I have just started a research position (around 2.5 months ago) at a top-10 university. I am having my own funding and was initially quite excited about the opportunity, and did and do love my project.
I have some trouble with the mentorship, however, and the following things have happened so far:
I was sitting across my mentor during one of the first meetings I had with him. I was not aware that because of my clothing (I had a rather loose-sitting shirt on) and the way I was sitting, one could see my décolleté. Although I understand that looking at other people is quite normal, not only did my mentor stare at my chest, he then also leaned back and laughed in an arrogant kind of tone. Although he has not done that anymore, he still looks at my body in quite discomforting ways (I see him staring at my backside, my waist etc.). At this point, I am spending my time thinking about what to wear when I meet with him to avoid such situations. Then I end up being bothered that this has become a concern of mine.
I am the only woman in the group, and sexist jokes during weekly meetings are a thing. It seems that specifically, one of the students tries to cement his status by making jokes I would not like and that this student knows that the mentor will laugh along at these jokes (which he does loudest) which will also impact the relationship of me and the mentor in a negative way - which it does, though I see it as the mentor's responsibility to act differently. I have never been at a lab before where jokes about women's bodies were considered normal during meetings.
When we discuss work from a female scientist, the tone is quite different than when work from a male scientist is discussed. Again, I am well aware that we all have biases. But the discussion of a female scientist's work became aggressive quite quickly, with the mentor saying things like "This work makes me so angry that I can't control my anger anymore". I haven't experienced such bursts of aggression towards male scientists, and his behavior shapes the overall environment of the lab, and aggressive behavior I experience from the students are in my opinion at least partly a consequence of his behavior.
The student is the kind of person who knows where people's sensitivities are and uses that knowledge in his favor - but my concern is really much more the PI than the student, since, at least to a great extent, his behavior sets a blueprint for acceptable behavior and the rules of the lab.
While I have not experienced this before, there still is the possibility of leaving and ending up in a similar situation - maybe I was just lucky so far with my supervisors? It is a fear I have, it does not have to be logical. But I simply am afraid of leaving a careerwise unique opportunity without knowing what will happen next
What should I do?
Brief update I changed my lab and I am now at another "top 10" university and extremely happy. Supportive lab environment, supportive and respectful PI, great scientific work. I am glad I left and don't have any doubts anymore that this was the right decision. Advice for others experiencing something similar: I got (anonymously) help from people who experienced similar things, but kept everything very lowkey. I tried to part as peacefully as I could from the old lab, and pointed out positive aspects of the new labs during the job interviews. I care very much about my principles, but also understood quickly that the universities would use all of their force against me if I would speak up, and decided at this point to protect myself (and my mental health).
Also, I want to thank everyone here for their support!