The lsimeblog work advice column 3:

So now that we have done How to get some women at your meeting and How to hit on them (don’t!). Obvs, there is only one thing left to cover: what do you talk about for the rest of the meeting, or

Innuendo at work: ooh la la

This is something that my female work colleagues and I have talked about a fair few times. And yet. And yet. I found it quite difficult to write this post. I’ve actually tried it a few times now – this is v3 or thereabouts.

I think the difficulty arises for three main reasons:

  1. On one level, I really struggle to get away from the belief that it is an entirely and completely unimportant topic. How can it really matter? Whoever you are: use as much innuendo as you like. I really don’t care  [1].
  2. It will always occur at some level. Whatever I, or anyone else, thinks. Especially in the UK: 31 % of all communication has a potential double or triple meaning.
  3. My feelings on it vary on a day-to-day, and sometimes hour-to-hour, basis [2].

But nevertheless, on balance, I am going to pass on what I have been told by female PhD students, whom I have talked to semi-regularly about this. Coz they think it is at least a little bit important:

`Embarrassing Dad’ colleagues

PhD students have described a variety of what they often term ‘embarrassing Dad’ colleagues and/or moments: ppt slides featuring scantily clad women  – most often comedy sketches in the corners; comments about lesbian/gay sex; more general sexual innuendo; and knowing comments about female PhD students.

These instances [3] have made these students feel awkward [4], especially when it was one of their own supervisors. So, I guess if you value their peace of mind – the safest thing must simply be to keep all innuendo out of work communications. And if you balls it up with an accidental acronym, well, see points (1.) and (2.) above: it’s probably not the end of the world.

Given it is not possible for younger (or older) students to police their supervisors, it sounds like it would be useful if older established colleagues might take it upon themselves to help tell errant ‘Embarrassing Dad’ colleagues, when they are being embarrassing? And please better you than me!



[1] FWIW I personally think the more important point is doing your bit to ensure that (all) women and other minorities also get along to meetings – and ideally that they also have your support in advancing in the other aspects of their careers.

[2] On the whole, I tend to find innuendo from women and gay men more likely to amuse, perhaps because it is unlikely to seem threatening. But actually all kinds of silly stuff can cheer up a dull day.

[3] Which are are described as uncommon.

[4] I think I’ve also seen several male students looking uncomfortable too. But I’m afraid I have never felt like I was in a position to talk to them about it. Its easier to talk to females about what they think is okay – often via WiS type groupings. But I am quite curious about what males think, maybe sometime I might find a way to ask?

[5] And yes, I’ll stop there on the work advice.

[6] Phew. Now, back to the garden :- ?




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