Sunday, 14 August 2011

No Thanks

A problem and a question from a reader:

This month we organized an international research conference at our University, with the organization committee consisting of three male professors, a female professor and me. The composition of the committee has been very clear on all conference-related documents. Also, the conference ended by the whole committee thanking everyone for making the event successful in front of the whole audience.

Five of the invited lecturers have written and thanked us for organizing the conference. What disturbs me is that the last two (male) professors only thanked the male professors for organizing the meeting, while cc:ing me and the female professor + the other lecturers on these e-mails.

I feel annoyed for both myself and the female professor, as we both put in lots of work in the organization, but I do not know if I should comment (and if so, how) on these acknowledgments.


So, FSP readers, what would you do?:

(a) Nothing. Just let it go. There is no good, productive way to tell these men that they should have thanked all organizers equally. They will not change their behavior, and they might think less of anyone who tells them (or implies) that their selective thanking was sexist.

(b) Someone should politely inform these two professors that confining their primary thanks to the male organizers caused offense to the female organizers. That someone should be: (1) The male organizers; (2) The female organizers; (3) All the organizers together as a group; or (4) Someone else.

(c) Someone should ignite the verbal flame throwers and forcefully and not-necessarily-politely tell these two professors that they are sexist and that they should apologize to the women.

(d) Other.

I don't know the dynamics of this group, but my preference would be to start with one of the (b) options, and see what kind of reaction, if any, this gets from the two professors in question. I think they should be called out on their actions somehow, and in such a way that would increase the chances that they would thereafter not repeat them.

It is possible that they are reasonable individuals. Writing the thank-you note in the first place shows a degree of politeness, even if there was a problem associated with their selective thanking.

Your opinions and advice?

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