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.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Careers advice for all

Two articles published today drew my attention to different aspects of life as a career woman. The first, called 'When women are missing from peer review,' summarises a new study into the unconscious biases that can affect one of the key forms of academic citizenship. The authors found that, although the number of female reviewers chosen by the journal Functional Ecology was small, it had improved over the period of the study due to the selection of more female editors (even so, they only selected female reviewers ~35% of the time). However, problems remained with the reluctance amongst male reviewers to accept invitations from female editors, and the greater reluctance of late-career male editors to invite female reviewers relative to their younger colleagues (female editors invited more women the further into their careers they were). Progress in the right direction, but more work to be done to address everyone's biases.

The other article, 'Nice girls don't finish last: why empathy isn't a business liability,' reminds us all that courtesy and consideration for others isn't anything to do with gender, but a life skill that strengthens business teams and ultimately garners you genuine respect from your peers. Confidence is not the same thing as being pushy; apologising when you are wrong demonstrates maturity and responsibility. Bending down to meet those who don't abide by such maxims only does you and your company a disservice. To quote the author, 'Staying authentic and maintaining integrity is a lot easier said than done. It takes guts and shows real backbone. In my opinion, this is what commands respect and demonstrates the mark of a great leader.' Something for us all to live by.

Finally, the news that tomorrow is International Men's Day. The University of York found itself in the midst of a Twitterstorm by publishing a press release promoting the day. The initial release appeared to suggest that there were serious imbalances and biases against men, and, in particular, stated that in academic positions, women were more likely to be hired, without any supporting evidence. Since the recent debate, and debunking, of several academic studies which made similar claims, people from the University and beyond cried foul in an open letter, ultimately leading to a retraction and apology by the University. As the correction notice pointed out, men are still much less likely to seek help for some issues, such as mental health, and are underrepresented in some fields, such as nursing. I hope the negative reactions to this event do not stop people of all stripes from tackling bias and inequality, wherever and however it presents itself. See articles here and here.

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