Book Club – ‘Why men win at work: … and how we can make inequality history’ by Gill Whitty-Collins

In January we met to discuss ‘Why men win at work:… and how we can make inequality history’ by Gill Whitty-Collins. This book looks beyond the facts and figures of gender bias in the workplace and studies the psychology of gender inequality. Described as “…an almighty set of recommendations” by Sunday Times Magazine and “A must read for everyone working for a big corporation…” by Lorraine Candy, author. Find the book online here, or try out an Exeter independent here!

Gill Whitty-Collins was relatively late discovering gender inequality, as some women are if they are privileged enough never to have experienced overt discrimination and harassment earlier in their career or have not been brought up to recognise their privilege. Multiple members have commented in past WiC meetings that they only appreciated the issues around gender inequality and other diversity issues in the workplace after commencing their PhD or postdocs in some cases. Gill Whitty-Collins says she has mentored hundreds of women during her career and through this will have gained insight into how gender inequality has affected many women. The gender spectrum is acknowledged but the simplistic men/women binary is described and generalised, which is not intended to take away from people whose experiences do not fit these generalisations; workplace diversity benefits people from all genders.

Gill Whitty-Collins takes a complex and nuanced issue and simplifies it into key themes and messages, including to-do lists for individuals and organisations. This makes the book a palatable and straightforward read, which hopefully encourages more people to read it and take onboard the messages within. Our members generally found lots in the book that they identified with and recognised from their own lives and careers.

The overarching message of the book is that men win simply due to people believing that they are best at their jobs, but of course, this isn’t true, with lots of data supporting that women are just as competent, intelligent and have just as much leadership capability.

Gill Whitty-Collins persuasively and powerfully describes the key reasons why people believe this (under which there is lots of complexity not always covered in the book, though we guess the book is intended to be as straightforward as possible).

  • First, there is the invisible power of culture. Performance correlates to how well people feel they fit in, and in a male dominated culture, women find it harder to be their authentic selves, and don’t perform as well as they could in a more diverse culture.
  • Secondly, confidence is rewarded more than competence (meritocracy is a myth than women believe much more than men).
  • Thirdly, the excellent umbrella theory; management are only aware of the top of the umbrella not what is going on underneath. They look underneath if it all goes wrong, but women need to show them what is going on at other times to be rewarded for it. Men typically take more time for self-promotion and networking, whereas women focus on doing their core job role well, often having less time for additional activities due to their higher household burden.

Some of the points raised by our members include identifying with the sentiment that ‘Men are afraid women will laugh at them, and women are afraid that men might kill them’. It is easy for the privileged in society to not realise or forget the existence of underlying dynamics that don’t affect them and considerations of those who are in a minority.

We also felt like the book includes excellent practical advice, for example, in dealing with conflict; humour can be a useful tool to defuse tension. The author’s position as an industry leader enables insightful useful practical advice.

Although the consensus is that ‘Why Men Win at Work’ is a powerful, practical, and persuasive book that is ideal for sharing with newcomers thinking about diversity, the brevity of the book means that underlying complexity is not fully addressed, nor are other protected characteristics beyond the occasional brief mention, and intersectionality of gender with other characteristics is not covered. Some WiC members feel there are points in the book that we don’t fully agree with such as the assertion that sport might be an easy fix for increasing woman’s resilience to failure, or that men are better at taking criticism (or do they often deflect blame?). Some of the ‘The science bit’ chapter is thought to be inaccurate by our members, and we would suggest using the book as an opener, and then with an engaged audience you can start more nuanced diversity conversations, and encourage the reading of books by specialists who have debunked some of the past ‘science’ on gender, e.g., Inferior, Invisible Women, Delusions of Gender and Testosterone Rex.

The additional chapter in the new edition on Covid-19 highlights that flexible working during the pandemic has not helped equality, with women taking on more household and childcare responsibilities, and so although flexible working can help some women, there need to be a range of changes to organisations and societal attitudes to improve gender diversity at senior levels in the workforce.

