Carrying out research for a PhD in computer science and going to academic conferences I was very much in a minority as a woman. The ratio was around 2:8 female to male, or lower, and sometimes this made things a bit uncomfortable. I remember going to one conference where, after being told by my supervisor that I needed to network at conferences, I approached a couple of guys during a break to discuss the previous session. I plucked up courage and said something friendly about the last speaker to start a conversation with them. They looked me up and down, and then started talking to each other as if I hadn’t said anything. I stood there feeling really silly, realized after about thirty seconds that they were going to continue to ignore me, and then walked away feeling absolutely mortified.
I had a few other encounters similar to this, and of course some good ones too, but I never felt completely at ease in that type of situation. That was until I went to a conference in Brussels for women in science. This time there were about one hundred women and two men. As I walked into the conference room and stood looking around wondering where to go and sit, a woman came over and started talking to me. We had a great chat and joined a conversation with some other women, probably about why we were at the conference and what we hoped to get out of it. What an amazing difference. I met some truly amazing, inspiring and supportive women. That conference changed my life.
I had thought that it was me, and my lack of social skills, that was preventing me from enjoying academic life to the full. Now I realized that wasn’t the case.
Read the whole thing. You know that stuff about women doing it in high heels and backwards? Try getting a Ph.D. as a single parent with 3, later 4, kids.