Last night I was out with classmates to celebrate the closing of our theses and I was talking to an instructor of mine (in his late 30s) at school about the industry I am about to enter. This is not a person I would generally brand as a chauvinist. In fact, I have always respected him and thought him to be incredibly intelligent. However, when I brought up the female CEO of the company that I'm joining and described her as driven, extremely competitive, etc. he nodded in agreement and said, "Right - she's a bitch." I was stunned at the casualness of his remark but didn't really absorb it enough in the moment to bring it up, so I sent him a message later asking whether if I came to establish myself as driven, self-assured, etc. the men in my industry would call me a bitch, too. He asked me to call him ("if you're going to accuse me of chauvinism, at least call me - a text message is a lousy forum") and we spoke on the phone afterwards, with the conclusion basically being that he didn't mean "she's driven and successful, therefore she's a bitch" but rather "she's driven and successful, and she's a bitch." Apparently this was someone he had seen be quite nasty to some employees without cause, in his opinion. I guess this is something I could have assumed, but I feel like it's something he should have explained anyway so that I didn't walk away from it feeling so confused.

We talked some more about the industry and I explained to him that in a recent interview I had, a male employer too referred to a woman he used to work with as "a real bitch." In the middle of our interview! That one truly did shock me, and he assured me that it sounded like an exception. Anyway, eventually he admitted that it was a moment of self-awareness for him and that he had to question his own relaxed attitude about gendered words. He was confident in his behaviour but he said he could have used a different word. I then stressed that it wasn't the word so much as the attitude towards powerful women that I had trouble with. The conversation eventually ended on a positive note, and I did get to tell him that it was more about me wanting to know if that was the reality I faced going into a male-dominated industry (short answer: "pretty much").

I feel some anxiety about it now, though - on the one hand I feel like I was overly sensitive about it and I regret bringing it up, but I also felt like it would be weird not to confront him about it. This is also someone I want to be friends with because other than this hiccup I have always really admired him and learned a lot under his guidance.

Thoughts?