men had put diversity on the agenda, because they were shocked by everything the women had said about this subject during the course. The course leader said that she had discussed this return session with the supervisor, and the point of diversity was clearly a bit difficult for him: "he didn't know what to do with it."

  • Smarter than you look

    After an in-depth debate a male colleague said to me: "You are smarter than you look."

  • Female scientists cause trouble for men in labs

    Tim Hunt, an English biochemist and Nobel laureate who admitted that he has a reputation for being a “chauvinist”, said to the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”

  • I do not answer such stupid questions

    During my Bachelor, questions from female students were answered by a professor with "I don't answer such stupid questions" and "You are still asking stupid questions". As I am a woman myself, I did not dare ask any more questions after these answers from the lecturer, lost my enthusiasm for the subject, and had to retake the exam. The teacher also appeared to be known among former students as being unfriendly to women. This seemed to be known to the faculty as well, but since he was the expert in his field, nothing was done about it.

Gendered language