The blog is evolving

Last week Hilary and I travelled to Sheffield to collect SAGES Silver Athena SWAN award.  Thank you and congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make this possible!



With our Athena SWAN awards – Louise Jones, Hilary Geoghegan (SAGES) and Joanne Elliott (Chemistry)

This is, however, only one stage in the Athena SWAN ‘journey.’  This blog was established as part of the SAGES 2014-2015 Gender and Fieldwork Project, exploring Fieldwork, Gender and Careers.  Later Wellbeing was also added as a really important topic to explore further.  It is now time for the blog to evolve and be part of a new project.  This is therefore my last blog post, as the blog will now become part of a SAGES Disability and Inclusion Project led by Dr Ruth Evans:

The SAGES Disability and Inclusion project aims to raise awareness about disability and foster inclusive learning and working environments in SAGES. Ruth Evans, School Diversity and Inclusion representative, is currently consulting with key University staff and students about the focus of the project, including reviewing current support and facilities for students and exploring how to raise awareness of disability and mental health among staff. We have a particular focus on  ensuring that fieldwork is inclusive and are exploring staff training and capacity building and peer mentoring of students. We welcome any ideas or suggestions or examples of good practice as the project develops. Contact:

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has supported this blog from the start, everyone who read the posts, has suggested ideas and forwarded comments, and on a personal level everyone who has encouraged me to start and then continue blogging.  Thank you!!!

Good luck to everyone with your research/studies/work/finding that work life balance, and look out for upcoming posts from the Diversity and Inclusion team……..


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!’









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:

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.


Perspectives on Gender and Fieldwork Conference: some reflections by Hilary Geoghegan

On 29th April 2015, 50 academics, researchers, students and invited guests of the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science gathered to share their experiences and perspectives on the theme of ‘Gender and Fieldwork’. Fieldwork can be broadly defined as the work we do to research the natural and social world. It is also a common activity across all of the disciplines represented in our School, whether as undergraduate archaeology students digging at our field schools in Silchester or Pewsey Vale, on geography fieldclasses to Crete, Dublin or the Lake District, or as postgraduates, researchers and academics working in locations around the world. Gender is a subject of academic study for many of our students and staff. We are fortunate enough to boast colleagues who lead their discipline on ‘gender and archaeology’, research gendered identities in the Caribbean and UK and have been honoured as one of 7 British women geographic ‘foremothers’.

Hilary Geoghegan addressing the audience at the start of the conference

Hilary Geoghegan addressing the audience at the start of the conference












Forming part of the School’s Bronze Athena SWAN Award and our blog ‘SAGE(S) Advice: fieldwork, gender and careers’, the conference offered an opportunity to consider as a School what it means to be an archaeologist, geographer or environmental scientist in the 21st century and what role gender plays in our fieldwork experiences and chosen career paths. Indeed, whilst we have fantastic female role models within our School, the continued proliferation of reports, newspaper articles, blogs and tweets on gender equality issues, as well as initiatives such as Athena SWAN that seeks to ensure adequate opportunities for women in academic life – gender remains very much on the agenda in higher education in 2015. Our conference was a very local contribution to understanding this more fully. For those on Twitter – check out #SAGESfieldwork for tweets from the event.

Sophie Bowlby - one of the guest speakers

Sophie Bowlby – one of the guest speakers










All the best bits of the SAGES Gender & Fieldwork Conference and the Norma Wilkinson lecture are now gathered in one place!

John Carson - Postdoctoral Research Assistant in GES presenting during the 'meet the professionals' session

John Carson – Postdoctoral Research Assistant in GES presenting during the ‘meet the professionals’ session











Following a brief introduction from me (as School Equality Officer), our Head of School Professor Roberta Gilchrist introduced our Athena SWAN Bronze Award and asked participants to ‘think creatively’ about gender and its relationship to fieldwork. In particular, she asked our students in the audience to reflect on the theme of gender as they go forward in their careers. Whilst ‘gender’ may not seem relevant as undergraduates, many participants highlighted how once in the workplace it is surprising how gender is a cause for concern, whether relating to equal pay or parental leave, or indeed leadership styles and team working.

