Female success rate dips to 10 per cent in latest ERC grant round

Announced toady (30th June) – ‘female academics have won just 10 per cent of the latest tranche of the European Research Council’s flagship advanced grants









In an article published in the Times Higher Paul Jump notes that ‘according to the statistics for the 2014 round, released on 30 June, women account for just 19 of the 190 awardees. Of the 25 award-making panels, 12 made no awards to females, including two out of the nine panels in the life sciences, six out of 10 in the physical sciences and engineering, and four out of six in social sciences and humanities.  In the previous round of advanced grants, in 2013, women accounted for 13 per cent of awardees. However, a spokesman for the ERC said that significantly fewer women had applied in this round. Of the 2287 applications, just 310 came from women, or 13.4 per cent of the total. The female success rate was 6.1 per cent, compared to 8.6 per cent for men. The spokesman also pointed out that in the most recent round of consolidator grants, aimed at mid-career researchers, women were slightly more successful than men, taking 28 per cent of the grants, with a success rate of 15.2 per cent, compared to 14.9 per cent for men.  He said the issue of low female representation among grantees was “something we are working on”.

The full article can be seen here – https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/female-success-rate-dips-10-cent-latest-erc-grant-round


What do you think? Is there anything that can be done to encourage more female staff to apply for these grants?  Should Departments/School’s/University’s be offering more support and/or encouragement?

Women in Science

‘ECU’s Interim Head of Equality Charters, Sarah Dickinson, appeared on BBC World to talk about the under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine and the work ECU do through our Athena SWAN Charter to drive forward cultural and systemic change’







The interview covered:

  • The under-representation of women in science.  On average at Undergraduate level 55% of students are female.  At Professorial level this drops to only 18% of staff being female.
  • Evidence shows that teams of men and women are more successful that single sex groups
  • Diversity = good science

Follow this link to see the interview in full – http://www.ecu.ac.uk/news/women-in-science-hits-the-headlines/

Met Office Joins Athena SWAN

Athena Swan is not just for academic institutions.  Members also include the British Geological Survey (joined April 2014), British Antarctic Survey (April 2014), Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (April 2014), Diamond Light Source (joined March 2015) and the Natural History Museum (April 2014).   The Met Office have also now joined the the Athena SWAN charter (June 2015)! More information is likely to follow on their website shortly.

Met office

Fieldwork in the Mendip Hills

I have always loved upland landscapes. Perhaps that comes from growing up in Scotland and holidaying in the wild places of the West Highlands. As a student I did my first archaeological survey work on Exmoor with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, and found myself tramping across the open moor surveying everything from prehistoric cists to a post-medieval gatepost factory. The experience I gained during that time shaped my future career. It also opened my eyes to the archaeology which surrounds us, and made me view landscape in a completely different way.

In 2006 I was fortunate enough to take charge of the English Heritage Mendip Hills project, a multi-disciplinary fieldwork project examining the archaeology and architecture of this remarkable corner of South-West England. The Mendip Hills are perhaps best known for the spectacular chasm of Cheddar Gorge which slices through the southern escarpment of this gently undulating Carboniferous Limestone ridge. Mendip is a region of great beauty and diversity. The small irregular fields which characterise the lower escarpment slopes give way to an ordered geometric grid of stone-walled enclosures on the plateau, with grass and heather moors capping the highest hills.

Looking west along the southern escarpment of the Mendip Hills: the Carboniferous Limestone ridge rises abruptly from the flatness of the Levels and Moors.

Looking west along the southern escarpment of the Mendip Hills: the Carboniferous Limestone ridge rises abruptly from the flatness of the Levels and Moors.











The archaeology and architecture of the region is equally as varied and remarkable. During three years of fieldwork I had the opportunity to survey a wide range of sites, including Neolithic long barrows, Later Prehistoric hillforts, Romano-British settlements, medieval castles, post-medieval village houses and abandoned farmsteads. And the list goes on! What is striking to me, however, is that the dominant story which has emerged from our work is one of adaptation and change. The landscape of Mendip has been fashioned over many generations and is a product of its past. The modern fields, for example, often follow the same pattern as abandoned terraces of medieval strip fields, which themselves can overly and incorporate elements of earlier field systems. Many village houses also reflect the footprint of much earlier structures, encapsulating the past in the present and creating a historic grain still visible today.

