We need more women in academia

Yes, we do! We do need more women in academia. We need more female role models. We need to find ways to recruit more women and also, maintain the well-prepared females who are already academics [relevant newspaper article]. However, we need a better understanding of the subtle and complex reasons why women may leave academia if we want to improve the numbers.

femmesressistance2The ECU (Equality Challenge Unit) “support universities and colleges to build an inclusive culture that values the benefits of diversity, to remove barriers to progression and success for all staff and students, and to challenge and change unfair practices that disadvantage individuals or groups.” The Athena SWAN Charter in ECU recognises the need for  “commitment to the advancement of gender equality in academia, addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines, professional and support functions and removing the obstacles faced by women.”
I am a lecturer at Aston University. In an interview, I was asked how does Aston University compare to other organisations you have worked for?  My answer can be summarised in the following paragraphs.

I have seen first-hand that Aston is genuine in following the Athena Swan principle of advancing gender equality. At Aston, we have many academic women with families, whereas I feel other universities may be representative of women but not necessarily women with families.

When committing to the Athena Swan Charter, it is important to show that there are women in the organisation who are mothers, not just that there are a certain number of women within the organisation. Women at Aston are a good representation of this. This is important because I like to talk about my family and feel comfortable in doing so. This is important because one of the causes that women leave academia is because they find it hard to do the trade-off between academia and having time to have a family. Aston closely matches these preferences more than other organisations have in the past. And it is not just family-oriented women who are supported, it is just as important for family-oriented men to be supported too! (an aspect that is usually forgotten when we talk about diversity). Sure, we need more women in academia but, for this to happen we urgently need more women (and men!) who are decision-makers in academia and understand the issues. Male Professors may find it difficult to have the insight needed about these issues when they have strong support from a partner who takes care of the family most of the time. It may also be difficult that a female Professor understands the issues when she has no immediate dependents whom to take care, such as children.

I know these issues are not easy to talk about but they need to be discussed. I certainly urged the Athena SWAN Charter to take into account the nuances. It feels right to me.

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Where are our female superhero toys?

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Gabby as princess Leia

I have just found this TED talk and it is very relevant to my previous post.

I usually struggle to find toys that encourage my daughter to imagine herself as a hero. However, I keep trying to find this kind of toys to buy them for my daughter. This is important if we want to inspire our daughters (and sons); if we want them to believe that they can achieve success in non-traditional  ways .

I usually struggle to find toys that encourage my daughter to imagine herself as a hero. However, I keep trying to find this kind of toys to buy them for my daughter. This is important if we want to inspire our daughters (and sons); if we want them to believe that they can achieve success in non-traditional  ways .

Christopher Bell (https://www.ted.com/speakers/christopher_bell) specializes in the study of popular culture, focusing on the ways in which race, class and gender intersect in different forms of media. He explains better my current thoughts about this topic.

We need more women as role models. But, we also need to make these female role models more visible.

 

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Tally&Gabby The Astronauts (by Gabby 2016)

I usually ask my daughter what she would like to do when she is an adult. Her answer to this questions usually changes every week. Sometimes she wants to be a Vet, other times a teacher, other times a dog walker. Some other times she tells me she would like to be a singer or a dancer. I asked her if she would like to be an astronaut. Her answer was appalling to me. She told me

Last week, I asked her if she would like to be an astronaut. Her answer was appalling. She told me

-“Mami, can a woman be an astronaut?”

I said, “of course women can be astronauts!” She told me she thought that was not possible. At that moment it was so clear to me that we need to make these female role models more visible. The toys do not help much. Female models in the shape of toys tend to be princesses (sadly!).

Today I read that for the first time in NASA history, half of the newest astronaut class is female! Certainly, I will show her the article and the picture 🙂

womenastronauts.jpg