To see the Gender and Fieldwork videos shown during the conference see the School’s Youtube channel –

Amanda Clarke - Director of the Archaeology Field School and a speaker at the conference

Amanda Clarke – Director of the Archaeology Field School and a speaker at the conference












We began by hearing from 8 colleagues and friends of the School in a ‘meet the professionals’ session where speakers were invited to share their experiences of gender and fieldwork. Our speakers were:

• Sophie Bowlby – Visiting Research Fellow University of Reading – researching social, feminist, retail & urban geography, mobility & disability, care & friendship

• Gill Hey – Chief Executive Officer Oxford Archaeology, University of Reading alumni (History and Archaeology)

• John Carson – Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Geography and Environmental Science – researching Holocene vegetation and climate in the Neotropics

• Amanda Clarke – Research Fellow, University of Reading – Archaeological Field Methods and Techniques, Director of the Archaeology Field School

• Sophie Webb – Soil surveyor and scientist, Reading Agricultural Consultants, University of Reading alumni (MSc Environmental Management 2011)

• Nick Branch – Head of Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Associate Professor in Palaeoecology

• Natalie Clark – Project Manager UK Environmental Observation Framework (UKEOF) – works to improve coordination of the observational evidence needed to understand and managing the changing natural environment

• Ruth Harris – University of Reading Environmental & Sustainability Co-ordinator, University of Reading alumni (Environmental Science MEnvSci).

Sophie Webb - Soil Surveyor and Scientist with Reading Agricultural Consultants

Sophie Webb – Soil Surveyor and Scientist with Reading Agricultural Consultants











This was followed by small group discussions where participants reflected on the themes of the conference. I had the pleasure of summing up the event. And I identified 3 key themes that warrant further consideration as we move forward with our Athena SWAN Bronze Award.

Discussion and debate during the conference

Discussion and debate during the conference










First, the importance of the more emotional qualities of fieldwork. Unsurprisingly, our invited speakers and participants spoke with passion, enthusiasm and emotion about their fieldwork activities. Enjoyment and fun relating to fieldwork practices and the scientific endeavour were paramount for many. One speaker said, “There’s nowhere I wouldn’t go to look at soil”. Another said “I love what I do”. The emotional benefits of doing fieldwork could be felt regardless of gender or ability. Indeed, there was also passionate talk about some of the more trying and challenging aspects of being in the field, whether the physical toughness of digging a pit or the mental toughness of interviewing recently bereaved research participants. In addition, I was struck by the audience participation in the sessions and the nods in agreement and laughter that surrounded many of the gender and fieldwork stories shared across the day. Fieldwork is clearly something our School is passionate about.

Small group discussions

Small group discussions










Second, as a human geographer, I learnt early on in my career to pay attention to my positionality as researcher and of those I research with. Here Sophie Bowlby, a human geographer at Reading, highlighted the importance of understanding how social location and personal history influences what we see as researchers and how we are seen. For those in our School working in the natural sciences this might have been a new way of thinking about how we are perceived in the field – whether by local collaborators, clients, field assistants or gatekeepers. In the context of ‘gender equality’ initiatives such as Athena SWAN and how we support each other – this is something we need to discuss further. One female speaker described how her fieldwork involved doing environmental assessments and digging test pits. Many of her clients were shocked to find her digging the pit, offering on many occasions to do it for her. Sometimes, we challenge the expectations of those we work with in the course of our fieldwork.









Third, and this is more forward-looking, our discussion was very focussed on the global North, but many of us in our School conduct fieldwork in the global South – whether as human geographers, physical geographers, archaeologists or environmental scientists. The opportunities and challenges are different, as one colleague pointed out – with different social structures, religious beliefs, and modes of communication, to name but a few. Here attention to positionality is vital, but so is thinking about how we – as a School – support our staff and students.


In sum, the event was a celebration of fieldwork. Yet the conference highlighted how the theme of gender equality persists and how gender equality work requires persistence. Personally, I felt there was, as a result of the conference, a renewed commitment by members of our School to a continued culture of equality for all. 8 months ago the Gender and Fieldwork Working Group set out to engage our School on the theme of gender through our varied experiences of fieldwork – I think we fulfilled our aim. Hands were raised and thoughts shared on the need to consider further themes of male caring responsibilities, work/life balance, female approaches to leadership, students with caring responsibilities, and staff/student wellbeing. Our work as a School continues…


The overall winner of the Fieldwork Photograph competition was George Hibberd – congratulations George!  All of the photographs are now on display in the Sorby Room (Wager building) and Russell Meeting Room (Russell building).

