I was a bit annoyed yesterday when the decision by the Globe and Mail to update their style guide came across my Twitter feed. I get to be an associate professor of biology upon first reference in an article, but become Ms. McDonald on second reference. I guess this is how the Canadian Press have been doing things for years, but I find it irritating and I’m going to tell you why.
I’m a professional and an expert and earned a credential, namely a Ph.D., that reinforces these facts. Now you may ask why I need these facts reinforced. It is not because I have a gigantic ego, think I’m better than everyone else, or am a member of the non-existent Canadian “elite”. The fact that I’m a professional and an expert needs to be enforced regularly because they are questioned regularly several times each term due to the fact that I don’t look like a typical scientist. There are huge social and cultural contexts at play here and that Dr. title is therefore really important to people like myself; that is women and persons with disabilities.
I can only assume that because I look younger than I am and because I am female that people feel free to tell or ask me:
1) that I don’t look like a scientist (hello, stereotypes!)
2) I’m too pretty to be a scientist (umm, these two things are not mutually exclusive like you seem to think they are, and ewwwwww!)
3) Which professor do you work for? (I’ve run my own research lab for 8 years thank-you very much)
4) I thought you were so and so (insert some other female academic here), I’m so confused! (We are both petite and female presenting so we must be interchangeable then)
The above are interactions that I’ve had at academic science conferences.
My credentials and authority often also get challenged in the classroom. This is not a unique experience given that it happens to most of the other female professors that I’ve mentioned it to. We were commiserating about it over lunch a few years ago and our male colleagues were in disbelief because it never happens to them.
That doctorate is one item that I can use to level the playing field in academic science. I earned it, I need it, and you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands.