Visit any of the major institutions in London, especially with the word Royal in the title, and chances are you’ll find yourself confronting a staircase, or an honour board full of men or portraits of men.
The Royal Society, however, has had a make over, changing the imagery in its public spaces. There are images of women in various parts of the building and photos by Anne Purkiss at the entrance. There is also a prize for work in diversity. Its aspiration is to inspire innovation and leadership in diversity issues. This is not just about gender equality, though that would be a good start.
One member of the Royal Society council who champions diversity is Professor Dame Athene Donald, who was Cambridge University’s first Gender Equality Champion from 2010–14.
These are the kind of role models we want to see. You don’t have to be a scientist, or aim to be one, to see that success is within your power, as clearly spelt out by Baroness Scotland in March at the launch of the WOW weekend celebrating women.
Professor Dame Athene is a scientist, teacher, communicator and champion of diversity. She is on the Equality and Diversity Board of Sheffield University and the Gender Balance Working Group of the European Research council. She is tireless in her articles observing, commenting and advising on issues of equality, through her writing in the blog at Occam’s Razor and her columns for the Guardian.
For March, the International Women’s Month, a new document was released by the Royal Society, called Parent-Carer-Scientist, of 150 scientists and their life paths including men and some with disabilities in the family. It is interesting to see that the dialogue has shifted to include caring not just for children, but also for an older generation. Most of us at some point find our roles reversed and we need to care for an older parent or other relation.
This document is freely available to download and one that would be useful in school to discuss in careers and gender balance.
Less of the lean our lean in, life work balance, more of this is my life and how I live it.
We need more women represented in all walks of life. However, when they are visible in professions that are valued, such as politics, law or science, we need people take more notice.
Such a focus on women coming out of such a male traditional profession is interesting. Perhaps because the women who’ve become scientists have had to overcome more discrimination to succeed in their field and they wish to make it easier for younger scientists, and to counter a culture, which sees the male as the default. While this article is about scientists, it applies to all Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
As Dame Athene Donald says, “If you only do one thing today, look at your place of work.”
Does it ignore, exclude, or disparage, women or girls? Here is where you can act.
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