Is the Professor Bossy or Brilliant? Much Depends on Gender

Pascal Flohr (Archaeology) highlighted this article in the New Y0rk Times from the 6th February 2015.  Claire Cain Miller discusses – Is the professor Bossy or Brilliant? Much Depends on Gender

Results for a search of "genius" on the interactive chart show students are likelier to apply this word to their male professors.

Results for a search of “genius” on the interactive chart show students are likelier to apply this word to their male professors.


The British Castle: A Woman’s Place

RGilchrist_wOn Thursday 29th February BBC Radio 3 broadcast ‘The British Castle: A Woman’s Place’ by Roberta Gilchrist (Head of School).  Roberta asks – can we re-gender or re-people the Medieval castle?   How do we begin to find women?

You can still listen to this 15 minute episode here  –




‘Very often the visitor to a medieval castle in Britain is confronted with a mass of information and interpretation about the military activities of the men who inhabited these spaces, but very little about the women. Archaeologist Prof. Roberta Gilchrist is keen to correct this imbalance, and argues that traditional interpretations of castles ignore the gendered spaces – the gardens, the apartments, the kitchens where female servants cooked, or indeed the adjoining parklands where aristocratic women occasionally hunted. There is abundant evidence that women gave birth in castles, and also had a hand in interior design, improving both plumbing and décor. Moreover, some women played a key role in the defence of medieval castles, in the absence of the lord. Archaeological research suggests women definitely did have a place in British castle history’


Gender and archaeology: my experiences in the field

1. Lyminge Archaeological Project 2014, the grand finale to our three year AHRC-funded project excavating an Anglo-Saxon Royal settlement in south-east Kent, directed by Dr Gabor Thomas.

1. Lyminge Archaeological Project 2014, the grand finale to our three year AHRC-funded project excavating an Anglo-Saxon Royal settlement in south-east Kent, directed by Dr Gabor Thomas.

An extremely vivid memory for me is my recollection of walking into a sandwich shop in Spitalfields dressed top to toe like any of the builders and construction workers also in there for their 11am sausage roll and cup of tea, elbowing my way through to grab a sandwich from the cooler. In 2006 I was working on a site not five minutes from Liverpool Street station, in the middle of some of the most exciting urban archaeology in London. It was just me and a (male) supervisor on a relatively small excavation, and it was really my very first experience of acknowledging that I was a woman in a very masculine working world. We were excavating for the foundations of a new office building and had broken the relative monotony of Roman quarry pits with the discovery of several Saxon graves.

Up until then, most of my experience had been on training excavations or sites that were in the middle of nowhere with a mixed demographic that didn’t seem to emphasise gender at all, apart from acknowledging basic differences that might affect digging directly, such as overall strength, which didn’t always apply. Many female archaeologists I have worked with over the years were quite as capable of shifting just as much dirt in a day as their male colleagues. I am extremely thankful that my very first training dig, the Silchester Town Life Project, introduced me to a working environment based around equality and equal expectations for all genders, ages and abilities/disabilities. Amanda Clarke is pivotal in creating this supportive and encouraging environment at Silchester.

In this atmosphere of masculinity in central London, I was actually surprised to find that aside from a few sideways glances, I didn’t receive any of the harassment or teasing that British builders are famous for. Certainly I have no direct recollection of anything like this. I was there to do a job, and it seemed to me very much that they acknowledged that we were all there to work. I have since understood that my experience is anomalous, but what I did know was that should anything have occurred, my male colleague would have ‘had my back’, something I experienced many times on digs. Archaeology, from my experiences in the commercial field, can be incredibly equalising, often because of the need just to get the job done in time and on budget – everyone is relied upon to do an equal share of the work. Any shirkers, male or female, were grumbled about quietly in the pub after work. What I did feel, however, and often still feel, was a need to prove myself just as up to the task as others. I know that if this had been an all-female working environment, I would have worked hard, but not felt the additional pressure to prove I was just as good as the men.