Gill Whitty-Collins concludes the book with tips to drive equality, for both individuals and organisations, some of which include:

For organisations:

  • The importance of gender diversity at 50:50 at all levels throughout the organisation, as well as recruiting women. Set goals and change systems and processes to deliver it.
  • Hire and measure leaders and managers on their inclusive behaviours.
  • Hiring for diversity (NOT hiring for people who fit in) to eradicate the existing dominant culture and ensuring adverts don’t bias toward existing dominant culture.
  • Paid parental leave should be not just equally available to men and women, but men should be actively encouraged (or even enforced) to take an equal share of it.

For everyone who this will help:

  • Make time for networking and self-promotion.
  • We can sound more confident by not undermining self by ending phrases with questions.
  • Realise that everyone is winging it sometimes and putting on a performance.
  • Reframe imposter syndrome and humility and thoroughness.
  • Say goodbye to perfectionism and make friends with failure.
  • Are you your partner’s servant?
  • Be proud to say you are a feminist and be your authentic self when leading.

For men (as allies of women and non-binary persons):

  • Be open supporters of women and non-binary colleagues and champion their work.
  • Feminism is good for everyone and great for business.
  • Don’t hire ‘mini-me’s!’ – hire for diversity.
  • Watch your language (don’t use words like ‘bossy’ or ‘pushy’ about women that you wouldn’t use about men) and watch your behaviour in meetings (help everyone contribute).
  • Sponsor women. Go beyond just mentoring and proactively support and champion women. Share and encourage them to seize opportunities and advocate for them for promotions and development opportunities.
  • Take your paternity leave and do 50% of the household work. You can also watch interviews with Gill Whitty-Collins talking about the book on her website.

Women in Climate 2021 Round up

We have had another busy year for Women in Climate, as the network approaches 4 years of age in April 2022! Nearly all of our meetings this year have been virtual, with the exception of an in-person social event in December 2021 (pre Omicron!).

We’d like to highlight that the network often writes blogs that capture the essence of a meeting, although meetings are not recorded to encourage open dialogue in meetings (we hold our meetings under Chatham House rule). You can catch up on the blogs using the links below.

This year we:

Freya also used her event organising skills to co-organise the Gender Day event at COP26 in the Science Pavilion, ‘What Women Bring to Climate Science’ (you can watch this event on Youtube).

Looking back further in time, there are a number of blogs which might be interesting for you to revisit. You can see the full list of events that we have held since April 2018 here. Some particular suggestions include:

In the New Year, we look forward to more book club meetings, learning about Science Communication with Dr Rosie Oakes, and learning about the gendered nature of ambition, plus many more meetings through the rest of the year. You can see more information about our future events here.

Dr. Kirstine Dale: Discussion about Data Science and Environmental Intelligence

This week, Dr. Kirstine Dale joined Women In Climate for a discussion about Data Science and Environmental Intelligence: what it is, its applications, and the underrepresentation of women in the field and what this implies. Kirstine is a passionate scientist (“Science is like magic, but real”) and in her talk she gave an overview of her career path which followed her interests. Kirstine is the Met Office’s Principal Fellow for Data Science and Co-Director for the Joint Centre for Excellence in Environmental Intelligence between the Met Office and the University of Exeter.

What is Data Science and why is it exciting?

Data Science describes the field of exploring large data sets with means of machine learning and artificial intelligence, or in essence drawing meaning and value from large amounts of data. Data Science surrounds us every day. From suggesting optimal driving routes to delivering personalised newsfeeds, there are few areas not influenced by Data science. It also benefits diverse scientific applications, like health care solutions or weather and ocean predictions. In fact, the current time marks a sweet spot for Data Science because of the concurrence of increasing computing power, the unprecedented amount of data, and availability of techniques to analyse this data.

The Met Office has identified the importance of Data Science and included in its Research and Innovation strategy the goal of ‘Fusing simulations with Data Science’. Kirstine is in a leading position in this field as the Met Office Principal Fellow for Data Sciences and the Co-Director of the Joint Centre for Excellence in Environmental Intelligence. The Joint Centre supplies the resources and research to explore applications of Environmental Intelligence – the exploration of environmental data with artificial intelligence – creating the networks across institutions for enabling exchange and progress.

