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Women in Science

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Video clip: Jane thinks that some women, particularly those who are clinicians, have so many roles that they feel burnt out and may decide to give up the struggle to get promotion.

What about going for promotion? I mean getting a Chair?


Do you think that is also an issue that you ought to think about in relation to gender do you think?

Yes I do. I mean you know I’m, to that extent I’m now not an academic. That’s not a path that I know about. It’s not a path I’m on. But I think it’s something about recognising, understanding what gets people recognised and how that works for women or doesn’t work for women.

So you know being on committees, taking on management roles, you know other sorts of things which, which are part of the, the ‘old chap’ bit you know, ‘good chap’, recognised as being a ‘good chap’. You know if you’re trying to look after your kids, you’re not going to be able to do those extra things.

So should that be the output that we are counting for career progression? Obviously being a professor is something slightly different but again you can only cope with so many roles and, and certainly as a clinician half and half, clinician and teaching, there’s something about time frames which I think is really difficult so if you, if you’re a clinician and you deal with all the people on the ward every day, that’s got, that’s always going to come first and certainly my colleagues who are trying to do much more academic medicine as well as being clinicians, they’re conscientious people, male and female, who are trying to do their best by the patients.

A patient comes in with a serious condition you’re going to go and do that first and the meeting that you might have gone to, or the time you might have spent on quiet reflection thinking about your research grant is not going to happen until tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow. And so, an you can put it off and do it at the weekend and do it in the evening, and you know juggle for so long but if the time frames of the two conflicting roles are different it’s really hard.

And as a clinician, and I’m sure it’s true for you know for other people with different roles, and I just look at the clinical role. I mean one could look at the caring role, all these different roles, they’re complex in themselves. Within each role you’re juggling lots of variables. So frankly the academic bit is going to come last.

So in terms of academic, at least it is in my balance, in terms of academic progression within a university how is a woman to do that? How’s a person with other responsibilities to do that and stay sane? And it seems to me that the sort of, the burn out, the, the emotional exhaustion on the faces of my colleagues; you can do it for a while, a year or two or five, but they’re not, you know by the time we’re looking at these senior women wanting to get on, they’re burnt out. They’re giving up. So we keep plugging away at it and each wave will, might get a little bit further but until we recognise just how difficult it is to balance all these roles, at the junior level, I don’t think they are going to get to the top.

It’s not overt sexism that stops women being appointed as a professor any more, I think, although I’m quite sure others have experienced that. I personally haven’t, it’s the way in which we support people I think as they begin their roles.