2. Working hard on site, on the phone, records under my arm and a find in my hand, making sure everything goes smoothly at Lyminge in 2009

2. Working hard on site, on the phone, records under my arm and a find in my hand, making sure everything goes smoothly at Lyminge in 2009

The surprising things for me came later on, discovering that many people do experience marked gender discrimination in archaeology and many other disciplines, and that many people actually expect to be treated differently because of their gender. Since my earliest experiences in commercial archaeology, I have gone back to academia, and am currently in charge of the day-to-day running of an excavation that trains both students and local volunteers. The Lyminge Archaeological Project is deeply imbedded in the local community, but also provides many university students with their first or second experiences of excavation in the UK. Despite running the excavation with equal expectations for men and women, with the aims not to discriminate and of encouraging everyone to take part in all the different jobs on-site, we often still see people falling into supposedly gendered roles. Many of our female volunteers spent a day or two digging initially and have since decided that working with finds (sometimes referred to as the ‘housework’ of archaeology) is much more their cup of tea, a choice that is also completely valid. When we ask for volunteers to dig a big ditch slot or pit section, we mostly get male volunteers, despite encouraging everyone to have a go. Gender equality in opportunity must allow for the fact that many people will be quite happy to choose an activity or role that appears to be highly gendered. We could not run our dig at Lyminge nearly so successfully without our dedicated team of self-named ‘Lyminge Scrubbers’, and in fact we have been told many times that on our dig they feel really useful and engaged in both the project and the local community.

3. Some of our most dedicated finds processors on our last Friday of the dig in 2013, commonly known as 'Cake Friday' as you can see from the groaning tables!

3. Some of our most dedicated finds processors on our last Friday of the dig in 2013, commonly known as ‘Cake Friday’ as you can see from the groaning tables!

It is surprising how many times I have discussed with a female student what I expect them to do and have had them protest that they aren’t able or will be slower because they are ‘a girl’. Contrarily, it also surprises me how annoyed some of our male students are at seeing a female archaeologist out-perform them (I must emphasise that this indignation is rare, but has happened). Having grown up with confident and out-going sisters, an inspiring working mother and an extremely supportive father who worked in archaeology and museums, and having gone to an all girl’s school for the majority of my secondary schooling, it never occurred to me that I could not or should not do something because I am female, or that my hard work might threaten others’ gender identity. I think as a result, many of my students over the years probably remember my disdain of comments like these, particularly in combination with my partner in crime at Lyminge, excavation and training manager Rosie Cummings. At Lyminge, you just don’t get to cry off a task or get assigned a task because of your gender – Rosie never misses the opportunity to point out that her record is 10 post holes fully excavated and recorded in one day whilst 8 months pregnant! Indeed, Rosie has been pregnant twice while working at Lyminge, and for me provides the ultimate role model as a female archaeologist who is completely focused on her job and career, has never let anything get in her way and has been able to organise her working life around her family life always to her advantage. She talks very positively of the support she received from the department at Reading, enabling her to work during the latter stages of her pregnancies – although I must of course point out that Rosie was well used to heavy archaeological fieldwork prior to becoming pregnant, so it was quite safe for her to undertake some excavation work.

4. Rosie (in the black jumper and cap) teaches our students section drawing at Lyminge in 2009, two months before giving birth to Archie.

4. Rosie (in the black jumper and cap) teaches our students section drawing at Lyminge in 2009, two months before giving birth to Archie.

Our primary aim at Lyminge is to excavate a fantastic Anglo-Saxon site whilst providing training for students and volunteers of all abilities, genders and ages, but I am certain that many come away with a better understanding of their abilities and with their preconceptions about gender challenged. I had a great sense of achievement when a male colleague informed me, after my having mentioned something about sexism, that he didn’t see me as a woman but primarily as a colleague and friend, and I hope that many of those who come to Lyminge take away at the very least the understanding that both men and women can successfully run an excavation without discrimination, and with a new confidence in their abilities as a person rather than as a gendered individual.

