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Comments for Athene Donald's Blog

Reflections on working at the physics/biology interface, being a senior woman scientist, and anything else I feel strongly about

Last Build Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2018 17:13:57 +0000


Comment on Are Women Underpaid? by Steve

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 17:13:57 +0000

If you drill down into intersections between race and gender the figures for our sector (in the UK) are even more startling. Out of 18,510 professors in the UK, 85 are are black of which 17 are black women ( 2015 HESA data). The pay gap between black people (and their white counterparts) actually widens as you progress up the academic scale; the higher the qualification the larger the pay gap (e.g. Intersections are interesting because they are not simply the addition of one discrimination on another, and they are rarely taken into account as a characteristic on their own. There have been many historical legal cases down the years where there has been a refusal to take race and gender into consideration (see Kimberlé Crenshaw's classic article in University of Chicago Legal Forum, Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8). Most of the gender pay gap discussion I have seen comes from a basis of an assumption of white-female.

Comment on Will Biography be a Lost Art? by Asha Gopinathan

Sun, 15 Apr 2018 17:02:32 +0000

It is interesting that you write this now as I was thinking along similar lines as I am writing the lives of two women scientists - one a physicist, who are both no more. I found a bunch of condolence letters written by friends, colleagues and family on her passing and even though these are in 2001 and 2002, they are still mostly hand written on paper, inlands, aerograms and sometimes even postcards. These are various forms of letter writing that was possible through the Indian postal service but sadly rarely used now. I was indeed wondering how one would find such details from email, FB posts and Tweets.

Comment on Are Women Underpaid? by Athene Donald

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 15:20:24 +0000

I am saying that, when it comes to promotions in the recent past, no I haven't seen bias. I have seen people do inappropriate things - eg in letters of reference as I have previously written about - and panels pick them up and overrule them. I have seen that in my own university and elsewhere. I think times are changing as more and more people get sensitised to the issues. Men calling out the 'higher' standard rule you refer to is particularly powerful into shaming others to do the right thing.

Comment on Are Women Underpaid? by Female professor

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 15:50:29 +0000

"That there are a low proportion of female professors in Physics or Engineering is not, I believe, down to inherent bias (even if that may play some small part, although I have no evidence it does even that) but has its roots in the low numbers of girls ever starting to study these subjects due to problems pre-18 in our schools and in our societal expectations and norms" I am very glad that you don't see much inherent bias in your experiences within department, college and on panels. Sadly I have experienced bias (including in your own department, albeit many years ago) and I have on occasions seen blatant bias on panels I have served on, with women being held to much higher standards than men. I would point to the very interesting study carried out in Holland of professorial appointments by Marieke van den Brink and Yvonne Benschop In this study it was found that to be appointed as professors women often needed to be "sheep with five legs" (i.e. more qualified, possessing qualities not listed in the job requirements). Meanwhile for men who were "sheep with three legs" (i.e. missing required qualities/experience) it was often argued that they would "grow another leg" (i.e. pick up the required expertise and experience in their professorial roles). I think many of the issues you point to play a big role - and the gender pay gap is complex to resolve - but I still see and hear of far too women academics experiencing direct discrimination, going well beyond subtle biases. Those who discriminate typically face no consequences or disciplinary action unless formal complaints are made - and women who are already experiencing discrimination from senior academics are unlikely to make formal complaints.

Comment on Guilty of Rambling On by Simon Waddington

Mon, 02 Apr 2018 20:30:17 +0000

If you're good at giving talks, then you can look at the clock and time it to the second. I think it's terrible when (often senior, male) speakers over-run. Arrogance and disrespect.

Comment on The Potholes in Life by Ana Vasiliu

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 19:13:01 +0000

"anxiety to avoid a foreseen obstacle" - does describe a good deal of my life; then, the swerve was Churchill - not nearly the last. I owe this long story of swerves !

Comment on Guilty of Rambling On by Kelvin Fagan

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 09:05:16 +0000

A chairman of a session needs to be strict and ideally seated in the eyeline of the speaker and not to one side where the speaker can't see them. I've seen it often with the chair frantically trying to attract of the speaker.

Comment on Guilty of Rambling On by Patrick Fairclough

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 08:35:20 +0000

I remember talking at a BCA event. The plenary overran by 20 minutes on a 50 minute talk. Thankfully coffee was next. The chair of the next session spoke to me and the speaker after me and asked us to cut ours down. I took 5 slides out and finished 10 minutes early (from 45), the next overran by 10 on a 25 minute talk. I made more contacts and friends in the bar afterwards so it pays off to be considerate.

Comment on Guilty of Rambling On by Bill Harvey

Thu, 29 Mar 2018 22:04:36 +0000

I once attended a conference in honour of a great engineering academic. We were all invited by the organiser/chair. The morning was to finish with a presentation by a group of students at 1300. Mine was the last slot before that. People kept pretty much to time till 1230 and that penultimate speaker took 45minutes. The chair felt unable to intervene with someone he had invited, but I too had travelled far at my own expense. Lunch was going cold. I flashed up a few slides, invited people to speak to me outside the session and gave the platform to the students. I still resent it after several decades. I am reminded of the visiting preacher who, descending from the pulpit, said to the verger: I’m sorry if the sermon was a bit long but there wasn’t a clock I could see. No, said the verger, but there was a calendar.

Comment on The Potholes in Life by PhysicsBear

Mon, 26 Mar 2018 20:51:12 +0000

I like your analogy - I am definitely a natural "swerver" too! Side-tracking back to the bicycles though, I am finding cycling with my six-year old quite challenging when confronted with the abominable selection in Histon. I end up occupying the centre of the road, defending him from all traffic and insisting that he steer round all of them rather than risk going over the handlebars. I don't suppose the budget for road repairs is in any way linked to the NHS dentistry budget, as he's already lost one tooth (and demolished a very sturdy helmet) by going over the handlebars once. Nor will they compensate me for the therapy I'm going to end up needing for the psychological stresses of the entire experience!