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.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Award news

Belated congrats to first-year MRes student Ceri Roach, who won a poster prize at this year's IGRM in Belfast.

From UoP News in brief:
Ceri Roach, a first year MRes student and employee of Chemostrat, has won the Geological Society Regional Group Poster Prize at the 58th Annual Irish Geological Research Meeting. Ceri’s work is on the chemostratigraphic and biostratigraphic evolution of the Porcupine Basin and adjacent Slyne Basin in the Irish Atlantic Margin. Her new work uses samples recovered from wells and integrates geochemical and petrographic analyses of the stratigraphy and provides a calibration for the development of a bespoke mineral model for the basin.

Athena Swan April 2015 committee meeting

Dear all,

The Athena Swan committee members of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Portsmouth will meet again on Monday, the 13th of April 2015. Any staff member interested in participating, please feel free to attend, especially because this is the last committee meeting before we file our Athena Swan Bronze Application. The meeting details and agenda are:   


School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Portsmouth
  Athena Swan Committee Meeting

Monday, 13th of April 2015, 111.00 - 12.00 am, Location:  BB 4.11

 1. Apologies

2. Review of the SEES Athena Swan Bronze award draft application

3. Review of the Actions Plan 

4. Allocation of tasks from the Actions Plan to committee members

5. Discuss strategy for the implementation of the Actions Plan

6. Concluding remarks and final Bronze Application "sign off"  

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Award news

Two members of the SEES Crustal Evolution Group have been rewarded for their hard work this week by two different geological societies. First, PhD student Emma Hart won the prize for best student talk at the Geological Society's Geochemistry Group Research in Progress meeting, which comes with a £150 award. Shortly after, Senior Research Associate Penny Lancaster was awarded a Senior Bursary from the Mineralogical Society (GB/I) to support her trip to EGU in April. Congrats to them both.
Please be sure to pass on any news of awards and funding to us so they can be duly celebrated!

In the news - Forget flexibility. What working women really want is power

While attention is often focussed on blatant forms of sexism, its more pernicious counterpart is 'benevolent' sexism. When people are convinced they are helping because they 'know best,' or they've 'had no trouble with female staff so there isn't a problem,' or assume something they've read/heard about a group must apply to all people with that characteristic, lines of dialogue are shut. An article in today's Guardian reports on a new study which quantifies this effect for women leaving the workforce at the mid-career point. The most common reaction amongst managers? This is when women are having children, so they must want a better work-life balance. And yet, if you actually ask women, the most common demand is power, not time. So if you are a manager who wants the best out of your staff, sit down and have that conversation to benefit you and your group/company. Staff who feel wanted are more likely to stay, whatever their external circumstances. And if you are a member of staff, keep pushing to have that conversation - because one day you could be in their place.

In their report published last year, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Melinda Marshall found that in order for women to succeed at work they needed five things: to feel in control of their career path, to have their work recognised, to find meaning and purpose in their work, to be able to empower others and to have financial security. It seems women don’t need work-life balance in order to be happy, we’ve just assumed they do. Celia Moore, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, suggests that this assumption is a “benevolent sexism”. 
An interesting point made by Hewlett and Marshall is that women themselves opt out when they believe their current circumstances won’t change. When they find themselves in a role that doesn’t challenge them or present them with the opportunity to empower themselves or others they grow disillusioned. Rather than trying to attain more power, which would give them the autonomy they want, they choose to leave and try their luck elsewhere.  

Read more here.

Friday, 20 March 2015

The unconscious biases of applications

So, a student needs a letter of recommendation for his postgraduate course, or you want to support your colleague in her bid for promotion to professor. You've written plenty of these before, your student/colleague is clearly the best person for the job - easy, right? Not so fast. Because the language we use often carries meanings beyond the literal, and many of these sneakily send completely the wrong message - which can stick in the recipient's mind long after they've moved on to the publication list or other judging criteria. Athene Donald, in her latest blog post, cites the word 'feisty' as a particularly pernicious example, but many describe traits we actually want in our colleagues/representing our award - reliable, organised, hard working, trustworthy (see a list of common culprits here). Rightly or wrongly, words carry implicit cultural associations, with the dual effect of putting off potential female candidates (from male-worded solicitations) or lowering your star candidate's standing in the eyes of the review committee (using female-worded letters of support).
So the next time you want to attract the best candidates, or promote your star student, think about the messages you don't know you're sending - and be aware of those referees have used if you're sitting on a committee. Not sure where to start? How about putting that letter into this Gender Bias Calculator - and then do something about it!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Next Women's Staff Forum - Friday 20th March

Calling all female SEES staff and PhD students! The next meeting of the Women's Staff Forum will be this Friday, 20th March, 11am in the Hub. On the agenda will be a goodbye to Steph Sargeant (heading off to start a lectureship at UWE), a look through our almost-submitted Athena SWAN Bronze Award application, and a big welcome to the PhD students joining us.
See you all there - and don't forget to keep an eye on our Twitter feed!

In the news - Science doesn’t only need sprinters

Individual fellowships are one of the key ways post-docs become independent researchers, but nearly all come with time limits post-viva. So what happens if you take a year off to start a family? What if you're moving labs to keep up with mobility requirements? What happens if your first experiment fails, but your second - better - one is brilliant, and won't be published until your current contract ends? In nearly all cases, the answer is 'tough.' Today, the UK's Medical Research Council announced that it was scrapping time limits from all fellowship eligibility requirements. Those of us outside its remit can only hope that other research councils and funding bodies see the light as well - because a science career is a marathon, not a sprint.

One of the best things about my job is getting the chance to meet so many brilliant and talented researchers who are doing jobs they love. But, for all its wonder, pursuing a research career is competitive and challenging.
In particular, moving from being a postdoc to an independent investigator in your own right is hugely challenging. It’s usually done by securing a personal fellowship which pays your salary and research costs.
But whether a researcher has built the track record needed to successfully apply for a fellowship can be affected by whether they’ve moved labs or countries, whether they’ve changed discipline, how much support they have had from his or her supervisor, and the nature of their research project. None of these factors are related to an individual’s scientific potential.

Read more here.