Athene SWAN follow up
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 13:59
martian77 in Athene SWAN

I got no responses directly on my blog post, but I did have several illuminating conversations on both Twitter and Facebook. Thank you very much to the people who helped me to have such a constructive conversation on Facebook - an unlikely group to manage to pull together in real life.

I feel I have a slightly clearer idea of a few of the potential pitfalls. I still maintain that other than the time to physically recover from the ordeal of childbirth solutions to other child-raising issues would benefit people of either gender. I'm personally all in favour of trying to put something like Sweden's parental leave system in place, not that it is ever likely to apply to me! Child care and help for parttime researchers will probably still help women more than men, I recognise that.  

There are some purely physical concerns, from being able to dominate a room to being able to project your voice well enough to lecture to a large hall. There are clearly issues around appearance still (although these also apply in industry). Name-changing (more common for women but still some men do it too) is difficult in a career that relies on reputation so much - I was recently irritated by a Gamesutra article about Constance Steinkeuhler Squire that went on to call her Squire throughout. At least they put the Steinkeuhler in once I guess! 

However, an unexpected thing I've started to notice (when you start looking) is that there are side-effects to being the visible woman. The role model for others to follow. Suddenly in addition to all the work you have to do anyway, you also have to be prepared to 'represent'. Committees that need input from women, interviews that have to have a woman present. Suddenly they all need you. And that eats up time, and actually could be quite undermining. You're pretty sure you're not there because they value your opinion, you are just 'the token woman' who they have to have. 

I'm not sure there is a good answer to that. If you want women to have a say in things and help remove any inbuilt prejudices/imbalances, you need to rely on the few women who've made it to give up their time. (Of course the women who've made it may not be the most helpful, as they've overcome or ignored the difficulties.) But it is something that I will try to remain aware of in the meetings I have coming up. 

Article originally appeared on Life on Mars (http://www.martiandaze.net/).
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