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International Women's Day 2020

By Newcastle University
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This International Women's Day, let's celebrate some of the truly inspirational women we have with us here at Newcastle University.

I am an international scholar in gender, leadership and identity

Sharon Mavin-2

Name – Sharon
What is your role? – Professor of Leadership and Organisation Studies and Director of Newcastle University Business School.

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in? 

As the Director of Newcastle University Business School and as a researcher of women in leadership, my role and research passions unite and I invest time in putting theory into practice. I’m in the amazing position where my research is both activism and leadership. One example is teaching the Newcastle University MBA cohort last week, where we talked about how privilege, meritocracy, equality and inclusivity all shape us as leaders and shape how we lead others. I used questions about my own ‘privilege’ to challenge biases; images of Hilary Clinton, Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon’s gendered misrepresentations in the media to how women leaders are still abnormal; and, searched the internet for the terms, Business Leader, Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer and IT Director, to illustrate how gendered and exclusive the resulting images are.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 
 

Research with women leaders at the top of hierarchies shows that there is still something ‘not nice’ or ‘feminine enough’ about women who are ‘out’ as ambitious and competitive and this provokes backlash from women and men – an embedded gender stereotype which is hard to dismantle – even with the ‘Ban Bossy Campaign’.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area?

In the Business School, we are changing some of the structural issues including gender balance in selection panels, key committees and panels making funding decisions, reviewing academic criteria for appointments and actively encouraging women to apply for professorial roles and promotions at different levels.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Invest in research about the culture of the organisation you are looking to join. Check out who holds the senior positions; who the Professors are in your subject area; where all the women are in the hierarchy and in which roles and then, make your own way!

Which strong women inspire you?

My 17 year-old daughter Francesca and her friends are strong, empowered young women - about to go out into the world. They inspire me every day!

My research has contributed to the field of genetics within childhood Leukaemia

Christine Harrison

Name – Christine
What is your role? – Professor of Childhood Cancer Cytogenetics/Director, Leukaemia Research Cytogenetics Group.

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in? 

I lead a research group of scientists, technicians and statisticians in the field of genetics within childhood leukaemia. Over the decades of my work, survival of children with leukaemia has improved dramatically from almost certain death in the 1960’s to 90% survival in the 2000’s. I feel enormously proud that, as a woman, I have contributed significantly to these improvements through the discovery of genetic abnormalities, which guide the choice of therapy given to these patients and provide targets for novel treatments.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

I feel very privileged to work alongside expert scientists and dedicated clinicians within the area of childhood cancer. As childhood leukaemia is rare, collaborations with international study groups has greatly advanced our progress and provided long lasting friendships. A recent challenge is the struggle to maintain adequate funding to drive world-leading research.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area?

I enjoy communicating my work to young people and specifically mentoring young women to pursue their career ambitions. As a mother of three children myself, I have demonstrated that, with family support, success is possible.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Believe in yourselves, be determined and don’t give up.

Which strong women inspire you?

I am inspired by Dame Sally Davies, as the first female Chief Medical Officer, now appointed by the Queen as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. She is very supportive of young women in medicine and scientific research. She speaks with sensible authority on important health issues.

I am also inspired by The Queen; I highly respect the professional and responsible way in which she undertakes her duties.

I am working to end discrimination in the field of Archaeology

Chloe Duckworth

Name – Chloe
What is your role? – Lecturer in Archaeological Science and Degree Programme Director for Archaeology

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in? 

Archaeology has a long history of pioneering women, but it is only recently that their contributions have been recognised more widely. Today, many of us are working to end discrimination and bullying in the field, and to write the under-represented back into our teaching about the history of the discipline.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

Women working in the field face challenges around accessing appropriate personal protective equipment and toilet facilities. In academia, women are disproportionately represented in the employed workforce. As a permanently-employed lecturer, these days I am privileged and relatively untouched by these problems, but they should remain everybody's fight.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area?

I believe in the importance of intersectionality in women's rights, and in working to tackle racism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, classism and other forms of discrimination. The School of History, Classics and Archaeology has recently begun an initiative to decolonise the curriculum, and I hope that my contribution to this - starting with our stage 1 ''Introduction to Archaeology'' module - will change the way students think about the past and help them to be more critical when exploring how it is studied, and reported in the media.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

We spend a lot of time advising young women on how to deal with the specific challenges they face, so I would like to speak to everybody else. Please ask how you can support those around you who face additional challenges, be aware of the possibility of discrimination in language, behaviours, and choices that you make.

Which strong women inspire you?

