Clemente, E.C. et al.
Professor Dame Mary Johnson, head of Quantum Physics at the University of Cambridge, was pleasantly surprised to hear that she would be receiving a substantial raise after getting an email from a prospective student repeatedly misgendering her as a man.
This was not, however, the first time that she received a bonus after someone had presumed “Dr. Johnson” was a man based on rank and field of work. Last month, while serving as the keynote speaker at a symposium on Women in STEM, a 26-year old graduate student introducing Dr. Johnson fawned over “his ground-breaking work on wave-particle duality” and that “he basically laid the foundations for modern quantum mechanics.”
The student noticed his error just as he finished calling Dr. Mary Johnson “the most you could want in a scientist, a mentor and a man,” as she walked up to the podium.
“At this point, it’s more of a pleasant surprise when they get it right at first try,” explained Dr. Johnson, who has over 460 scientific articles published under his — sorry, her — name, and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards in the field.
“I do realise it’s not inconceivable for a man to be speaking at an event celebrating the achievements of women in science,” she conceded, matter-of-factly, “but to have researchers not even do a cursory Google search?”
Dr. Johnson, who says she does not particularly care about the monarchy, even accepted the title of “Dame,” hoping it would simplify things.
“I thought it would help make my gender that extra bit clearer – you know, to all of those who hadn’t realised that ‘Mary’ is an exclusively female name in 14 different languages or something.”
Dr. Johnson says that the emails persisted even after adding “she/her” pronouns to her email signature.
“It seems as though ignoring all the obvious signs is easier than the concept of a woman being a successful scientist studying physics.”
After this raise, Dr. Johnson is now on pace to earn the same as her male counterparts in about 17 years.