5. Gemma Watson, current Post-Doc in the archaeology department and one of our Lyminge Finds Supervisors from 2008-2010, teaching finds recording in LYM09.

5. Gemma Watson, current Post-Doc in the archaeology department and one of our Lyminge Finds Supervisors from 2008-2010, teaching finds recording in LYM09.

I have been lucky thus far in my career, and I know my generally positive experience does not speak for every female archaeologist. I am well aware that I speak from a position of privilege, as a white, middle class, educated cisgender female who is unafraid to challenge sexism when I see it. Sexist attitudes or gender-related issues I have experienced have primarily been when working outside of archaeology, and surprisingly have tended to come from other women, (incidentally, something that women collectively really need to work on). While working in archaeology I have been extremely lucky to have had fantastic female role models all the way through my university experience and in the world of work. Male supervisors and employers have too only been encouraging, judging my ability rather than my gender. Never once has it been expressed to me that I might achieve less because of my gender, although it has become clear that women often have to work harder to achieve the same as men. Any difficulties I myself have encountered over my career so far seem less about working in archaeology but rather in academia overall. As a woman, there are many issues I face that my male colleagues will not in such an obvious way. Should I want a family, how will that affect my academic career that is thus far based on short-term contracts for post-doctoral positions? How do I even know when I am being discriminated against because of my gender? I can perfectly understand why many women in science choose a less obvious path to that of their male counterparts as their careers progress. I hope I will continue to aim high and not let my gender dictate my career path, but enhance it. In doing so, the benefit is passed on to men too, where the inequalities or difficulties that they face are much less debated and understood. Empowering women in academia and ‘in the field’ benefits everyone and I am happy to be part of a department that is working hard on doing this.


6. Yours truly blogging from the edge of trench at Lyminge in 2012

6. Yours truly blogging from the edge of trench at Lyminge in 2012


7. End of dig photo at Lyminge 2014 - all ages, genders and abilities!

7. End of dig photo at Lyminge 2014 – all ages, genders and abilities!

Alexandra-Knox_1957_wA bit about today’s blogger: Alex Knox

I am currently the Post-Doctoral Research Assistant on the Lyminge Archaeological project, a 3-year AHRC funded project that is excavating the Anglo-Saxon origins and remains of the monastic settlement in the village of Lyminge, Kent.

I  completed my PhD at the University of Reading, examining the expression of worldviews and belief systems within Anglo-Saxon settlements during the conversion period. My research focuses on the expression of beliefs in supposedly ordinary activity evident through the archaeological record, which I attempt to access through comparing associated burial evidence and developing theoretical approaches to investigating ritual action.

I undertook my BA in Archaeology at the University of Reading and my MA is in European Historical Archaeology from the University of Sheffield.




First Fieldwork Experiences – Duncan Garrow

I remember my first two fieldwork experiences well…

The first was being down a 4m deep trench in Covent Garden, on a week’s work experience when I was still at school. The MoLAS team were in a massive rush (it was the last week), and I had very little clue what was going on. It was a Saxon site, and I helped a friendly Canadian do flotation all week. It was a strange experience, but I enjoyed the strangeness, the feeling of being deep down below the real (contemporary) world, of people stopping to stare, asking if we’d found any gold yet.

The second was digging an Iron Age storage pit just outside the ramparts of the hillfort of Wandlebury, on my undergraduate training excavation. At the time it just seemed like normal archaeology to me, but looking back on it now, I was digging an amazing feature containing loads of bone and pottery, full of what might now be called ‘structured deposits’. I suppose that first real digging encounter must have stayed with me, as in my academic work I’ve written a fair bit about ‘ritual’ deposition and pits since then.

