Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

In the news - weekend round-up

The weekend usually brings a bevvy of op-ed articles and interesting links, so instead of individual posts, I will start corralling them here in a weekly compendium.

For those approaching (or considering) a lectureship in the UK, this report from AGCAS identifies the key traits and experiences current academics look for when hiring new colleagues. Unsurprisingly, research experience and a strong publication record top the list, but the range of responses to topics as diverse as mobility, outreach work and teaching experience are all important to keep in mind when planning your career trajectory.

Much has been made recently of mentoring schemes and other formal career development tools, particularly for early career researchers, but sometimes smaller efforts by those higher up the food chain can have a disproportionately large impact on others. Athene Donald, a professor of physics at Cambridge, blogs (and tweets) regularly about supporting women's careers in academia, much of which is also broadly applicable to all working in research or university environments. Her latest post, entitled 'On sponsorship and kindness', offers sound advice to all those who provide feedback - be that job applications, reviewing papers or students you supervise.

The business world - another hyper-competitive industry - provides ample fodder this week for advice, whether you are striving to climb the greasy pole of success or already up there. We start with an interview with Jacqueline Gold, the boss of Ann Summers who has grown the business through thick and thin over 33 years. Her chief advice for those following in her footsteps? “You can be tenacious, you can have courage, you can be passionate but you don’t need to be aggressive. We tend to associate these strong people with power and influence with aggressiveness and that just isn’t the case.”

Not every business women is so enamoured with her career path. A new study of Harvard Business School graduates has found that male and female graduates overwhelmingly want high-achieving careers, even after they start families, but women's expectations are more often mismatched with what actually happens, both at work and at home. One letter to the editor in response indicates just how great this gulf can be.

Not everything is up to the employee, no matter how determined s/he is. Unconscious bias is constantly cited as a chief obstacle to women obtaining employment parity with men, yet this study demonstrates how efforts to reduce this bias (which we all have - male and female) can backfire spectacularly. In essence, when we are told something happens a lot, we are more inclined to do the same thing because it becomes the social norm - even something as 'obviously' wrong as stealing petrified wood from a national monument.

Finally, the benefits of accommodating the range of skills and experiences people bring to a project are emphasised in this article, along with steps those in leadership positions can take to promote such efforts, whatever their seniority - no passing the buck to those higher up the food chain! With universities, like businesses, increasingly operating on a global stage, it will only become more important to value this diversity, rather than force people into the existing model.

No comments:

Post a Comment