Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the diversity of all staff in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and aims to address gender, race and sexual orientation inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of certain groups in senior roles.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

In the news - Small bias, big difference

Are grant awards made based on merit alone? A new study—reported at ScienceInsider by Viviane Callier—suggests that even a little bias can have a large effect on which awards are made. The simulation’s “results are astonishing—funding is exceptionally sensitive to bias,” says Ruth Hufbauer, an ecologist  at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, as quoted in the ScienceInsider post. “[W]hen biased reviewers took more than 2.8% off the scores awarded to grants from the nonpreferred applicants, the bias began to affect funding decisions—even though that number is smaller than the difference in scores produced by randomness,” Callier writes.

Read more here.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

In the news - Vivek Wadhwa, Voice for Women in Silicon Valley, Is Foiled by His Tone

The debate over how to get more women into science and technology ultimately requires participation by all parties, male and female. As in any debate, more strident voices can sometimes dominate, dragging attention away from the work of others. They can also cause hurt and scare off potential allies and those who mean well but aren't quite sure what to do. So while the sometimes inappropriate words of Vivek Wadhwa, one of the more outspoken advocates from women in Silicon Valley, have lead to his recent retreat from the public eye, I can only hope that the more vitriolic backlash does not scare off those men more quietly leading the way towards progress for all in STEM.

Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur-turned-academic who is a co-author, with Farai Chideya, of the book “Innovating Women.” Mr. Wadhwa, 57, holds affiliations with Stanford, Duke and a Silicon Valley-based think tank called Singularity University. He is also a fixture on the lecture circuit and in the media, where he has frequently called on technology companies to address gender diversity.
At least he did, until he swore off speaking out for gender diversity after intense criticism from women in tech who saw him as neither their ally nor their spokesman.
But it is not enough, in this complex and delicate issue, to simply have one’s heart in the right place. “I think his intentions are good, but his message and his voice are actually damaging women,” said Sarah Szalavitz, the chief executive of 7 Robot, a design agency. “It has nothing to do with his gender or his ethnic identity, but what he’s saying and how he’s saying it.”

Read more here.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Early Career Geoscience Faculty Workshop: Teaching, Research, and Managing Your Career

While this workshop is US-based and aimed at early career staff in the US, I know people who have attended it and given it high praise - perhaps something to be encouraged/aspired to over here?

Early Career Geoscience Faculty Workshop: Teaching, Research, and Managing Your Career, July 26-30, 2015 with optional trip to NSF on Friday, July 31, at The College of William and Mary
Application deadline: March 18, 2015

If you are in your first three years of a permanent academic position, please apply to join us for a multi-day workshop in a stimulating and resource-rich environment where you will participate in sessions on topics including effective teaching strategies, course design, establishing a research program in a new setting, working with research students, balancing professional and personal responsibilities, and time management. The workshop is offered by NAGT On the Cutting Edge professional development program for geoscience faculty with partial support from the National Science Foundation. Past participants give high praise for this workshop. Here are a few quotes:

"This workshop is one of the best things I have done for my career!"

"... it is very helpful to form a network of colleagues at other institutions. I think I made some friendships that will last my career."

"The workshop totally changed my view of teaching from teacher-oriented to student-oriented. It's no more what I want to teach but what students need to learn or take away from the course. This is the essential point that I will keep in mind when I design course goals, syllabi, in-class activities, assignments, and exams."

"I am heading back to my institution feeling that I am better equipped to be a more efficient and effective teacher, researcher, colleague, father, husband, and community member."

  *   Learn about setting course goals, strategies for active learning, and methods for assessment.
  *   Share ideas and strategies for teaching courses.
  *   Consider successful strategies for maintaining an active research program and advising/supervising undergraduate and/or graduate research students.
  *   Discuss life as an early-career faculty member and explore ways to balance teaching, research, and service responsibilities.
  *   Leave with examples of assignments and activities for various courses, strategies for balancing competing demands, a support network of other early career faculty, and a plan for managing your early career as an academic.