Like both Jim (see Oct 28, 2014 post) and Amanda (see Nov 14, 2014 post), I previously spent a few years working for a developer-funded archaeology company, in the late 1990s/early 2000s. My time at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit was, by and large, great fun; immensely rewarding, academically and archaeologically. I learnt a huge amount, not just about digging, but about how to read material culture patterning and interpret archaeology in general. I got to dig all sorts of fantastic sites, from Neolithic pits, to huge Bronze Age landscapes and barrows, Iron Age roundhouses, Roman settlements and Saxon cemeteries. I once even dug up a pickled snake in the Bishop of Ely’s garden!


Me on site at Whittlesey brick pits, Cambridgeshire, 1999

Me on site at Whittlesey brick pits, Cambridgeshire, 1999

In writing this post for the ‘gender and fieldwork’ blog, I’ve obviously had cause to reflect on gender issues, as far as I’ve experienced them. When I was involved with fieldwork full-time, I have to say that the gender of my colleagues and friends was never at the forefront of my mind. I think fieldwork requires such a broad range of skills that gender has little effect in terms of who’s actually good at it. The first two site directors I came across (in Covent Garden and at Wandlebury) were women. In contrast to Amanda’s experience, at the CAU many of the site directors and excavators I worked alongside were women. However, that is not to say that the sorts of broader societal factors which the Athena Swan charter seeks to address within academia are not relevant here. They are.

As Jim Leary said in his Oct 28 post, the world of development that you work in as a commercial archaeologist is often a male-dominated one (of quarrymen, builders, digger-drivers). At times though, I felt quite envious of the women site directors running sites alongside me – many of the digger drivers we spent hours machine-watching alongside were more respectful of them than me, no doubt partly because they were women in the usually-man’s world of construction.

A frosty morning on site at Kilverstone, Thetford, Norfolk, February 2001

A frosty morning on site at Kilverstone, Thetford, Norfolk, February 2001

Looking back at my colleagues who still work in that world, we’ve all aged (sadly). Many of the men and women I worked with have made very good careers for themselves, moving on into management roles and other positions of responsibility. But others, including me, have moved on. Some of the women have perhaps done so feeling that it might be difficult to marry the demands of long days in the field (sometimes away from home) with having a family, etc.; but this is certainly a factor that affects men too. I suspect that age and underlying financial circumstances are also key factors in determining who stays working in the field.

Having left the unit and embarked on my PhD (which didn’t require my own fieldwork), I initially found it hard to get back into digging. I felt that, in the academic sphere, I could never match the scale of excavation (and funding) that I’d witnessed in the commercial sector, and wondered whether maybe I should just leave it to the pros. However, I’ve come to realise that, even on a small scale with relatively little funding, you can do a great deal if you target your efforts effectively. On the Neolithic Stepping Stones project over the past few years, we’ve dug some amazing sites, and spent time in some incredible places. We’ve also found out a lot. If it hadn’t been for our (academic) funding, those sites would never have been dug at all, and may even have been lost to coastal erosion by now.


Island digging at An Doirlinn, South Uist, Outer Hebrides, August 2012

Island digging at An Doirlinn, South Uist, Outer Hebrides, August 2012


I remember talking to Chris Gosden (Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University) about fieldwork, when I worked with him a few years ago. He told me that he felt it was important to keep digging, despite the writing time is takes out of your busy academic year, as it makes you think about new things, move in unexpected directions, and always surprises you academically. He was right.