Where are the Women?

To exploit its full potential, the emerging field Data Science needs all hands on deck – Is this mirrored in a diverse, vibrant workforce?

Not quite. As in most STEM subjects, women are underrepresented in Data Sciences. A report by the Alan Turing Institute found that globally only 26% of employees in Data Science are women (22% in the UK) and that women tend to change jobs more often or leave the sector. Another report found that the majority of Data Science teams don’t include women at all (53%). At the same time, Artificial Intelligence positions are reported as “hard to fill” (69%).

The gender imbalance has negative implications for the quality of Data Science, and diversifying the workforce is beneficial beyond being a box-ticking exercise. Kirstine gave three reasons: first and foremost, it is the right thing to do! Second, Artificial Intelligence algorithms and Data Sciences are inherently prone to bias. Algorithms are trained with and based on data, which therefore have to be representative of the society. If there is a bias in the people collecting the data, analysing it, creating the algorithms, etc. the outcome will likely be biased as well and in consequence not represent or benefit the entire society. Third, numerous studies have found that diverse workforces are more productive, more creative, more resilient, etc. (see for example a study by Nielsen et al. (2018) or this Catalyst summary). Therefore employers and companies benefit directly from a diverse workforce.

Overall, this evidence is a strong call to diversify Data Science, from data collection to algorithms. A diverse Data Science team is more likely to produce solutions for the entire society for the challenges of our time.

In the discussion, Kirstine gave some brilliant tips for how to thrive in your career and build the courage to aim high:

  • Build a support network. This can be friends, family, and mentors, from distance or near you. Claim some positive energy whenever you need a boost in confidence (and of course return the favour another time). In this way, taking risks will become easier, and large professional steps less daunting.
  • Follow your interests. Take risks. Apply to positions you are interested in, even if you don’t tick all the boxes for the application. For preparing for the times an application is rejected, build your resilience by being passionate about your subject but not too attached personally.
  • Demonstrate leadership and be a role model for the change you want to see. This involves saying yes e.g. to panel discussions if this improves gender balance, or saying no e.g. to give someone else the opportunity such as a younger colleague.

We thank Kirstine for taking the time to join Women of Climate and supporters for this inspiring talk. Thanks to Laura Dawkins for leading the discussion.

Dr Kate Marvel: Climate, Clouds and Communication

This month we held a joint meeting with the Inspiring Science seminar series at the University of Exerer, and we were fortunate to be joined by Dr Kate Marvel- a high profile physicist and climate science who is also well-known for climate communication. Kate’s career has spanned researching policy relevant science issues at Stanford, wind power and the Carnegie Institute, fingerprinting the human influence in precipitation change at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and climate forcings and feedbacks at Columbia University. Most recently, Kate teaches Dynamics of Climate Variability and Change at Columbia University whilst also working at NASA GISS. Kate’s communication efforts started with a blog, but have included high profile writing in Scientific America and the book/project ‘All We Can Save’ as well as high profile interviews with Time magazine, the New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine. Kate gave a TED Talk on clouds and climate change in 2017 which has had over 1.3 million views.

To start the meeting, Kate gave us a brief overview of her climate communication work, and the difficulties of telling a story that might not seem very interesting to some, and even just depressing. Kate noted that we are at a point where the global political landscape is shifting. We shouldn’t be trying to counter the question- ‘I don’t believe in climate change’. This isn’t the biggest threat, as this only accounts for a very small amount of hard to reach people. Instead, many people are apathetic or don’t know what to do about it. We need to talk to the people who don’t understand climate change, who don’t see how it will impact them, who don’t care and don’t know what to do. This is a much larger proportion of society which is open to listening.

