It's amazing the confidence and comfort that a speaking slot and a sister can provide for a better conference experience. At the last conference I attended, I had such a good time and met/talked substantially to a number of great people in the society leadership, had fun giving my talk and asked lots of questions. The conference I am at right now is just feeling really lonely. Even though I know more people here than at the last one, none of them are more than relatively passing acquaintances other than a few folks from my postdoc lab (whom it has been very nice to see and talk to! but I do miss rooming with my sistah). Former postdoc PI is very famous in this field, and is here getting an award, and a bunch of his other previous postdocs/students are here too. You'd think that would feel homey, but I just don't feel like a part of that group yet. Maybe I need more CNS papers to fit in? Or just time to get to know these people? Hanging out at the bar or something? Asking more questions in talks so they wonder who I am?
However, speaker and PI wise, this is a very dudely conference. I have counted only about 10% female speakers, even though there are plenty of female grad students and postdocs around and at least a few more female PIs proportionately compared to the number they have chosen to speak. I've had some nice conversations, but it's not an environment where I can just say "Hey let's grab a beer!" to these dudes I do not know. Questions after talks are not very user-friendly, either--the whole conference is being held in this big auditorium and if you have a question you have to flag down someone who runs over to you with a microphone. It makes me an awful lot less likely to get up to ask a question if I know I will have to make a huge deal out of it, waving my arms all over the place, and then still not even get to ask it anyway because most of the mic runners are going to the older dudes in the front seats.
Is this a uniquely young-female-prof problem to have, or do the young-guy-profs have the same uncomfortable fear of having attempts at networking make you appear like some kind of groupie? Is this some kind of imposter syndrome on my part, or is it a legitimate reaction to a closed social atmosphere amongst this group? There are a bunch of events for the "elites," with award dinners etc., and events for the young'uns, with student/postdoc only parties and stuff, but nothing for us tweeners. I guess I just feel like I fall through the cracks here. Maybe I am just jealous that I don't get to give a talk.
Maybe I need to get more involved in this society and start a Women in Such-and-Such Science group, and we can have our own private beer parties with NO BOYS ALLOWED!!