I am inspired by Sada Mire, a pioneer in Somali archaeology; by the women behind 'Trowel Blazers', which celebrates women in archaeology, geology, and palaeontology; and by the women in my own school and academic unit, including (but not limited to!) Jane Webster, Sophie Moore, and Helen Berry.

We have 74 years of service between us

HASS Cleaners

Names - Pat, Brenda and Maureen. 
What is your role? – Cleaners for the School of Law

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in? 

When we joined the University, our role was considered "women’s work" but over the years we have seen more men join our ranks. We are very much part of the Law School team and it feels like home with friendly and appreciative colleagues and students.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

For women considering coming into these roles, there are plenty of opportunities for training and progression. With hard work and dedication, it’s possible to develop a career with the University. 

Which strong women inspire you?

We’re inspired by women like Emmeline Pankhurst who stand their ground for a good cause.

I would love to support more women in my area to progress in their careers and achieve their ambitions

NAOMI OOSMAN-WATTS-9

Name – Naomi
What is your role? – Assistant Director – Careers Service

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in? 

It means being surrounded by lots of other wonderful women who inspire me every day – but it also means seeing a profession which is heavily female dominated at the operational level but disproportionately male at the senior management level. Change is happening, but it’s taking a while.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

I’m very fortunate that I work, across the board – whether at an institutional or national level - with colleagues who are supportive, encouraging and have given me the confidence to take on new challenges and push myself. I think, like a lot of people I face many internal challenges around 'Impostor Syndrome' and my own assumptions around how I might be perceived. There is a significant lack of diversity in our profession which brings in another angle outside of the gender issue. But I’ve learnt over the years that when faced with any kind of challenge or self-doubt nothing beats a good network of amazing people, along with a bit of grit and hard work. I’ve always found people to be hugely generous with their time, knowledge and insight - sometimes you just have to ask.

.What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area?

I would love to support more women in my area to progress in their careers and achieve their ambitions.

I would like to help us move more towards a much more flexible approach to work which allows everyone, family responsibilities or not – to balance work and life better.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

1. Trust your instincts and be yourself – when you have hard decisions to make, think about your values and don’t stray too far from those. 

2. Have opinions, don’t be afraid of expressing them, and at the same time always take the opportunity to learn from colleagues around you.

Which strong women inspire you?

There are so many women who inspire me who are strong in so many different ways. From the women I am lucky enough to work with and have in my life, to inspiring women across the world doing amazing things; especially young women finding their voice and using it. And, of course, the feminists who came before us and paved the way for us.

Recent (and not so recent) reads that have inspired me and fired me up include: Caroline Criado Perez, Amy Cuddy, Carole Dweck, Brenee Brown, Viv Groskop and Michelle Obama. There are so many more I could name but these are some books that are currently on my shelf!

I conduct fundamental research on understanding the immune system's potential in treating autoimmunity and cancer

Shoba

Name – Shoba
What is your role? – Group leader within the NU Translational and Clinical Research Institute.

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in? 

During my research career, I have had the privilege of working with a number of brilliant scientists both in the US and the UK. Thankfully, the fact that I am a woman has never affected my progression with my direct managers. I have always felt like a scientist and my gender has never played a role in my micro environment. It is appropriate, however, to highlight some of the best mentors to work with as a woman scientist within the Faculty of Medical Science (FMS). I have directly reported to the following individuals in the past 5 years and as a woman who works in immunology, I feel these individuals are really good at unbiased mentoring. For those who would like to succeed as a principal investigator and are curious about my managers for the past 5 years, they include Prof. John Isaacs, Prof. Derek Mann, Prof. Jonathan Higgins, Prof. Nick Reynolds, Prof. Penny Lovat and Prof. Mark Birch-Machin within FMS. It is important to surround oneself with supportive leaders in the field and I have had the opportunity to do so.

By contrast, my experience as the subject of peer-review of grants or journal submissions has not been so positive, with the odd reviewer that has questioned my independence or ability as an independent scientist. I usually give myself 24 hours to come to terms with it and then move on.

 

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

As a women scientist, I do not usually experience special privileges but do experience a number of stereotypical challenges. I am usually mistaken as a student at conferences. The other challenge I face are the number of assumptions that people make with respect to my personal life. As a woman of Indian origin, people assume that I am married with children. Usually, these questions come from fellow women scientists who then decide to give me a lecture on having a family without really knowing my personal circumstances. The idea that success equates to a “husband” and “children” with Asian women is a stereotype that is unproductive.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area?