  • Beware of the extremes (e.g: on social media, the extremes make a lot of noise but are not necessarily representative of the general population)
  • Talking about science is storytelling
  • Find the ‘deep story’ – Find the one thing which matters to someone and their values. You may be able to communicate better with someone that you have shared values or hobbies with.
  • Keep reading both fiction and non-fiction, it helps to make you a better writer and communicator
  • Just start writing – ‘Keep typing until it turns into writing’ David Carr, New York Times. Try out creative methods, simplifying your science, writing in different styles e.g: poetry
  • No one person can be THE climate communicator, it requires everyone to take part.

After hearing from Kate, we had the opportunity to quiz her on different aspects of climate communication and her career. The questions were provided by members of the Women in Climate network and attendees on the day. The discussion mainly focused on improving the communication and outreach we can do as climate researchers. One of the best bits of advice given was to talk about the climate crisis as a problem with a solution. This tends to help people engage with the problem without causing despair and helps them to take action. Remember that the majority of people care about the climate, but do not know enough, or do not know where to start helping. Overall, having more people speaking about the crisis is one of the best things that we can do. This helps to decrease the burden, reach the disengaged and initiate societal change.

Also discussed was ‘All We Can Save’, a topic of a previous Women in Climate book club earlier this year. This exciting project bought together a huge number of women climate scientists and activists to contribute essays and poems, including Kate Marvel. We were also excited to hear about Kate’s new book, ‘Human Nature’, the story of climate science in 9 emotions, which will hopefully be published next year. Kate also suggested other resources to keep on learning, and a variety of fiction, non-fiction and web pages are listed at the end of this post.

We would like to thank Kate for speaking, everyone who attended the event for their excellent questions, and the Maths department for their help in making this event possible as part of their Inspiring Science series.


Book Recommendations

Kate Marvel book coming soon (‘Human Nature’)

Katherine Hayhoe ‘Saving us’


Octavia Butler (Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents)

Mary Shelly

Richard Powers

Web resources:

Real climate, link

Sceptical science, link

Climate feedback, link

Women and Climate Craft

Exeter staff and students joined others across the country to become “Canary Craftivists” this week. We met to sew little yellow canary birds from fabric leftovers, and to join the call for decisive climate action at this year’s climate change summit, COP26, which is being hosted by the UK government, in Glasgow. These little fabric canaries represent the warnings we have from scientists across the world about how climate change will impact the things we hold dear, in the same way that canaries were once trusted by miners to warn them of upcoming danger. This foreknowledge gives us a crucial opportunity to work together to limit the damage and protect communities. The birds will be sent as gifts to local MPs, to support their efforts to lead the way in creating a cleaner and greener future for all. “Canary Craftivists” is a national initiative run by the Craftivism Collective, who use handicrafts as a tool to bring people together for quiet, creative activism, which they call ‘gentle protest’.
Read more about the event in the GSI press realase here.
 We also discussed the Moths to a Flame campaign as a future crafting project!

“Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” Blog

This month we hosted a book club discussing the Sunday Times best seller, `Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This book, first published in 2017, brings a fresh, British perspective to the conversation around anti-racism which was sparked globally in the summer of 2020. We would highly recommend reading this book for those not able to attend the call. An interesting discussion was had around a number of the different themes in the book, with the conversation focused on some questions proposed in a blog post by Sally Flint found here. Particularly interesting was the chapter on intersectionality and feminism, and the subsequent discussion on how we as Women in Climate can support black people and other minorities in the sciences. A number of participants also suggested implicit association tests, to help further understand our own biases. We hope that we will be able to continue this conversation within the network going forwards and a number of additional book and films were suggested by the participants as listed below.


Further Reading and Watching (Recommended by session participants)

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch

How to argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford

13th on Netflix

Small Axe BBC one

Superior by Angela Saini (also her book Inferior for the science behind sexism)

The good immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

What white people can do next by Emma Dabiri

So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo (Also her book Mediocre)

Ten simple rules for building an antiracist lab by V Bala Chaudhary

Some fiction suggestions…

Homegoing by Yaa Gyuasi

Small island by Andrea Levy

Gender differences in productivity and collaboration networks of top-ranked academics

This week we were pleased to be joined by Ana Jaramillo and Mariana Macedo to discuss this topic of gender differences in academia. Both are PhD candidates at the University of Exeter in Computer Sciences.

