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Women in Science

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Video clip: Helen's opinions about the difficulties of career progression have shifted as her career has progressed and after she had children.

It sounds like your, from what you've said it sounds like your career path has been quite, you've sort of gone from one to another thing quite straightforwardly.

Yes so it's funny because I remember I was invited to go to a conference, must have been before I had my kids, European Women in Maths to give a talk and there were various break out groups to talk about what it's like being a female mathematician, sort of glass ceiling barriers, etc., and to be honest I didn't know what their problem was because as far as I was concerned everything I wanted to do I had done. I think probably if I went back now I would be a slightly more understanding individual and I think it's only when you experience it, when you have kids and you have to start making quite hard decisions about what you do or don't want to do, but up until that stage everything I had wanted to do I had managed to do which I think I was, I was lucky I moved into an area which was just starting to grow at the beginning and I was, I suppose in the right place at the right time to exploit opportunities that arose.

And you say that, so you didn't when you went to that conference you didn't, couldn't understand the problem but obviously you've come to understand some of those issues. Could you talk a little bit about that?

So sorry I'm not quite sure what you mean. Do you mean what are the issues or what was my, how did I experience? Right so I suppose for me everything was, as I said I, you know, if I wanted to do something if I put my mind to it, worked hard you should be able to go out and achieve it and I suppose it's only when you start to have children, I can't just go to a conference, I have to think about it, there's other people who are demanding of your time which isn't, I mean in a totally positive sort of a way. I can't just stay at work I have to go, I can't just work on something, I have to make a decision and I hadn't had to do that before.

And I suppose, yes, so then you start to miss out because I can't just go to the pub after work with people if I want to and I suppose, well again probably I'm a little bit unusual because for example I suppose I still got promotion when my kids were young and I managed to get a fellowship etc., etc., so I wasn't, I don't think I was particularly held back from as a result of having children however moving again became a much more of a question, you couldn't just, if a job came up I wouldn't just apply lightly because there's more than me to consider. I think probably more I would see the impact on other women sort of following behind me and particularly, so I had my kids fairly late, I already had my lectureship and so nobody could take that away from me. Where I see, saw, have seen the problems is people who decide to have their kids younger before they have a permanent position who work part time and then as a result their CV's won't have as many publications, there's a perception, there was a perception of them. So this all pre-dates Athena SWAN there was kind of no real recognition and I saw people's perception of them and whether they should be given a permanent position I don't think, they weren't fully recognising that they were working half time. Again if I think from my own experience when I had my first, my daughter and I came back to work…

I was on a fellowship and I, strictly speaking could be where I wanted. I suppose actually that's one of the times when having kids made a difference because I was on a fellowship I could have travelled, gone where I wanted to, I had the money to do it but I had a baby who was in nursery and a husband who worked so I couldn't just pick up sticks and go and collaborate with somebody on the other side of the world, I couldn't do that.