DuncanGarrow_w A bit about today’s blogger: Duncan Garrow teaches later European prehistory (with a particular focus on Britain) and archaeological theory. His research interests include the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition; long-term histories of deposition; burial practices; the interpretive potential of radiocarbon dating; the integration of developer-funded and university-based archaeology; archaeological theory; and interdisciplinary approaches to material culture. Duncan worked in the commercial archaeology sector (at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit) from 1996-2002, when he left to undertake his PhD on Neolithic and Early Bronze Age pits in East Anglia. His most recent book (2012), co-authored with Chris Gosden, was entitled ‘Technologies of Enchantment? Exploring Celtic Art 400 BC to AD 100’. He is currently co-directing (with Fraser Sturt) an AHRC-funded project entitled ‘Stepping stones to the Neolithic? Islands, maritime connectivity and the ‘western seaways’ of Britain, 5000-3500 BC’; as a result he has recently directed excavations in the Channel Islands, the Outer Hebrides and the Isles of Scilly. For more information see the Stepping Stones project website. He is currently working on a book exploring ‘ritual’ deposition in British prehistory, from the Palaeolithic through to the Iron Age.

Why It’s Crucial to Get More Women Into Science

Macarena Cardenas, a PDRA in Geography and Environmental Science, highlighted this article written by Marguerite Del Giudice for National Geographic, published on the 7th November 2014:

‘Amid growing signs that gender bias has affected research outcomes and damaged women’s health, there’s a new push to make science more relevant to them. Why are there still so few women in science, and how might that affect what we learn from research?’


The blond girl studying apes," was how a National Geographic editor once referred to primatologist Jane Goodall. That "girl" went on to become world famous for her meticulous field studies of chimpanzees. Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic Creative

The blond girl studying apes,” was how a National Geographic editor once referred to primatologist Jane Goodall. That “girl” went on to become world famous for her meticulous field studies of chimpanzees.
Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic Creative




Trowelblazing Part 1: A career in the field

Amanda Clarke, our very own trowelblazer

Amanda Clarke, our very own trowelblazer

The Final Context How very rare it is to have the satisfaction of starting something…and then finishing it! I have worked on countless excavations since I began my fieldwork career…many I joined half way through, some I left half way through. Each was memorable in their distinctive way – but nothing quite matches up to my experience on the Silchester Field School. I began this in June 1997 with a JCB and a handful of excavators – and I finished 18 summers later in August 2014, with 130 excavators, a fleet of JCBs and dumpers, a barn full of finds and samples, 16,303 units of stratigraphy recorded – and a tearful Professor. What kind of journey has it been? (scroll down for some photos!)

Childhood ambition? I have always loved being in the field, and my job as Director of the Silchester Field School at the University of Reading has allowed me to combine this passion with a desire to teach the few things I know, and the chance to develop my managerial and organisational skills in ways I never dreamed possible….

Trowelblazing As a woman in fieldwork I have always taken the attitude that there is nothing I cannot do. My early days in commercial archaeology toughened me up quickly – leading an archaeological watching brief on the site of a multi-million pound multi-storey car-park on a cold December morning in the middle of York, surrounded by a team of hardened contractors intent on getting their job done – was a baptism of fire indeed. Women in site supervisory positions were a rarity in the 1990’s when I was leading teams…..there were women running the finds hut, the environmental aspects, the drawing office ….but outside in the crisp York air I was in a male dominated environment. I have always fought against any kind of ‘gender divide’ on my project teams – but that division does still cast a shadow. Sadly it is a self-perpetuating stereotype….trench work is often seen as ‘physical,’ mattock-wielding, trowel twirling work, whereas finds are all about housekeeping ‘pretty things’….still. 18 years of running the Silchester Field School gave me the opportunity to challenge these preconceptions and actually do something about them. And now that I have just finished running the biggest, boldest, brightest excavation on and in British soil (no bias showing here) – I am pleased to say I feel the scales tipping. In the final Silchester season 58% of participants were women, the majority of my Silchester Supervisors have been women, and the Department has an excellent track record of our female graduates working in commercial archaeology. It’s a good feeling.