First we heard from Mariana about `Differences in the spatial landscape of urban mobility: gender and socio-economic perspectives’. This study is based on the definition of human mobility as the displacement between locations in urban areas e.g: how far someone travels for work. This has historically been very different with women either staying at home or working closer to home for reasons such as childcare and safety. This work only considers the social constructs affecting urban mobility, and not possible biological reasons. The aim of the work is to address a gap in the current literature and shows that urban mobility can be impacted by a variety of factors including cultural constructs, modes of transport, city development and spatial opportunities.

The work done by Mariana considers mobility in three different locations (Medellin, Bogotá and São Paulo), and quantifies the mobility diversity as a quantity H. It is no surprise that men consistently had a higher level of mobility in these regions. Interestingly, the upper class had lower urban mobility and a larger gender difference compared to middle class where the gender gap was smaller. Overall, socio-economic factors gives a higher diversity in mobility then gender difference, but gender difference can become ten times higher when we also consider socio economic factors.

We then heard from Ana on the topic of `Gender difference in productivity and collaboration networks of top-rated academics’. It is well known that women are underrepresented in academia, particularly in STEM subjects. The good news is that representation is growing, but very slowly. From this work, it is hoped that it may be possible to diagnose the problem of this slow growth. Ana’s work focuses on the productivity and collaborations of the top 10% most productive computer scientists as quantified by their number of publications.

From the number of publications over a person’s career, it is interesting that women are seen to have much shorter careers at 35 years vs 47 years for men on average. Once productivity is understood, collaboration and networks can be studied by looking at co-authorship on papers. It was interesting to hear that women work with more women than men do, while men work with men more than they do with women. Women also have networks which are more clustered meaning that they tend to work more in research groups. The conclusion of this is that men work with women less than expected. The good news is that this is slowly changing as representation improves and working patterns become more collaborative.

Communicating science through comedy and storytelling

There are two main barriers for scientists communicating their work to the public:

  1. the prestige and elevation of the positions we hold at Universities or the Met Office can be intimidating to the general public (although our knowledge is respected), and

  2. the language we use is often filled with jargon and expert knowledge.

Rather than trying to tell the general public about your job and specific area of science, your role in general climate communication using comedy is to be an accessible messenger of general climate information. In doing this it is key to:

  1. show you’re human,

  2. talk about yourself even to the point of self-deprecation (can be very amusing)

  3. not talk down to your audience, and

  4. bring people into everything (this makes it relatable).

Doing these things will help your audience engage in what you’re talking about. Everyone likes to be entertained and learn something. You make it easier for your audience to learn when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves. The goal is to engage people and make a connection with you as a person early.

For a topic such as climate change, people have strong opinions. If they deny the science, it is more realistic to not try to convince them to change their minds then and there, but it is more effective to think of your job as trying to soften their view. You probably won’t change their mind that day, but if you’re lucky you might start to break down some misinformation they regard as factual.

When talking to the general public, it is important to talk about shared experiences and invite people to take individual action. Most of your audience likely cares about the climate, but does not know much about it, and does not know how they can make a difference. Examples of individual action include changing their energy provider to a green energy company, eating less meat, or walking more rather than driving. Small actions do help motivate people to in time make larger changes such as putting solar panels on roofs, getting smaller cars or not flying.

Tips for speaking about climate change:

  • Tell jokes and have fun but don’t make fun of climate change.

  • Dark humour can be fun when the right person uses it, it can be very effective. But Climate change is already a dark topic, so be cautious or even avoid dark humour about it unless it is a style to which you are naturally experienced using for comedy.

  • Health and food security are good ways of talking to people about climate change. It is easy to understand and the impacts are personal rather than abstract.

  • Write the talk first, then try to make it funny. It is too hard to think of jokes first and then arrange the talk around it.