The workshop fee of $700 (or $650 for NAGT members) will cover most meals and accommodations on the William and Mary campus. Participants will pay for some meals, and participants or their home institutions must provide transportation to and from the workshop. In cases where the cost of attending this workshop would cause financial hardship, you may apply for a stipend to help defray these costs.

Our National Science Foundation grant provides funding for the remainder of the operational costs of the workshop. To be supported by these funds, a participant must be either a US citizen, a permanent resident, or in the employ of a US institution. If you don't meet these requirements and are interested in participating in this workshop at your own expense, please contact Rachel Beane (rbeane at bowdoin dot edu).

Workshop facilitators:
    Rachel Beane, Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science, Bowdoin College
    Tessa Hill, Department of Earth & Planetary Science, and Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California, Davis
    Josh Galster, Earth & Environmental Studies, Montclair State University
    Andrew Goodliffe, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Alabama
    Chris Kim, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Chapman University
    Karen Kortz, Department of Physics, Community College of Rhode Island
    Sarah Penniston-Dorland, Department of Geology, University of Maryland

The workshop application and additional information are linked from the workshop website:

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

In the news - The academics tackling everyday sexism in university life

In the ongoing debate over how to improve the numbers of women in academia, there is sometimes a feeling that there is an awful lot of navel-gazing and not much action. Or, that that action is someone else's responsibility/takes up too much time/can't be funded/too much like hard work. One group at Oxford University, Women in the Humanities, has been given £60,000 over three years to find ways to support academics in the humanities, particularly those struggling to get on the career ladder due to high teaching loads and the time required to write books. As the group themselves admit, this initiative can only achieve so much, so more power to them for trying - and if you can, support them at their Women's Day Celebration on 6th March (unfortunately now sold out).

Our universities are highly sexist institutions. Women are outnumbered and relegated to junior posts. More than 60% of academics are men, and about 80% of professors. Official statistics show that more women are on temporary contracts than men.
Behind the numbers lie depressing examples of everyday sexism. A new survey by the Royal Historical Society (RHS) shows that female academics, regardless of whether they are PhD candidates or professors, are exploited and marginalised by “macho practices and cultures”. Combative behaviour in academic debates and a long-hours culture are de rigueur. And, as a report by Women in Philosophy points out, the problem is “not that women are somehow less able to cope when aggressive behaviour is aimed at them… It is rather that aggressive behaviour can heighten women’s feeling that they do not belong, by reinforcing the masculine nature of the environment within which they work and study.”

Read more here.

In the news - The problem of girls and science

Following on from the news that ‘UK girls flop in science league,' a female engineer argues that changing attitudes requires a community shift from all parts of society, not flogging the horse of teaching quality:

The key issue is not teaching or schools – it is society’s wider views about science and gender that are the fundamental issue, as demonstrated beautifully in King’s College’s work on science capital, now being developed through an initiative called Enterprising Science. In particular, it is parents and other influencers that we need to be ‘on the side of science’ if we are to encourage more young people, and particularly girls, that is for them. And yet millions of these very people are subjected to ‘everyday sexism’ about science on a regular basis through television, printed media, stage and screen channels – which, consciously or otherwise, drip feed us with messages suggesting ‘real girls don’t do science’.

Read more here.

Monday, 23 February 2015

New Vitae Researcher Development Evaluation Toolkit available

From the Vitae website:
The aim of the toolkit, developed by the Vitae Impact and Evaluation Group, is to provide researcher developers, policy and decision-makers with access to a range of useful evaluation resources including evaluation templates shared by our member institutions, case studies, papers, presentations and links.

A great addition to resources on impact, the toolkit brings together the significant body of work Vitae and the Vitae Impact and Evaluation Group have developed since the original researcher development sector impact framework document first published in 2008. This resource should prove a great support to those evaluating impact whether new to the area or experienced in evaluation.
We are encouraging our members to contribute more examples of evaluation templates - join our Vitae Member Community for future updates.

Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award - deadline 12 March!

This scheme is for outstanding scientists who would benefit from a five year salary enhancement to help recruit them to or retain them in the UK. The scheme provides universities with additional support to enable them to recruit or retain respected scientists of outstanding achievement and potential to the UK. It provides a salary enhancement which is paid by the university in addition to the basic salary. The scheme covers all areas of the life and physical sciences, including engineering, but excluding clinical medicine. The scheme is jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Royal Society.