The Mendip Hills are a living place and the people who now occupy the farmhouses, village houses and cottages create their own history. There is a long and vibrant tradition of archaeological enquiry on Mendip, ranging from antiquarian investigation undertaken by the likes of the Revd John Skinner, to the work of independent groups and professionals in more recent times. A key aspect of the Mendip Hills project was to deliver a training programme for local community groups and individuals focused on practical techniques of archaeological and architectural fieldwork. By passing our expertise on to others, we hoped to equip local people with the range of skills required to enable this fieldwork tradition to continue on Mendip for many years to come.

Discussing the interpretation and recording of the earthwork remains of a building at Ramspits, Westbury-sub-Mendip, during an English Heritage training event.

Discussing the interpretation and recording of the earthwork remains of a building at Ramspits, Westbury-sub-Mendip, during an English Heritage training event.











Delivering training can be a hugely rewarding experience. You meet enthusiastic and interesting people who can often make you view even a familiar site in a new way. Over the lifetime of the project I was part of an experienced team who provided training in techniques of landscape investigation, including aerial photographic transcription, analytical earthwork survey, architectural investigation, geophysical survey and archaeological excavation. Beyond the structured training events, a number of local people and students also gave their time generously to help on site with survey work (often on cold, damp Mendip winter days!). The project benefitted hugely from their input as without fail they generously imparted their ideas, personal research and local knowledge. An added benefit to come from the training events was that they brought members of different local archaeological and historical societies together, giving them the opportunity to discuss their current research and fieldwork.

The results of the English Heritage fieldwork project will be published on the 15th July in a book entitled The Historic Landscape of the Mendip Hills.

The results of the English Heritage fieldwork project will be published on the 15th July in a book entitled The Historic Landscape of the Mendip Hills.















I am pleased to report that fieldwork on Mendip continues to this day. Hopefully the project has helped focus and stimulate research, and given local people the skills and confidence to undertake fieldwork of their own. Ultimately it will be the amazing archaeology and fascinating buildings of Mendip that will continue to drive people to undertake new and exciting fieldwork in the future.


Elaine Jamieson











About today’s blogger: Ms Elaine Jamieson
Job Title:
Research Assistant

Areas of Interest:

  • Inter-disciplinary approaches to landscape archaeology.
  • Analytical earthwork survey and investigation.
  • The archaeology of medieval and post-medieval monuments and landscapes.

Key facts:
Elaine Jamieson is a Research Assistant working on The Leverhulm Trust funded project Extending Histories: from Medieval Mottes to Prehistoric Round Mounds. Her work is mainly focussed on the assessment of monuments at a landscape scale and the more detailed analytical earthwork survey of sites and monuments, working as part of an inter-disciplinary research team.
Elaine worked as an Archaeological Investigator with English Heritage for over 14 years, specialising in analytical earthwork survey and landscape investigation, latterly managing a small team of archaeological and architectural investigators. Prior to English Heritage, she worked for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland on their Historic Landuse Assessment project, aimed at characterising the Scottish landscape. During her time with English Heritage Elaine was involved in several large landscape projects, including on the Quantock Hills, Dartmoor and Stonehenge. She has also undertaken applied research on a wide variety of archaeological sites, ranging from the medieval settlement and post-medieval gardens at Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire, to the Neolithic henge of Priddy Circle 1, Somerset. Between 2006 and 2009 Elaine was responsible for the delivery of a major multi-disciplinary landscape project focused on the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and has authored the monograph of this work. More recently she has undertaken fieldwork at the Pleasance, Kenilworth, and was the project manager for the English Heritage Fieldscapes of England project, before joining the Department of Archaeology in 2015.