'Two best friends enjoying fieldwork in the Mount Teide caldera, Tenerife

‘Two best friends enjoying fieldwork in the Mount Teide caldera, Tenerife














Following the conference the School held the Annual Norma Wilkinson Lecture – Into the treasures of the snow: field measurements of snow density in Greenland and Antarctica. This year the speaker was Dr Elizabeth Morris OBE. Dr Morris was the first woman to work deep field in the Antarctic with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and for 13 years was Head of the Ice and Climate Division at BAS (1986-1999). She is currently a Senior Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge. Her research is concerned with the mass balance of polar ice sheets, and their response to climate change and is based upon field observations, remote sensing techniques and modelling.

Liz Morris presenting the Annual Norma Wilkinson Lecture

Liz Morris presenting the Annual Norma Wilkinson Lecture











Steve Gurney provides some reflections on this years lecture:

This year we were extremely lucky to have Dr Liz Morris speaking on the subject of snow and the important role it plays in our understanding of polar ice sheets, as found in Greenland and Antarctica. This is ‘big science’, since these days it involves satellite observations from a purpose-built satellite (‘CryoSat-2’ – which cost 140 million Euros) as well as lengthy field campaigns in remote and inaccessible regions (costly, although much cheaper than a satellite). Liz convinced us that fieldwork was still a vital component of this research and continues to play a role in both ice core geochemistry and ice sheet dynamics. These are both topics that we desperately need to research, since they are strongly linked to the science of global climate change. Liz also described how gender and fieldwork in the polar regions has changed over the course of her career. She clearly faced very real discrimination in the early days, but fortunately, the reality now is very different.

Liz Morris 'in the field'

Liz Morris ‘in the field’

Interview with Wendy Matthews and Macarena Cardenas – what does fieldwork mean to you?

Two members of the SAGES Gender and Fieldwork Working Group  – Wendy Matthews (Archaeology) and Macarena Cardenas (GES) answer some questions on what fieldwork means to them:


Wendy Matthews (Archaeology)

Wendy Matthews (Archaeology)











Macarena Cardenas (GES)

Macarena Cardenas (GES)











What does fieldwork represent for you?

Fieldwork is fundamental to the disciplines represented within our School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science (SAGES). Staff and students engage in fieldwork activities through research trips and field classes both in the UK and internationally.
Fieldwork is the foundation stone on which we build our research. The success of our scientific findings and academic publications depends on the outcome of our campaigns in the field. Behind any successful fieldwork data set there is, however, much more than simply logistics and data gathering.  When we work in the field we rarely do so in isolated conditions. Often fieldwork includes working/liaising with local organisations/charities, community engagement, and/or impact (both environmental, and in terms of a legacy for the community).


What skills can be gained from fieldwork?
Fieldwork requires and develops a range of key skills and knowledge at all career stages – whether undertaking Undergraduate, Masters or PhD dissertation and thesis research, or Post-doctoral and Staff research, or Professional employment. Fieldwork includes skills, knowledge and experience in:

• Research design – to define research questions, aims, objectives; design fieldwork strategies and methodologies
• Methodologies – to conduct and record fieldwork accurately
• Ethics – to ensure acknowledgement of the contribution and academic, personal and professional rights of all of those    concerned
• Logistics – to plan, organise and manage fieldwork travel, accommodation, resources and supplies, timescales
• Health and Safety – to ensure the well-being of all of those participating
• Cultural and ecological awareness – to respect the social and natural environment in which fieldwork is conducted
• Leadership and teamwork – to ensure the fieldwork is conducted professionally, and that all members are respected and enjoy as well as benefit from the experience

It is important to highlight that often fieldwork requires teamwork. Each team member has an important role to play, and this should be valued. I believe that besides the innumerable skills that can be gained from fieldwork, there are also the skills that are required to conduct teamwork. Each team member has an important role to play, and it is good to recognise and value it. During fieldwork you not only apply old and new skills, but you also learn to apply these skills within a team. It is almost as if you are multiplying the skills you are learning – those gained from individual planning and fieldwork, and those gained from being part of a team.


Gender and Fieldwork is a 12 month School wide project running in SAGES – what does this mean to you?
Gender is a theme that is central to any discussion of fieldwork in our respective disciplines, in particular the gender roles and gendered experiences of fieldwork and the associated opportunities and challenges around being in the field and careers in fieldwork.

Men and women work together in the field. It is important to recognize that male/female academics, students and research staff may experience very different challenges in the field. We want to ask the question – How has gender influenced your fieldwork experiences?