The INEF Blog
The INEF Blog
What a delight it was to part of such an important discussion. On Tuesday 6th November I had the pleasure of attending the RSC “Breaking the Barriers” event on behalf of the INEF.
The evening was full of debate and discussion concerning the retention and progression of women in the chemical sciences. Academics from different institutions outlined their personal experiences surrounding the subject; allowing us to discuss the topic as part of a forum of like minded individuals.
The evening consisted of a number of speakers explaining the results and findings from the report. This was then followed by an open floor discussion around the topic. The format of the evening encouraged collaboration and support from all attendees; status was removed and we all spoke about the bigger picture. The future. What could we as a unit do to improve the experiences other females in the chemical sciences?
The report outlined that women felt that they were not always best represented in the work place. 78% of those surveyed outlined short term contracts in academia impact the retention and progression of women. The lack of security and flexibility in short term contracts does not fit in with managing parenting and caring responsibilities. Is now the time to ask for more flexible permanent contracts in academia?
The pressure to publish was also a big topic brought into discussion by Uta Frith. Uta suggested we move towards a culture of “Slow Science” concentrating on quality papers by putting a cap on the number of papers an individual can publish in a year. Reduce the quantity but increase the quality of work published. Surely that can only be of benefit to everyone? In a time where everything is pretty much disposable and readymade, should we all be making an effort to step back and remember the value of quality in all aspects of our lives but especially in Science?
During the open floor questioning session I asked the panel “What can you suggest to people here who are looking to change the way women are viewed and valued in the chemical sciences? As I frequently receive negative feedback for standing up and trying to make a difference for women. People accuse me of being aggressive and negative towards men. When in actual fact all I am trying to do is create awareness, allowing people from all backgrounds to understand the progress we need to make to ensure the future is more inclusive for everyone.” The question (I found) resonated with a lot of people in the audience; many continue to face negative comments from their peers as a result of their involvement in topics relating to gender inclusion. The panel responded by reaffirming the importance of staying true to yourself and really making an effort to better inform others in a way that they feel included in the conversation.
Overall I found the evening very positive and encouraging. The stimulating conversation during the informal drinks and canapés session really promoted new ideas and collaboration around the report. Ultimately it allowed delegates to engage in a way to talk further about the future and what we can all do to better support women in the chemical sciences. We have a long way to go to be able to work in a world where our gender doesn’t affect our retention and progression but I believe we are making the right steps towards a more inclusive future for everyone.