Read more here.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Newton International Fellowship - deadline 25 Feb!

Want to bring a talented post-doctoral researcher to the UK? Even if you can't make this year's deadline, the Royal Society's Newton International Fellowship is one to keep in mind for next year....

The scheme provides the opportunity for the best early stage post-doctoral researchers from all over the world to work at UK research institutions for a period of two years. The scheme covers a broad range of the natural, physical, and social sciences, and the humanities. It also covers clinical and patient orientated research for applicants from Newton Fund partner countries except Turkey.
The scheme is jointly run by The British Academy and the Royal Society.

More details here.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Job opportunity - Institute of Physics - deadline Monday 16 Feb!

The Institute of Physics is looking for a Project Manager to look after our Girls in Physics work: This is a really interesting job working on an important issue, in a fantastic education department!

The Project Manager will be responsible for managing three major projects to determine the most effective ways of supporting and encouraging girls to take physics beyond age 16. The post is fixed term for two years with the possibility of extension depending on the continuation of the external funding of the projects.

Closing date for applications: Monday 16 February 2015

For details, visit:

(via ScienceGrrl mailing list)

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

International Women's Day Lecture

We are very pleased to announce the following very interesting and stimulating International Women's Day Lecture.

Title: Feminist Manifesto for Education and Higher Education - An International Women’s Day Lecture
Speaker:  Miriam E David, PhD, AcSS, FRSA, Professor Emerita of Education, Institute of Education, University of London
Drawing on the stories of leading feminist educators from around the world and current evidence about gender equality in education, this talk will discuss how the feminist project to bring greater equality into women’s lives became an educational one. Current obstacles of neo-liberalism and academic capitalism make further changes more challenging.
Date:    Wednesday 4 March 2015
Time:    6-7pm, followed by a drinks reception
Venue: Portland Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth PO1 3AH
Admission is free, but please reserve your place on Eventbrite

Saturday, 7 February 2015

In the news - monthly round-up

After the deluge of new studies, reports and articles before Christmas, it has been comparatively quiet of late, so flagging up those which are published is all the more important. So here goes with the first news round-up of 2105 - even if it is February already!

The NY Times has been the chief source of articles so far, ranging from the monthly series on 'Women at Work' by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (the CEO of Facebook and a professor at Wharton, respectively), to blatant gender bias in student ratings on, to the economic perils of a growth in STEM jobs which are still overwhelmingly filled by white men. While it is easy to dismiss these stories as having an American bias, stories from elsewhere make it clear these problems are everyone's responsibility. For instance, Women in Science Australia looked at why one very promising biomedical researcher nearly threw in the towel after 8 years post-PhD - and it was nothing to do with being female/pregnant/Australian.

In the UK, Athene Donald's blog continues to prod and challenge people into action. This year's topics have already included creating a better work culture for all in academe, discouraging the addition of 'lady' or 'female' before the job title when introducing colleagues (it's not a compliment - really!) and a potted history of the Athena SWAN movement, with which she has been heavily involved. The Guardian also has a regular 'Women in Leadership' column, most recently offering advice to those planning conferences on how to broaden diversity in public events (it's really not that hard) and why trotting out the 'obvious' reasons why women can't/won't/shan't succeed in ambitious careers blinds managers to the real reasons.

Finally, on the broader topic of Athena SWAN, several important pieces of news. The University's annual conference will be on the 4th March (register here), with talks by Jane Duncan (President-elect of the Royal Institute of British Architects) and Andrew Miller (Chair of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee), as well as an update on the University's Athena SWAN award by Prof. Catherine Harper. In the UK, Worcester Uni has become the 123rd signee to the Athena SWAN charter, while in Ireland the ECU launched a three-year pilot study at a big do in Dublin on the 5th February. Home-grown actions like WiSER at Trinity College Dublin have made great strides, but the framework provided by Athena SWAN should keep up the momentum for the long haul.