  • Most of the jokes you come up with you won’t use (80-90% you won’t use). But you need to work on it to find the right ones that do work. Almost all of Matt’s jokes are planned, only very infrequently are the spontaneous.

  • Newspapers are a great place to find material to talk about. There are very few people who can give a general science talk on their area of research. You need to know a little bit about a lot of things. Newspapers have already removed a lot of the technical jargon so it is a good entry point (do still read the papers though as the media do sometimes misrepresent scientific findings, and consider how reliable the science journalism of the paper that you are reading is. Carbon Brief is an excellent place to start for accurate climate journalism.).

  • Ask yourself: If I knew nothing about climate change, what would I need to know?

  • If you have energy and are engaged in the material, your audience will enjoy it more.

  • If you want to get better at public engagement, do it often. It is very hard to be a good communicator if you only do it once a year. If you are specifically interested in comedy, attend comedy clubs to get lots of experience hearing different comedians, and to try it yourself!

An example exercise – Write a sentence about your job. Then in a follow up sentence, diffuse your expertise with humour. An example from our member Karina Williams: “I grow plants in computer simulations of the planet, which makes it even more embarrassing how messy my garden is.”

A big thank you to Matt for leading the workshop and to Kirsten Lees for the event idea and managing the logistics of the event.

Action at a Distance: A Reflection on the History of Women in Science

This week we were lucky to be joined by Dr Kirsten Walsh from the University of Exeter. Kirsten’s work focuses on the Philosophy of science, in particular Isaac Newton’s early modern philosophy. Newton is well known for believing that women did not have a place in science, and his Newtonian followers started a new type of science book- Men explaining Newtonian science FOR women, since it was not to be done BY them. It was appropriate for women to read about, and discuss popular scientific theories, but they wouldn’t be invited to intellectual gatherings, or permitted to universities for another 150 years, with some exceptions. This view of excluding women from scientific discovery far pre-dates Newton, but he arguably popularised it given the weight he had in the scientific community. Sadly, some of these views have persisted to today, and Newtonian followers influence has been discussed at length in books by the likes of Laura Miller and Patricia Fara.

While not well documented, there have always been women doing science, although they are often not in visible positions or given appropriate credit for their work. Kirsten proposes this theory to help explain the history of Women in science – Action at a distance. While women were doing science and having influence, it was unseen, both at the time due to prejudice and also now, due to the lack of historical documentation. Yet these women had a profound impact on science despite their separation.

The first woman highlighted in Kirsten’s talk was Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673). While not an experimental scientist in the traditional sense, Margaret Cavendish published a number of works in her own name including poetry, plays and natural philosophy. While shy in character, Cavendish became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I before later marrying William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle. Margaret had been known for writing down many of her ideas as a child, and continued this into her marriage. While married, she and her husband hosted the so-called ‘Cavendish circle’ – a gathering of intellectuals in their own home. It was not common for women to attend these types of gathering and so by hosting them, Margaret was able to participate in scientific conversation amongst other scholars. Most notably, Margaret Cavendish was the first woman to attend a Royal Society meeting. Her request had initially be denied, however the founders of the Royal Society had never explicitly banned women. She was eventually allowed to go to a meeting, however her ideas were often belittled by her male peers and she was given the nickname ‘Mad Madge’. Her contribution to science has only been fully recognised in the last 50 years and so while not explicitly excluded from scientific circles of the day she was separated from the credit she deserved by a temporal distance.

We then looked at the story of Emilie Du Châtelet, a mathematician and physicist who lived from 1706-1749 in France. She benefited from an indulgent father who encouraged her intellectual curiosity, and the ability to hire tutors for herself in later life. Most of her work is not credited, with many of her contributions thought to have been published in other books. In particular, she is thought to have contributed to Voltaire’s ‘Elements of future philosophy’. She also had an interesting friendship with Francesco Algarotti, who called her “sufficiently skilled” and is thought to have used her ideas in his Neutonianismo per le dame (‘Newtonism for ladies’). Thankfully some of Du Châtelet’s work was credited. Most well-known is her French translation of Newton’s Principia which included her own work on conservation of energy, and is still the standard translation used today. Also published was a physics textbooks she had written for her 13 year old son. The debate following this publication resulted in her becoming a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of Bologna. Once again, while not fully excluded from science, Emilie was separated from her work, this time by not being given credit for her ideas.