Team Tactics Running the Silchester Field School has never been hard for me. Yes of course it is challenging in terms of sheer numbers of hours in the field, and on some of those days when nothing goes right…..the portaloo emptying lorry is stuck in the mud, half the students have a crippling summer cold, the site wifi has dissipated, a dozen tents have blown over, the pump for draining the water from a well under excavation has choked and stopped, 125 unbooked in visitors have arrived for a tour, I can’t find my coffee mug and context 14725 is not where I would like it to be stratigraphically…..But I instinctively know how to make it all work… is simply about the teams and the working environment you create. And the rest just follows. The archaeology may be a repetitive mix of wafer thin gravel layers – but it is still possible to teach and learn, to inspire and aspire.

Opportunity Knocks I love digging, I love excavations – wherever and whatever they may be – and my desire to communicate this passion can verge on the intimidating! I believe that attending an excavation is a life-altering experience – and everyone should try it at least once. My goal is to demonstrate that regardless of age, gender, skill, ability, aptitude, there are many many different experiences and opportunities an excavation can offer – something for everyone. Never think ‘I can’t’ – always think ‘how can I’.


Last day on the Silchester site

The final Silchester site tour

Challenge Amanda!

Challenge Amanda!

Some of our other trowelblazers!

Some of our other trowelblazers!

The Silchester Field School campsite

The Silchester Field School campsite

Working as a team: celebrating 10 seasons on site

Working as a team: celebrating 10 seasons on site

More to come from Amanda next week in Part 2!

Field archaeologist and trowelblazer!

Field archaeologist and trowelblazer!

A bit about today’s blogger: Amanda Clarke is a field archaeologist appointed by Reading University to help train its students in all aspects of field archaeology. She is Site Director for the Department of Archaeologys training excavation at the Roman town of Silchester, and for fieldwork in Pompeii, Italy. When not in the field she is involved in the post-excavation work for these projects. She has spent many years in the field, on sites all over the world including Norway, Beirut, Jamaica, Belize and the northern and western isles of Scotland. She has worked most recently for York Archaeological Trust on many of their large urban sites, as well as directing two seasons of work on the early Christian site of Whithorn in Galloway. She also works as a Teaching Fellow for the Department of Archaeology at Boston University on the student training excavations in Belize, Central America.


A passion for fieldwork: Jim Leary

I became a professional fieldworker in 1998 – the year I graduated from university. I had done fieldwork before that, but this was the first time I was actually paid to do it. I joined what was at the time a small company in London that specialised in digging archaeology in advance of building developments. These were the boom years; the housing market exploded and the company I worked for grew in size, becoming one of the largest in the country. I was hardly ever out of the field. Initially the plan was to get a few weeks digging experience before starting a masters degree, but commercial digging seemed so much more relevant to me than abstract, blue skies academia (plus it was a lot of fun) and so I stayed. In fact I stayed for seven and a half years. I dug sites of every period, mostly in London, and they were good sites – deeply stratified with tonnes of finds – the very best in Britain. We dug Roman and medieval sites in the City of London, and sites in Convent Garden, which was once the beating heart of Saxon Lundenwic. We dug prehistoric sites in Southwark and post-medieval industrial sites along the foreshore. Everything and anything – it was pretty much the best training ground I could have asked for.


It was hard work, of course, and working on building sites wasn’t always easy. These were unashamedly masculine spaces, and I know it was easier for me as a man than it was for my female colleagues. Certainly when I worked in that environment (perhaps things have changed now) most construction workers were men and talk had more than a hint of testosterone to it. That is not to say that everyone lived up to their wolf-whistling stereotypes, but it wasn’t uncommon to find a rolled up porno in the Portaloo. In fact, women on site were largely restricted to archaeologists and although it may not have been common, they did at times find themselves subjected to inappropriate comments. When this happened, though, our team were always quick to pull them up on it, and on one site I was supervising in the City we all walked out after a scaffolding team offended a female archaeologist working below. The whole site shut down until we agreed to return after an apology.

