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Women in Science

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Video clip: Charlotte had mixed feelings about Athena Swan (see 'Concerns and criticism' below), but here she describes how it helped her and her colleagues become aware of important issues like unconscious bias.

I think things like Athena SWAN have actually made me more aware of it because it has made me look around. The number of meetings that I go to where I will be very commonly the only female academic in the room, so all the others will be male and, very commonly, certainly one of the youngest people in the room. That always makes me a bit sad, because I think that mixtures between age is actually quite important in terms of finding out what's going on.

At all levels. It's not I want young people doing everything. It's more, if you don't have mixtures you don't understand the way the world is because actually I think quite differently from the way my students think, and I always think quite differently from the way people who are the generation above me think. It seems obvious, but I think the university misses out on that. So it's not just gender in there. But do I? So I think I guess for me, no not really. But then I do hear stories from other people who seem to find it very difficult, or seem to feel they get very different responses.

You've mentioned Athena SWAN. What do you think about it?

I find this quite difficult to answer, because on the one hand I think Athena SWAN has been a really good idea because it's raised lots of issues and actually made people think about them. So one of the ones I found most interesting was the raising of the idea of unconscious bias. Because I'd never heard of that until kind of the Athena SWAN agenda arrived. And then you - then of course you know, I suspect it's what most academics did - you went and did some research. You found out about it. Yeah? And what you found, was not that men picked men, but that men and women picked men. And that, you know there were all sorts of other pieces to it. It wasn't as simple as just the gender one, because there's age things as well about people preferring young people or people preferring older people, you know.

And you thought - And, and what I liked about it was that it did things like that. So it made me aware of a set of issues or thoughts and things that I hadn't really thought about. I'd been busy getting on with what I needed to do every day, and by being - making you aware of that, that was good. I liked the fact that it had, you know, this general impact of making people think about when they timed things. So, you know, the concept that everybody could give up their evenings for events was suddenly gone. You know? It still sort of half existed but it wasn't like 'oh well we can hold that on Friday night, and everyone will be there'. They suddenly realised that maybe people couldn't.

[Laughing] you know, and that if a meeting started at nine o'clock in the morning, which is a perfectly reasonable hour because work starts at nine - if you're really trying to be helpful, that's not actually helpful, because people are dropping off at school, they can't quite make it by nine. It would be very close, but - And then the idea of walking in late to a meeting is something that's difficult for people. So if you start at 9:15, everything is -you know. And some of those were issues, like so the school one was one I hadn't even thought about before. You know, it hadn't happened to me, so I was like. Ooh, yeah. But you, it made you think about all sorts of things that I think weren't just - you know, when people say you know, helpful for women, I think it was helpful in just improving the workplace.