When I was at my last place of employment someone recommended a book to me, "Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman." I can't remember a single bit of advice from it, other than to be bold and always sit at the main meeting table, because you are taken more seriously that way.
But one thing I seem to remember from it is, perhaps incorrectly, is that when a man walks into a room he quickly assesses who is in charge. He is trained to do this, either by his social upbringing or it's wired into his genes hailing back to alpha-male primate days. In contrast, women do not usually assess workplace/social situations with the same sort of hiearchical eye by default. Thus, I try to look at these situations from multiple perspectives when I am in them, just to try to get a handle on what might be going on.
Recently I attended a talk where I watched what looked like a monumental power struggle play out, and was really not sure what to make of it. A male grad student was giving a talk. Another male person (grad student? postdoc?) kept interrupting Every. Single. Slide. to nitpick one thing or another. About halfway through the talk, Senior Professor (advisor to the student, I think) started interrupting with clarification questions, which started out nice and then got progressively more aggressive as the talk went on. He and others also snickered from time to time at several of the slides, which as far as I could tell just had equations on them.
Toward the end of the talk, Outsider Postdoc starts asking questions and eggs on the first interrupter guy, while still trying to occasionally include the speaker in the discourse. A few other men start chiming in with their two cents, some reasonable, some insulting, and eventually the entire thing dissolves into a rapid-fire bloodbath with the speaker left lying on the ground twitching, croaking, "This work is preliminary...just a first step..."
After a very long and uncomfortable time, my colleague and I managed to escape the seminar room and as we were walking back to our department felt extremely unsure about what had just happened in there. My colleague remarked that they actually weren't sure who the speaker was, because the audience members talked so much.
The funny thing is, of all the things those audience members said, I think only about 10% of the points were really about the research. The other 90% were "Look how smart I am" and "My slide rule is bigger than yours."
In science, I think there is a difference between precision and nit-picking. You can help someone in their research to find the clarity necessary to be strong as scientists without publicly humiliating them. You can ask useful questions politely while still demonstrating your intelligence to whomever it is you're trying to impress.
Having been executed this way before, sometimes I just want to stand up and call out for a cease fire.