I hope I am already trying to do my part in not just promoting women’s rights but also in being fair to all talented scientists who work in my laboratory. Currently, my lab has only had women scientists as a result of using “meritocracy” as the only criteria in the hiring process and I expect this gender disparity to change with time. I hope to continue to promote the best talent without prejudice and do my best to ensure that the people who work in my laboratory succeed in their life goals, be it on academic or non-academic careers.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

My advice would be to not seek out women managers, but seek out the best managers who will treat you like a scientist. As I mentioned earlier, my success has been the result of surrounding myself with scientists who value talent and intelligence over stereotyping and this would be my advice to anyone reading this blog-post.

Which strong women inspire you?

Rosa Parks (Rosa Louise McCauley Parks) - The first lady of civil rights. 

Ada Lovelace - Published the first algorithm- one the first computer programmers. 

Audrey Smith - Mother of Cryobiology.

 

My work provides valuable advice to students and graduates starting businesses

Gretel-1

Name – Gretel
What is your role? – START-UP Advisor

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in? 

The majority of my colleagues within the University are women but, since I provide advice to students and graduates starting businesses, I have a lot of contact with business advisers outside of the University. I actually know more women business advisers than men. However, we all tend to advise earlier stages and it feels like the bigger and/or more successful the businesses get, the more they tend to gravitate towards mentors who are men. Those at the top who are classed as role models also tend to be men so it is understandable that there is a widening gender gap when it comes to role models. It also means that we have a lot of work to do to break the glass ceiling for women founders at every stage of their business so that they can go on to become those role models themselves.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

There’s been a few times when I’ve thought some men were dismissing what I was saying, whilst having an appointment that they booked because they wanted to discuss their business ideas. I think they might not have realised that I’ve been running businesses on and off for about 10 years now, had failures and successes, and that I actually still maintain 2 businesses on the side of my full time job at the University. The fact is some people think we, university business advisers, have never worked “in the real world”, so I don’t think this is 100% a gender-related stereotype, but male colleagues don’t seem to experience it as often.

On the other hand, I do have the privilege of working within a department that is predominantly women-dominated and I genuinely think that makes my daily work life better. From the collaborative environment through to the constant cakes in the kitchen!

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area?

I read somewhere that there’s no point in developing skills in people if we don’t intend to provide opportunities for them to put those skills into practice. I see a lot of female empowerment-focused initiatives happening all around us, but I think we need to do more on the championing side of things. In the entrepreneurship world, I don’t think that women get put forward for opportunities as much as men and I personally feel a responsibility to sponsor other women to get access to those opportunities. Especially so where there’s layers of intersectionality that also affect them. So I’m likely to be the one complaining that we cannot have a male-only panel at an event, or pushing to get a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) woman in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Maths) nominated for an award! I like to think I contribute with what I can from where I stand, and if I can help get more women into the spotlight, why wouldn’t I?

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

To support and champion each other! Unless we help each other to reach the top, none of us will make it there. So don’t think of other women as “the competition” think of them as your allies, and do what you can to help them. In turn, they’ll do the same for you!

Which strong women inspire you?

I have many so choosing was hard but I managed to make a “shortlist” of fantastic women from all walks of life who are supporting other women. All of whom I’ve had the privilege of personally meeting in the past. Some might not remember me at all, but they’ve all made a lasting impression on me!

  1. Dr Maria Lopez Romero, Lecturer in Education, University of Lincoln  – Maria’s research focuses on bullying and bystander behaviour.
  2. Louise Brown, Combined Honours student, Newcastle University – On the side of her busy degree and volunteering schedule, Louise has found time to start Goodstrangevibes, a small social enterprise where she sells t-shirts and prints of her own feminist art with body-positive messages, donating part of the profits to good causes close to her heart.
  3. Dr Angelika Stromayer, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction, Northumbria University – Angelika is an incredibly accomplished early career researcher, a radical-kindness feminist activist and an all-around amazing human being. Her research aims to improve the conditions of sex-workers in the UK, and she is one of the co-founders of Fempowertech, a network of feminists in HCI working to make the field more equal.
I encourage female students to engage with the wider research community

Smriti Sharma

Name – Smriti
What is your role – Lecturer in Economics at Newcastle University Business School

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in?

There is a higher representation of women in my area of specialisation of development economics as compared to some other sub-fields in economics, and this provides opportunities to interact with brilliant female economists at both junior and senior levels.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

As an Indian and a female in economics, my experiences so far have been positive. However, as a woman doing co-authored work with male economists, I believe there is a greater need to justify my academic contribution to others. This phenomenon has also been documented by academic research showing that women often get less credit for co-authored work than men do (for the same piece of work).

