Improve gender balance in Irish HE or face fines, says review

Published yesterday (28th June) in the Times Higher, Jack Grove discusses proposed new reforms designed to improve gender equality at Irish Universities.

‘As part of plans put forward by an expert group commissioned by the Republic of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, all higher education institutions would face financial penalties if they did not meet targets on gender equality agreed with the funding body. Institutions would also be unable to apply for research funding if they failed to achieve at least a Silver Athena SWAN award within seven years, the group has recommended. Other recommendations from the long-awaited national review of gender equality in Irish higher education, which was published on 27 June, include having mandatory quotas for academic promotion and asking university presidential candidates to demonstrate their experience in advancing gender equality.’

What do you think?  Are reforms needed to speed up the move towards greater gender equality?


Health and Wellbeing blog

I have highlighted the Health and Wellbeing blog created by the University of Reading’s Counselling Service before, and it is worth doing so again!  Although tagged as a ‘student wellbeing blog’ the advice and links are arguably useful to everyone.  Just a few of the recent blog posts:

Growing up in two different cultures

What is your Ikigali (Japanese meaning a reason to get up in the morning)

Giving Presentations

Keeping Active to Tackle Exam Stress

Positive Self-Talk

Eat Well to Boost your Brainpower

Keep a look out for more blog posts in the future…….


Is tech addiction making us far more stressed at work?

‘The Quality of Working Life 2016 report from the Chartered Management Institute earlier this year found that this obsession with checking emails outside of work hours is making it difficult for many of us to switch off.’

Could now be the time to try and find that balance?



What can a tea bag tell you about soil?

Once again we are returning to the Soapbox Science blog, and this time it is to highlight a post published on 18th June by Sarah Duddigan (a PhD student in the Environmental Science Department here at Reading).

‘Growing up there were two things I got real enjoyment from at school, one was science lessons, and the other was playing outside and getting muddy. Never did I think that would be able to pursue a career that involves both!’  See the full blog to read more…….

Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do. Keep a look out for events organised throughout the year.



Gender pay gap: keep the ‘pity payments’

Joanna Williams has written a really interesting article published in the Times Higher yesterday (16th June), exploring the gender pay gap, and arguing that one-off sums ‘reward biology rather than merit.’

”The current discourse promotes a false perception that women are disadvantaged in academia and need special treatment to achieve equal status with their male colleagues. One-off payments to “compensate” for the average gender pay gap, such as the one made at Essex, reward biology rather than merit. They suggest that women should be paid more just for being female, rather than for publishing papers or generating funding. Female academics have no need for such pity-payments. Finally, the gender obsession detracts from other, far greater, pay inequalities. Many women employed by universities work in catering or housekeeping. They clean the offices and make the coffee for academics. I suspect that they may well be envious of the additional £4,000 female professors at Essex are about to receive.”

These is currently considerable debate surrounding all of these topics and this is likely to continue.  What do you think?


Academic Women Now: Experiences of mid-career academic women in Scotland

The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland has recently launched a new initiative to inspire women to strive for the top jobs in higher education by showcasing the careers of successful female academics. A booklet  – Women in Academia Now, edited by Aileen Fyfe, Ineke De Moortel and Sharon Ashbrook, has been published detailing the career paths of female members of the Young Academy of Scotland. ‘The brochure aims to facilitate and inspire further discussion and study about the career progression of women in different disciplines across the entire range of academic disciplines. By focusing on the mid-career stage, it offers a set of role models for early career researchers, many of whom still harbour doubts about whether academia is a good career for women.’

your career

Parent Carer Scientist

The Royal Society has recently launched the project – Parent Carer Scientist.  This project ‘celebrates the diversity of work life patterns of 150 scientists across the UK with the aim of increasing the visibility of people combining a career in science with a family life.  The project aims to encourage and inspire current and future talented scientists to succeed in science regardless of their commitments outside work.  Providing information on both their career and their personal journey through a timeline of academic, career and family milestones, this resource highlights the various formulas utilised by mothers, fathers and carers in the efforts to balance a career in science with family life. The recurring themes across the profiles also highlight the vital role that a supportive employer and family friendly policies and funding play in enabling researchers to combine a vocation for science with family life.’

More information is available on their website, as well as via the hashtag #AndAScientist


The Royal Society


Women ‘nearly twice as likely to have anxiety’ as men

Yesterday the BBC News website posted a discussion piece on a recent review of 48 published studies indicating that women are nearly twice as likely to experience anxiety as men.  ‘Its authors from Cambridge University say that as well as women, young people under 35 and those with health problems are particularly affected. They estimate that four in every 100 people have anxiety.’

Help is also at hand:

  • ‘Before you begin any treatment you should discuss your options with your doctor.
  • There are self-help books and online courses that can offer ways to manage your anxiety.
  • Your doctor may also recommend that you avoid too much caffeine and alcohol, and stop smoking.
  • Taking regular exercise may also help you relax.
  • You may be advised to try psychological treatment, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) or mindfulness. CBT aims to challenge negative thoughts and behaviours, while mindfulness encourages the individual to focus on the here and now.
  • There are also different drug treatments that your doctor may prescribe.’

Related links:

The difference between anxiety and panic attacks

Women ‘nearly twice as likely to have anxiety’ as men

Call You and Yours: How has anxiety affected you?

Seeking sanctuary from social angst in the toilet

People aged 65 to 79 ‘happiest of all’, study suggests

Anxiety disorders – Mind

Hand pointing at a Anxiety word illustration on blue background.

Women in Science Video Narratives

In 2014/2015, the University of Oxford interviewed 39 women scientists, all working at Oxford. From this they have created a website (Women in Science) with information and links to the video interviews. The themes which are covered include obtaining funding, career progression, mentorship, and taking parental leave.

From the website – ‘The aim of the project was to provide support to women making career decisions, by offering them the opportunity to explore a broad range of experiences shared by other women through video interviews. The women talked about many issues, including the culture of science, publishing, obtaining fellowship funding, having a mentor and Athena SWAN. This project focussed mainly on women working in the Medical Sciences Division at the University of Oxford. The project team acknowledges the many other inspiring women working in scientific disciplines across Oxford and hopes in time to include their views here too. This project was funded by the Vice Chancellor’s Diversity Fund and supported by the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, the Radcliffe Department of Medicine and the Medical Sciences Office. The grant holders are Chris Price and Sue Ziebland. Alison Chapple conducted the interviews. She also analysed the data with Sue Ziebland.’

Is this something we could/should do here at Reading spanning across all disciplines?

Have as much fun in science as I have!   Prof. Dame Sally Davies, first female Chief Medical Officer of England, encourages you to use this website as a resource to support your career.

Have as much fun in science as I have!
Prof. Dame Sally Davies, first female Chief Medical Officer of England, encourages you to use this website as a resource to support your career.