Next, the discussion turned to Laura Bassi (1711-1778), who is recognised to be the second woman in the world to earn a PhD, and the first to do so in science. She was later a salaried employee at the University of Bologna, and the first woman employed as a lecturer and then as a professor at a University. Bologna was well known for being progressive in terms of equality, and yet while she was a professor there she was restricted to carrying out a number of ceremonial duties, and was only allowed to lecture once a term. All of these additional, non-scientific responsibilities would have eaten into her time in which she was able to do her science. This is a something many female academics are still familiar with, although today with less compulsory poetry writing. Laura Bassi also benefited from the patronage of the Archbishop of Bologna, later Pope Benedict XIV. It was with his assistance that she was able to earn her PhD and position at the University. He also helped her gain access to academic books, and later funding to start conducting experiments in her own home. Bassi was perhaps the most accepted to the women in science discussed in this session, and yet was still separated from her science and relied upon male patronage to get access to resources. In this case, due to the ceremonial roles given to her, and the compulsory poetry that went along with it, taking her away from the research.

Finally, Kirsten talked about Mary Anning (1799-1847). Anning came from a very different class to the other women discussed, and her family was by all accounts, poor. It is likely that she was not at all educated, but took over the family business in Lyme Regis selling fossils from the Jurassic coast. These specimens were mostly sold to tourists, while some went to experts for collections and studies that will have informed a significant amount of geological science at the time. The methods that Anning developed would go on to be used more widely, leading her to be labelled as the pioneer of early fossil hunting. It is known from correspondence at the time that Anning’s work influenced a lot of science, however she never had any mention in publications, and was completely excluded from scientific circles. It is part luck that we can ever credit this work to Mary Anning – had her brother not been away at a work, or had there simply been another male in the shop, she would likely not have got any credit at all. Anning is more excluded from scientific circles than these other women, due to both class and gender. Despite this, the influence she had on the field of geosciences is profound.

Often when women in science are discussed, we talk of women being excluded from their fields. This is not always the case. As we have seen, a number of these women looked like they were being included, whether being given access to the Royal Society or a professor of a University. However, despite these signs of inclusion, all of these women were separated from their work in one way or another. Kirsten argues that this is a more accurate description – these women were separated from their scientific communities and influences science from a distance. The discussion that followed Kirsten’s talk centred on some of the class divides that these women also faced, and how this often also caused a further separation. It is interesting to think about how some of these separations are still seen today, and I’m sure this will be topic of many conversations in the future.

Do We Have A Gender Balance Problem in Weather and Climate Science?

Yes. How can we work to fix it?

Inspired by MIT’s report on the status of women in science, we wanted to know what the data says about the gender balance at the University of Exeter and the Met Office, from junior to senior levels.

Gender (and other diversity) statistics allow us to understand our present situation and help us find ways to increase the representation of women and other identities at senior levels in our institutions.

March’s WiC meeting provided an opportunity to discuss gender balance and gain some insight into what gender statistics tell us about our institutions. We were joined by Professor Janice Kay, Provost at the University of Exeter, and Dr Jenny Cook, data insight consultant on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Met Office.

First it is important to note that gender is not binary, but for the for the purposes of protection of identity anyone who has identified as ‘Other’ data are not shown. Penny Maher introduced some data from the University of Exeter, looking at the student numbers feeding climate disciplines at Exeter and showed that most Geography undergraduate and postgraduate students are women, while in Mathematics and Physics more students are men. For both Geography and Mathematics, there are more women in the lower salary grades compared to men (in both post-doc and permanent staff). Furthermore, there are more men employed in Geography and Mathematics (in both post-doc and permanent staff). This raises several important and interconnected questions:

  1. How do we increase the participation of women in undergraduate and postgraduate Mathematics and Physics?
  2. Why are women employed at lower grades than men in Geography and Mathematics? Are women being employed at lower rates or are women missing out on opportunities to progress into more senior roles? What could be the barriers here?
  3. What can we do to support women’s progression in the scientific workplace?