How To Be A Powerful Woman

BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour is currently promoting its 2015 ‘Power List’ (to be announced in July).  These are 10 women who have a huge impact on our lives. Linked to this process artist Tracey Emin, athlete and cross bench peer Tanni Grey Thompson, Artistic Director Southbank Centre Jude Kelly, Co-Founder Mumsnet Justine Roberts, Founder and CEO of the MOBO Awards Kanya King, Chief Executive of Random House Gail Rebuck, Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman, Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, Controller Film4 Tessa Ross etc. offer advice on how to be a successful woman.  They cover the following topics:


  • Be Ambitious
  • Be in Balance
  • Be Resilient
  • Be Connected
  • Be Yourself
  • Be a Leader
Shami Chakrabarti

Shami Chakrabarti

Gail Rebuck

Gail Rebuck

Kanya King

Kanya King





























Although the list of contributors does not include any women in academia or science these topics are arguably applicable to all careers.  Each of these topics is covered in short (4 – 5 minute) clips.  Follow this link to hear more – How to be a Powerful Woman

Is this advice useful?  Will you do anything differently? What advice would you give……………..?

Women Scientists on Sexism in Science

On BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science programme on the 18th June, Adam Rutherford was joined by 5 female researchers (each in different disciplines, and at different stages in their careers) to discuss sexism in science.  In an episode only lasting 30 minutes they discussed:

  • Role Models – their importance and the need for more
  • The culture in labs – does it need to change? Does this hamper women getting grants?
  • Covert and overt sexism
  • Conscious and unconscious bias
  • What are the barriers to women reaching Professorial level?
  • The need for institutional culture change
  • The leaky pipe – ‘this is the process whereby women leave science or get pushed out, or simply get ground down by covert or sometimes overt sexism’
  • In some disciplines (e.g. Psychology) the number of female undergraduates exceeds that of male students, but at Professorial level as in Engineering, Maths etc this pattern is reversed




Dr Sally Marlow (Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Addictions Department at King’s College London) highlighted some important and also difficult questions – ‘there is lots of campaigning for women in science, which is great, but not much advice for how to challenge it when called ‘girl’ or ‘young lady’, or even ‘missy.’  How do you deal with that if you are in your 20’s, when you are in a research team, and want to stay there, and ultimately get a long term career?  How do you challenge these statements unless you have a whole bunch of journalists in the room?’










If you have 30 minutes to spare this thought provoking programme is well worth listening to.  What do you think about Sally’s questions?  Have you ever challenged comments such as these? What are your experiences?  Does laboratory culture need to change? 

World’s top 10 universities led by women

Published on 19th June in the Times Higher, Ellie Bothwell highlights that – ‘Just 14 per cent of the top 200 universities in the world are led by women.  It is a damning statistic and one that proves – if you needed any more evidence alongside the oft-reported gender pay gap and the dearth of women in senior positions – that gender inequality is still rife in the academy. However, there are examples of top universities that are leading the way when it comes to promoting women to the upper echelons of their institution.

This list is based on research conducted by Miguel Antonio Lim, EU Marie Curie doctoral fellow at Aarhus University in Copenhagen, who used data from the 2014-15 World University Rankings’









To see the full list see – World’s top 10 universities led by women

Just picking institutions in the UK, number 8 is – University of Manchester:

  • Vice-chancellor: Nancy Rothwell
  • Appointed: 2010
  • Current world rank: =52
  • Dame Nancy Rothwell became the first woman to lead the University of Manchester in 2010.  Professor Rothwell is one of just two female leaders in the top 200 of the world rankings who is an academic in medical science, while the University of Manchester is one of only four UK universities on the list that has a female leader.

    Speaking to THE, Professor Rothwell said the reason why there are fewer female leaders is “most likely a combination of factors: huge time commitment, few role models, lack of confidence”. She added: “I have certainly never felt discriminated against but also never planned on being a vice-chancellor.”

Nancy Rothwell

Nancy Rothwell










Number 2 is Imperial College London:

  • President: Alice Gast
  • Appointed: 2014
  • Current world rank: =9
  • Alice Gast is the first female president at Imperial College London and its 16th leader overall.  The university has won several awards for promoting women in fields where they are currently underrepresented, including medicine and aeronautics.  It also gives its own prizes and mentorship to female students excelling in subjects that are typically male-dominated , and has a fellowship award scheme for academics returning from maternity and adoption leave.
Alice Gast

Alice Gast

The women whom science forgot

On 19th June Jawad Iqbal published this article on the BBC Science and Environment page –  The Women whom science forgot

‘A quick web search for the world’s most famous scientists lists, among others, Galileo, Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alexander Fleming.  One of the few women to receive a mention is Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist who basically discovered radiation and helped apply it in the field of X-rays.

The Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt was heavily criticised for his disparaging remarks about women in science last week, which for some raised the issue of where women stood in the scientific community. But many female scientists in the past were not given the credit they deserved for their achievements. As a result, their names have all but disappeared from public consciousness ……..’

sther Lederberg  - an American microbiologist

Esther Lederberg – an American microbiologist









The list includes:

  • Esther Lederberg – a microbilogist who undertook groundbreaking research in genetics
  • Rosalind Franklin – a biophysicist who pioneered X-0ray crystallography
  • Ida Tacke – conducted groundbreaking research in chemistry and atomic physics
  • Lise Meitner – her research led to the discovery of nuclear fission
Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin













Jawad Iqbal notes that ‘the Royal Society, swift in its condemnation of Sir Tim’s remarks, was founded in 1660 and has yet to elect a female president.  Some say that the comments from Sir Tim, a prominent fellow of the society will damage the efforts it is making to improve diversity.  It has been reported that only 6% of its fellows (a prestigious title in the world of science) are women.  That statistic, some say, sums up the scale of the wider problem of the difficulties faced by women in the scientific world’

What do you think?  Have any female scientists in your field of research disappeared from public consciousness?

Brick Walls: Diary of a SAGES Athena SWAN Lead by Hilary Geoghegan

Wednesday 10th June
I receive a forwarded email from a SAGES colleague with a link to a Guardian article “Nobel scientist, Tim Hunt: female scientists cause trouble for men in labs”. It was accompanied by the message ‘sigh!’ http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/10/nobel-scientist-tim-hunt-female-scientists-cause-trouble-for-men-in-labs









Thursday 11th June


Friday 12th June
I spot our technical manager coming down the corridor – I say something like: ‘what are you going to do about all this falling in love in the labs? It must be a health and safety nightmare’. We laugh. We bump into one of our scientists, I say, we’re talking about the idea that people fall in love in labs and women cry. We discuss the move on Twitter to highlight the issue #distractinglysexy. The scientist tells me that she and one of our students have already taken some photos to draw attention to the issue. A few hours later, we put out a blogpost containing photos of our scientists responding to the global trend of raising the profile of women in science: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/sages-advice-fieldwork-gender-careers/2015/06/12/sages-distractingly-sexy-photos/

No falling in love in the lab!

No falling in love in the lab!













Saturday 13th June
Barbecue with friends. The conversation moves to the latest news in science – the remarks from a world-respected scientist: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry”. It’s a comment that clearly divides opinion. On the one hand, these are comments made by an individual based upon personal experience. On the other hand, taken out of context, they add to the list of remarks that damage the reputation of women scientists. Because this comment suggests that women are the agents of trouble here. Our conversation continued with a discussion about how we work in close proximity with others, not just in labs, but office spaces, and attachments are bound to form on occasion. This story is clearly not just a topic for discussion within science.


Sunday 14th June


Monday 15th June
I attended the ‘Student Wellbeing in Tertiary Education’ policy in practice workshop led by members of the School of Politics, Economics and International Relations. The event showcased the results of The Student Wellbeing Project set up in 2011 to “study how student wellbeing, performance, productivity and satisfaction with university provision are related”. Sarah Morgan from the Cabinet Office argued that whilst the number of women going to university had increased, a pronounced gender difference remained around subject choice. She also noted that there remained clear gender differentials with respect to a widening pay gap and lifetime earnings. The male graduate premium is approx. £121k and the female graduate premium is approx. £80k. Career breaks, discrimination and other unexplained elements were offered as reasons. Sarah went on to argue that we need to value women and the roles they do. There needs to be unconscious bias training. Institutions (and society) need to support women into non-traditional areas, offering imaginative solutions, as well as addressing formal inequalities. A linear career progression isn’t feasible for all in 2015. These are the sorts of issues that the Athena SWAN awards seek to address.






Tuesday 16th June
Flexible working from home.


Wednesday 17th June
Results day for our finalists in Geography and Environmental Science. I turn up to work. I chat with my colleagues in the GES office as I usually do. We are laughing. I get a tap on the shoulder. Could I come to see a student who is upset? I do so immediately. I’ve never met this student before. The student confides in me. I do my best to help and reassure.

