Something amazing has happened at work this summer. For this summer, there are more women than men working in the lab. I realize that this is a statistical anomaly brought on by my advisor's ability to communicate well with men and women. This tends to be a quality that women embrace more so than men, hence he always has a lot of women wanting to work for him. Because we have two undergraduates (both women) working under a fellowship and we have a couple of guys doing internships and working from home, on a regular basis the women outnumber the men. For once, the white, middle class, male scientists are in the minority. And they are FREAKING OUT.
As a little background I will start by saying that most everything you can imagine about being a woman in physics is true. There is a boys' club. There are men who condescend us. There are men who are scared to talk to us. There are men who don't know what else to do so they flirt with us. There are men who think that if juggling work and a family requires us to work less than 80 hours a week we don't deserve their jobs. We are bitches if we are aggressive. We're not cut out to be physicists if we are timid. If we are frustrated with them we must be PMSing. Most of the time, these are things we learn to live with. It does get tiresome though.
That's why when we realized we were the majority, everything changed. Suddenly, we can totally be ourselves and let our guards down. We don't have worry about being judged because one of has to pick her kids up or I have get dinner started for Dean. We understand that as women, we are more efficient with our time, more focused thinkers, more open to each other's ideas, and oh my God we are better listeners. We understand that a compliment can change everything and that a woman's worst fear is being thought of as stupid.
This summer has been productive, comfortable, thought-provoking, interesting, full of wonderful conversations, and most of all FUN.