When the Women and Math program at IAS was coming to an end, Ingrid Daubechies invited me to a picnic at her place for PACM
(The Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University). I accepted with great enthusiasm for three reasons: I was awfully tired and needed a rest; PACM was my former workplace, so I was hoping to meet old acquaintances; and most of all, I loved the chance to hang out with Ingrid.
Ingrid is a great cook, so she prepared some amazing deserts for the picnic. While I was helping myself to a second serving of her superb lemon mousse, a man asked me if I was Ingrid’s sister. Ingrid overheard this and laughingly told him that we are soul-sisters.
I admire Ingrid, so at first I took this as a compliment and felt all warm and fuzzy. But when my critical reasoning returned, I had to ask myself: Why would someone think I am Ingrid’s sister with my Eastern European round face, my Russian name and my Russian accent?
I started talking to the man. He asked me what I do. I told him that I am a mathematician. He was stunned. What is so surprising in meeting a mathematician at a math department picnic?
Now I think I understand what happened. It never occurred to him that I was a mathematician. I was clearly unattached, so he couldn’t place me as someone’s wife. As the picnic was at Ingrid’s house, he must have concluded that I had to be Ingrid’s relative. Very logical, but very gender biased.Share:
BTW, the two of you do look similar enough in the photograph for someone to ask if you’re sisters.19 September 2010, 9:43 pm
Whenever there is another woman mathematician in my workplace they will sooner or later mix up the two of us. Different haircolors, very difference heights etc haven’t stopped them.30 November 2012, 4:06 am