This moment puts the events of the past week in sharp relief.

Last Wednesday there was a ‘facepalm’ from colleagues as we read the comments about women scientists. Some of my colleagues responded in a light-hearted way to a difficult and serious topic, joining a community of scientists from around the world (regardless of scientific discipline) to draw attention to the place of women in science. I attended a talk about student wellbeing with comments from a government official that reinforced to me that we aren’t as far ahead on these issues as perhaps many of us assume we are. And then after a day of writing at home with these things running through my mind – I turn up to work and meet an early-career scientist who is carrying the weight of many of these issues. We’ve made a great start in SAGES, but we can and we must do more and better on this issue. This will benefit staff and students.


Thursday 18th June
I receive an email from my Head of School – “Have you seen the brilliant Twitter feed from women scientists across the world responding to Tim Hunt? Some archaeologists and geologists among them. Should we share this with colleagues?” This brings a smile to my face – this social media story has piqued the interest of our gender and archaeology professor. Brilliant. I reply almost immediately, sharing the blogpost from last Friday with our #distractinglysexy scientists. Our Head of School sends out a School-wide email asking colleagues to check out Twitter and check out our blog. Chances are that because it has come from our Head of School, the hits on our blog are going through the roof. They did – 146 views before 2pm!

Environmental Management students falling in love AND working

Environmental Management students falling in love AND working










A short while later, it turns out that the blogpost has divided opinion within the School on how or even whether we should respond publicly to these pressing issues. Two colleagues reply commenting that whilst they have a good sense of humour, this blogpost might be a step too far and regarded as unprofessional. They call for the blogpost to be removed. I thought this might happen. I blog about academic life on my own site and I know the mixed reactions that something like this can lead to. However, the overwhelming response to the blogpost (that has remained on our site) was positive. It was positive for a number of reasons: i) it got people talking. Talking to each other and talking about these issues. Colleagues emailed and turned up in person to support our Head of School’s decision to retain the blogpost; ii) the scientists who participated were connected to something bigger than our SAGES community, standing in solidarity for the important issue of women in science; iii) our blog attracted a new audience. An audience that have on occasion relayed to me – stop blogging and write papers; and iv) it revealed to many the work we are doing and must continue to do within SAGES to facilitate an open discussion on equality, diversity and wellbeing.


Friday 19th June
My focus in this blogpost on my everyday experience this week reminds me of the work by feminist and queer theorist Professor Sara Ahmed, who describes how equality and diversity work is about coming up against brick walls. We need to come up against these walls in order to bring the issues to life and transform our workplace. In Ahmed’s research, some participants described equality and diversity work ‘as banging your head against a brick wall’. As Athena SWAN lead for our School, this certainly rings a bell. Yet, without coming up against these brick walls and creating a space to discuss and breakdown these walls, our School and Departments will never be the equal places we aspire to.


How to have a life beyond work

Katie Hope (Business reporter for the BBC) has published a feature based on interviews with different business leaders examining issues around discussing work life balance.  While not focused on academia many of the comments still apply!

‘Research suggests that advances in technology giving employees the ability to check their work emails 24 hours a day have made it even harder for people to separate work and life. Management consultancy Deloitte’s global survey of 2,500 business leaders found two thirds of employees were feeling “overwhelmed” with 80% wanting to work fewer hours.’


‘Yet for those at the top, admitting they need a break can be perceived as a weakness………..’  This doesn’t necessarily just apply to those at the top!








‘John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive of supermarket chain Whole Foods says in the US a “workaholic” culture means people often boast about how long they work, seeing 80-hour weeks as a badge of honour. He admits he himself has worked such long hours, but says it’s not sustainable in the long term. In an effort to reduce the workload of being the boss, he divides the top role with co-chief executive Walter Robb, and they are part of a seven-strong executive team which all earn the same salary and share executive responsibilities. “Walter and I may be the leaders of that group but we all are working together,” he says. This approach continues throughout the firm, with individual stores having control over budgets and staff having the power to make decisions. This structure, gives him time, to meditate, exercise and eat well, he says.

Follow this lead to read more – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33137432