Occasions like that were rare though, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in commercial archaeology – as did, I think, most others working there then – male or female. In fact, we had the times of our lives; working, drinking, laughing, the banter – I miss it, and nowhere else I’ve worked has quite captured that dynamism, excitement, bonhomie and joie de vivre. It was there, too, that I met my wife – a fellow archaeologist enjoying and dealing with the daily trials of working on building sites in London – a relationship forged in the white heat of commercial digging.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

You can’t dig like that forever though, and we eventually moved on. I joined the Research Department at English Heritage, remaining there also for seven and a half years. I directed some fantastic excavations with EH – from the great prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill to Marden henge – the largest Neolithic henge in the country. And now I am the Director of the Archaeology Field School at the University of Reading. We will be going back to dig at Marden henge next year with the Field School and I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t imagine life without fieldwork – it is, as American archaeologist Kent Flannery once put it, “the most fun you can have with your pants on”.

A bit about today’s blogger Jim-Leary

Dr Jim Leary is Director of the Archaeology Field School in SAGES.  Jim Leary convenes the Archaeological Thought and Careers in Archaeology modules, and contributes to the Practicing Archaeology module. In 2007 and 2008, he directed the major excavations into Silbury Hill and has managed the post-excavation programme since. He co-authored the monograph of this work, as well as a popular account (with a foreword by David Attenborough). In 2010 Jim directed excavations at Marden henge, which lies between Stonehenge and Avebury, revealing one of the best preserved Neolithic buildings in England. More recently Jim assisted with work that cored through the Marlborough Castle Mound, conclusively proving for the first time that its origins are prehistoric and contemporary with Silbury Hill. Jim has also researched perceptions and understandings of sea-level rise in the Mesolithic, as well as mobility and movement in archaeology. He sits on the council of the Prehistoric Society, and has written a chapter on excavation and evaluation for the Avebury and Stonehenge WHS Research Agenda. Jim has also written numerous archaeology-related articles for popular magazines and journals.

Think Athena SWAN is only for women? Think again.

Welcome to the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science‘s blog – SAGE(S) Advice – see what we did there? It’s a space for members of our School to share and discuss with you our experiences and ideas about fieldwork, gender and careers.

We’re a School within the Faculty of Science at the University of Reading. In November 2011, we won our Athena SWAN Bronze Award (hurrah!) and this blog forms an important part of our aspiration to create a culture of equality and inclusivity for our staff, students and everyone we work with. We want to engage in a dialogue online and in-person about the fieldwork that is so central to the academic disciplines in our School and to many of the career paths our students pursue. So whilst the title of our blog involved some creative thinking, it is a serious endeavour to widen the discussion and applicability of the Athena SWAN charter. It’s not only for women. It’s a charter for everyone.

So what is Athena SWAN?

The Athena SWAN charter was launched in 2005 “to advance the representation of women in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics”. There are now 114 Athena SWAN members. This is pretty remarkable but there is much work still to be done.

All Athena SWAN members sign up to the principles of the charter:

  • To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation
  • To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation
  • The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine
  • The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address
  • The system of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the organisation recognises
  • There are both personal and structural obstacles to women making the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career in science, which require the active consideration of the organisation

In our School, the Athena SWAN charter and our work on gender and fieldwork is embedded across the many committees and student programmes in operation. We do this not just for women within our School and beyond, but also to enhance the working culture for all of our staff and students.

A bit about today’s blogger

Fieldwork in Sydney, Australia. Follow @DrHG on Twitter.

I’m Dr Hilary Geoghegan and I am Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Reading. I research ‘enthusiasm’ – specifically the emotional affiliations and attachments we feel towards the material world around us and how this influences our actions, passions and performances in the world. I lead on our School Athena SWAN activities and it is my pleasure to work with colleagues on this blog but also our wider gender and fieldwork initiatives on which there will be more in due course. I’ve always loved geography as a subject, particularly the opportunity to visit different places (even if they are very local!) and talk to people about how they experience the world. My most recent bit of fieldwork was in Australia, but I’ll save that for a future blogpost!