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area?

Economics, like many other disciplines, faces a leaky pipeline with respect to progression of women as the share of women in the field decreases from PhD to the professorial level. As a PhD supervisor, I encourage female students to engage with the wider research community through conferences and seminars, and to consider careers in academia as we do need more diversity of people and ideas in the profession.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Getting an academic job right after a PhD is both exciting and daunting. Think carefully about time/effort management as well as how to negotiate on tasks that offer low promotability. Studies show that women are more likely than men to be asked to volunteer for service that does not always offer tenure/promotion avenues. Find allies and mentors – this can be both senior women and men – to help you navigate this process early on. Sign up for networking and mentoring events and don’t be afraid to promote your work and accomplishments.

Which strong women inspire you?

My mother, Dr. Hema Sharma. Growing up in India where a lot of mothers do not work, seeing her achieve professional success (as a medical doctor) alongside managing family and personal life was, and is, truly inspirational.

I am lucky that women are well-represented in my work

Ruth Valentine-1

Name – Ruth
What is your role - Dean of Taught Programmes, Faculty of Medical Science

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in?

I have been lucky enough to study and work in the Faculty of Medical Sciences throughout most of my career, where female students (at least at undergraduate level) are very well represented. However, as I have progressed through my career - PhD, Post doctoral researcher, lectureship and now in the senior management team, I have noticed how the numbers of female role models in equivalent roles has diminished. It is essential that we have the best people working with us and ensuring that the academic, research and teaching career pathway is flexible and open.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 
I love working with students and teaching, watching and supporting them to learn and progress. It is the main reason I do the job!

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

If you’re looking to pursue an academic career in any discipline, talk to as many different people as you can, collaborate widely, get stuck in and enjoy it!

Which strong women inspire you?

I could name famous female scientists, but to be honest the women that most inspire me are the ones I have worked with in the past (my PhD supervisor, the previous Dean of undergraduate studies) and those I currently work with (students, junior colleagues and my fellow Deans!).

Over 50% of the 37 academics in my department are women

Josie January

Name – Josie
What is your role - Senior Lecturer and Head of Accounting and Finance Subject Group, Newcastle University Business School.

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in?

When I joined the Department of Accounting and Finance at Newcastle University in the 1990s, I was only the third woman academic, out of a staff of 11. Today, over 50% of the 37 academics in the Accounting and Finance subject group are women. I am lucky to be surrounded by and supported by a team of very enthusiastic and passionate colleagues in the School and wider University, both men and women.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

I can honestly say that I haven’t faced any particular stereotypical challenges because of my gender.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

I’d like to inspire women to become academics and succeed in their roles. A few years ago I completed the University’s Women’s Coaching and Mentoring Programme as a mentor and it was fantastic to work both with great women leaders from different schools and to put that learning into practice.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Be confident, positive and put yourself forward. Believe in your own abilities!

Which strong women inspire you?

Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand’s Prime Minister) - she has demonstrated real strength in leadership whilst dealing with a variety of challenges. On top of that she became a mother whilst in office and she is still under 40 years old!

I show younger women that you can start a family and continue your career

Gayle

Name – Gayle
What is your role - Curriculum Team Manager within Newcastle University Careers Service.

What does it mean to be a woman in the area you work in?

That you are in the majority! We have a predominantly female populated service so, if anything, I think about that question for my male colleagues more often. When I do reflect on it though, as one of our female team managers, I do have a sense of responsibility to show younger women joining our service that you can progress between roles and (if you want to) you can start a family and continue your career however that may be.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face? 

I think it can feel challenging to be taken seriously as a young woman developing your career within Higher Education, whilst a perceived privilege might be the maternity leave I have been both entitled to and greatly benefited from. Another challenge would be 'Impostor Syndrome' - I even feel it having been asked to fill this in!

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

I’d like to think I’m a colleague that other women in my area could approach if they felt like they needed support in relation to anything, let alone women’s rights, and I certainly aim to promote initiatives like our university-wide NU Women’s Network which is great on so many levels.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

To think about what you have to give to a role and what that role can give you. Then have the confidence, courage and self-belief in what you are doing and when it feels the right time to progress.

Which strong women inspire you?

In all honesty, rather than the many famous women I could name, I draw most inspiration from the women around me who get themselves through all manner of challenges with dignity and unbelievable inner strength.

 

Want to learn more about the wonderful women of Newcastle University? Visit the NUWomen Blog & our NCLAlumni Community.

Tags: Careers, Advice, Explore, Research, International Womens Day