Janice Kay highlighted that there is widespread desire for the University to be an inclusive environment, and the University is committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment. Every aspect of progression and reward is scrutinised to aim to close the gender pay gap, which has been reducing in the last few years. There has been improvement in STEM colleges but still a long way to go. There is also an important need to consider intersectionality and ensuring we create an environment in which everyone can thrive.

Jenny Cook spoke as an EDI data consultant professional, first highlighting some of the factors contributing to gender imbalance. Women are impacted at every stage of life, encountering gender stereotyping and unconscious bias from the beginning. This sentiment was echoed in the meeting chat that the issues attracting women into male dominated professions are widespread across society and from an early age. Anecdotally, many women who achieve in science today come from supportive homes where these issues are understood, and encouraged to reject stereotypes, or attended all-girls schools where there was more support for girls studying traditionally male dominated subjects.

Jenny outlined two typical issues of horizontal segregation across organisations, where we often see more women compared to men in more administrative focussed areas, and vertical segregation, where women are concentrated at lower levels of organisations. At the Met Office, like in many organisations, there are more women working part time compared to men, reflecting their additional caring responsibilities.

At the Met Office there is good gender diversity in more junior roles, and language in job adverts is specifically considered to ensure it is not biased toward attracting men. However, as you look at more senior levels in the research science areas of the office, roles are dominated by men.

In general, women across the workforce are more likely to work part time, face discrimination, be satisfied with current pay, take time off with stress, take time away from workforce, face gender stereotyping and unconscious bias. All these factors make it more difficult for women to progress and lead to fewer women at senior levels – the so called ‘leaky pipeline’.

A meeting attendee reported that Julia Slingo in 2013 showed that 27% of Met Office staff in Science were women. Recent figures show it’s now 32% in the Met Office ‘Science’ area although there are more women in the science profession in other parts of the office. Including those scientists in the Applied Science area brings the percentage to around 37%, though when scientific software engineers are also included the percentage is reduced to 34%. However, the ‘leaky pipeline’ effect means that there are systemic issues and so although the gender diversity is improving overall, it is poor at senior levels, and time alone will be unlikely to simply lead to change. In addition, we must consider intersectionality – proportions of women from BAME and lower socio-economic backgrounds are much lower, which must also be addressed.

One of the first questions referring to the University data was ‘Are we hiring men at greater rates at higher levels or are they negotiating higher pay?’ and quite simply, this is very difficult to unpick given the lack of data available. Attendees talked about how women do not typically push for higher starting salaries. Research into academic promotions, shows that woman apply less, so promotions workshops can help encourage everyone to apply.

Encouragement tends to really help women ‘play the game’ – negotiating salaries and applying for funding are two examples for example. However, it was also noted that the system at the Met Office to ensure equal pay means that everyone is recruited onto the bottom of the salary band, and negotiation is not an option for anyone.

Other anecdotes shared by attendees include: a new staff member assuming a Professor was filling in for a colleague, and after an hour of answering questions the staff member asked when the Professor would be arriving for the conversation, and a female attendee who removed their name from their CV was assumed to be a much older man by a hiring committee because of her experience.

The problems surrounding lack of gender diversity at senior levels are very complex and multi-faceted and we cannot list all the reasons here. To address these problems properly, institutions need to devote time and effort to understanding their quantitative data, perhaps through qualitative surveys from staff to really gain an understanding of the issues. It is likely that many initiatives and a culture change are required to realise true gender diversity across organisations – small isolated improvements will have only limited success.

As is often the case, the potential importance of mentoring and training was discussed. To make a true culture change, mandatory learning about why we need diverse organisations and how everyone needs to play a part in actively helping with organisational aims may be the way forward.