Shubha Tole and Shashidhara write in Current Science:
“Many well-meaning people may not be comfortable with dealing with women in the professional workspace. Since they do not know how to deal with women trainees or colleagues, they have interactions that are difficult for both sides, and often end up excluding or alienating women. Some accomplished scientists at top-tier institutions have been known to say that women students ‘start crying for everything’ and women postdocs ‘come only for breeding and child-rearing’.
We believe the attitudes described above reflect a deep lacuna in the availability of examples as to what language/ social interaction/workspace dialogue is appropriate in a mixed gender group. For example, it is socially acceptable to compliment the attire or appearance of one’s friends, and such appreciation is more often directed at women than men. Likewise, compliments about a good meal are more often directed at a woman host, regardless of who did the cooking. Unfortunately, these attitudes get carried over into professional interactions, such that well-meaning men find themselves using such compliments to convey positive sentiments to women trainees or colleagues, instead of focusing on the only issue that is actually relevant – the quality of their work.”