I couldn’t help noticing

So this is the end of my first full week in my new job at the European XFEL. Commuting every morning from lovely small-town Lueneburg, I am adjusting – rushing to get the connection, jockeying for that key position at the doors of the train and to get a seat. No problem, I grew up in Hamburg, the urban instinct is still there and simply had to be woken up again. I’ve been getting to know my colleagues and I am starting to slowly get an idea of what it is I am supposed to be doing.

What, somehow, I hadn’t quite expected…: I sat in a seminar on Wednesday and something seemed ‘different’. Then I counted: 40 men, 5 women.

“Doesn’t matter”, said a friend on facebook, “the men don’t count anyway”. But yesterday, I noticed roughly the same ratio in the canteen. After that, I participated in a meeting with the DESY directorate – guess what… yes, the only woman.

I did feel conscious of that fact, but managed not to let it bother me. Although I did wonder briefly whether my choice of clothing that day – elegant grey slacks, black shoes, off-white knitted jacket… and a light pink t-shirt underneath… would give anyone the wrong idea. But I quickly put that thought aside: there’s nothing to it, things will have to be shaken up.

Luckily, the European XFEL is almost on the right track: going through the current phone list (most positions will be filled later), I am counting 13 women and 24 men – among which are German, British, Chinese, Italian, Russian, French, Spanish and Indonesian citizens. I’m curious to see who else is coming!

Too girly?

This post was first published on Nature Network, which has since been discontinued. The post has been moved to SciLogs.

About steffi suhr

Once upon a time, I was an enthusiastic and hopeful biological oceanographer who did a bunch of work in the Antarctic. I was alternately wearing labcoats or extreme weather clothing and hard hats, but have long since swapped survival suits for dress suits and do science management, currently as the BioMedBridges project manager at the European Bioinformatics Institute. I still like to use my brain. I'm a German serial expat, currently - again - living in the UK.
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16 Responses to I couldn’t help noticing

  1. Cath Ennis says:

    Wear pink, make ’em notice you!

  2. Jennifer Rohn says:

    But possibly avoid shoulder-pads.

  3. Richard P. Grant says:

    Oh look! Pretty blossom!

  4. steffi suhr says:

    Avoid shoulder pads – heh!
    I am really a bit worried about my girly skirts. I think I should hold off wearing those for a while…

  5. Frank Norman says:

    I see your pink blossoms and raise you a tree.

  6. steffi suhr says:

    Can’t beat that, Frank! I love cherry blossoms.
    Cath – actually, I did know of course that I was going to be in that meeting with all those men when I chose my outfit in the morning. So I kind of did it on purpose, I guess πŸ˜‰

  7. Cath Ennis says:

    Oh definitely. They need to know that we exist and contribute, even if we wear pink! (It doesn’t suit me, personally!)
    One should always avoid shoulder pads. That reminds me, must ask parents to burn certain 80s photos.

  8. Jennifer Rohn says:

    You have my blessing to embrace your girly skirts, though.

  9. Richard P. Grant says:

    Can I embraceβ€”

  10. Kristi Vogel says:

    Congrats on your new job, Steffi! It’s difficult for me to imagine wearing a knitted jacket at work in July, however (it’s 101F here at the moment). I wear pink, and other “girlie” colors like lavender and periwinkle, pretty frequently (you can judge for yourself whether pink suits me, from a CISB ’09 photo). Last year, during my prolonged gross anatomy teaching stint, I developed an allergy or sensitivity to whatever toxic and harsh detergent they use on hospital scrubs. Since I wear scrubs four days out of five during that period, I had to buy my own scrubs and launder them at home. So, I bought scrubs in lavender, teal, and purple, and this year I’ll probably add a pink set. Why stick with the standard institutional gray-green?
    I also bought a pink breakaway halter and lead rope for one of my horses, because I knew that a male friend of mine would never borrow them, and accidentally misplace them or leave them in his trailer (as has happened with several halters that weren’t pink). On cold winter days, I’ll put a turnout blanket, which is purple, on the horse, and she looks as if a 5-year-old girl dressed her.

  11. steffi suhr says:

    Girls (and Richard), this is interesting – in my teens and twenties, I used to state with loathing that I would never be caught dead wearing pink. I think I got my first few items of clothing featuring pink in my early 30s. It’s still not something I would wear all the time (I don’t wear a lot of bright colors in general), but once in a while, and in a certain mood… I think it’s my (fun) colour of (tongue-in-cheek) protest.

  12. steffi suhr says:

    Oh, and Kristi: It’s difficult for me to imagine wearing a knitted jacket at work in July – yes… I’ve been back here for over a year at this point but am still underdressed most of the time. It was hot last week, but this week has been a little chilly – it was just luck that I remembered to put something warmer on that day…

  13. Henry Gee says:

    When Gee Minima and I went to support Mrs Gee and G Minor as they ran a 5k ‘race for life’ recently, I bought a souvenir T shirt. I’m always short of T shirts, and I wanted to contribute to the cause. I couldn’t give a Tinker’s cuss that it was shocking pink. A tee’s a tee, right? But Gee Minima (then 8) was so deeply embarrassed that I’d even wear such a thing that I never did get to put it on. Shame, really.

  14. steffi suhr says:

    Can you at least wear it as a work shirt, Henry? My son likes to act as my fashion adviser as well sometimes – he likes to see me wear the girly stuff. Of which I have very little, despite of what this thread might suggest at this point.

  15. Henry Gee says:

    I might. But I might also be the target of unwelcome advances on the way, especially as the Nature office is behind Kings Cross Station.

  16. steffi suhr says:

    Heh, Henry – I’m so used to saying ‘work shirt’ when I mean a T-shirt to wear around the garden/do some welding in/painting the house, I didn’t understand what you were talking about at all. But sure, you need to wear clothes to work in the office as well… πŸ™‚

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