News Archive

2019 BFWG AGM

Arranged by Lincoln and Lincolnshire LA

Nominations for Office 2020

British Federation of Women Graduates

Application for Position – Vice President 2020/23

Margaret Middlemass

Member of Leeds Association – How long? 30 years

Degree, Awarding Institution and Year of Graduation: BSc Combined Sciences Leicester University 1975

Experience Relevant to Your Application within the BFWG and Outside: Former BFWG treasurer, former CIR, former Scholarship Fund trustee;  treasurer for the IFUW conference in Manchester 2007.  Also a Soroptimist (several years on the regional executive) and associate member of WI – both 6-0 organisations working with BFWG.  I am a Chartered Accountant still working full time.

What do you think you can you bring to the BFWG in the Office/Position? I have experience of collaborative working within the management team and other committees of BFWG and the international bodies, and have worked with our incoming President previously.  This is a challenging time in the Federation’s history and I look forward to helping the leadership team pursue a future role and meaning for the organisation.

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member nominating you: Leeds

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member seconding you: Lincoln    

 

Application for Position – Eastern Region Regional Rep

Yvonne Makwali

LA or Independent Member – How long? Two years

Degree, Awarding Institution and Year of Graduation: BSc Business Management, University of Sunderland, 2014. MSc Data Analytics and Operations Management, ongoing.

Experience Relevant to Your Application within the BFWG and Outside: Up until recently, I was Trustee and Board of Directors of an international facing charity. Currently a trustee at Hillingdon Community Trust

What do you think you can you bring to the BFWG in the Office/Position? In my day to day job working in the grant making sector, part of my role is about raising the profile of the charity and getting as many charities are as eligible to access grant support. I would use the skills I have to engage with both new and establish members alike on the work of BFWG.

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member nominating you: Greater London

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member seconding you: Canterbury

 

Application for Position – Eastern Region Alternate

Gail Ruth Sagar

LA or Independent Member Greater London – How long? 11 years

Degree, Awarding Institution and Year of Graduation: B.Sc. Econ  LSE  1965

Experience Relevant to Your Application within the BFWG and Outside: I ran my own PR consultancy business before selling it. I continued working as an independent consultant until 2006 and bring an understanding of how business works to the organisation. I was Regional Rep for Mercia and Wales so can give a lot of support and I have an understanding of BFWG’s needs from my recent work on the Management Team. As programme coordinator for Greater London I am also aware of the pressures to deliver to members.

What do you think you can you bring to the BFWG in the Office/Position? As stated, having once been a regional rep I can give relevant support to the incumbent

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member nominating you: Greater London

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member seconding you:Canterbury

 

Application for Position – Trustee of the Sybil Campbell Collection

Alys Julia Blakeway

Degree, Awarding Institution and Year of Graduation: BA Class II in Literae Humaniores, Oxford University, 1974

Experience Relevant to Your Application within the BFWG and Outside: Qualified librarian working in the Hampshire Local Studies Collection

What do you think you can you bring to the BFWG in the Office/Position? Experience as librarian in a special collection (i.e., the Hampshire Local Studies Collection).

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member nominating you: n/a. Appointed by the Sybil Campbell Collection Trust, seeking approval by BFWG Council

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member seconding you: n/a

Application for Position – Governor of FfWG

Aisha Alshawaf

Member of Canterbury Association – How long? 10 years

Degree, Awarding Institution and Year of Graduation: BDS (Bachelor in Dental Surgery) Baghdad University/Iraq 1986

FDSRCS (Eng.) Fellowship in Oral Surgery awarded by The Royal College of Surgeons of England 1996

MFGDP  (UK),Membership in Faculty of General Dental Practitioners 2004

Diploma in Implant Dentistry (RCS)Eng. 2014    

Experience Relevant to Your Application within the BFWG and Outside: I have considerable experience at local level being the past president of my local association, and on a national level immediate past vice president. I am currently vice president of the European regional group UWE (University Women of Europe).

Professionally I was the regional representative of the British Association of Oral Surgeons, currently a member of the managed clinical network for KSS (Kent, Surrey and Sussex) Oral Surgery provision.

What do you think you can you bring to the BFWG in the Office/Position? I believe I have the necessary skills and expertise to fulfil the requirements of the role; in particular strong organisational skills and experience in team work. My  commitment and experience in different roles within the BFWG on a local, national and international level will aid in supporting the charity and maintain its historic links with BFWG.

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member nominating you: Canterbury & District

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member seconding you: Winchester

Application for Position – Sybil Campbell Collection Trustee

Caroline de Silva (Carrie)

LA or Independent Member – How long? Independent – approx. 8 Years

Degree, Awarding Institution and Year of Graduation:

LLB (Hons), University of Leicester, 1987

MA, Keele University, 2000

Experience Relevant to Your Application within the BFWG and Outside:

Have been a VP of the BFWG for nearly three years and take a keen interest in the history of the organisation.  Have also written and presented on the history of early women lawyers which, of course, drew me to Sybil Campbell beyond her BFWG link.

Have an overarching interest in libraries and archives as an academic and through both current historical work and through my MA (Local History), although my academic teaching has been in Law and Taxation.

Am a supporter (paid) of the Independent Libraries Association and am trying to visit them all.

What do you think you can you bring to the BFWG in the Office/Position?

Experience in using a wide range of libraries and archives both in the UK and overseas which, hopefully, gives a perspective on the Collection.

Experience in the operation of academic institutions, such as that in which the Collection sits.

Experience in working on non-profit teams, e.g. the management team of the British Federation of Women Graduates.

An awareness of the role of a trustee in overseeing the work of the Trust.

Above all an open mind, a willing hand and a willingness to help with whatever is required.

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member nominating you: N/A – Appointed by Trustees

LA or (if you are an Independent member) member seconding you: N/A

Norfolk and Norwich LA celebrate International Women’s Day

Norfolk and Norwich Association celebrated International Women’s Day by inviting Dr Anne Edwards from the John Innes Centre to talk to us about her work in Africa.

Her lecture was entitled ‘Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Planet’. Dr Edwards told us about the course, presented in Kenya at the Pwali University to 22 delegates from ten African nations. It enabled the undergraduates to develop research skills to examine plant diseases, pests and soil problems particular to their countries.

This was the second such course supported by the John Innes institute; the first being in Tanzania.

The afternoon ended with a beautiful presentation of the birds and animals found in Tsarvo National Park.

Women academics still feel gender-based pressure

Research from the British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG) highlights the problem areas

Despite legislation for equal treatment irrespective of gender and the valuable contribution made by the Aurora and Athena Swan initiatives, women in academic life still feel that their career progression is threatened by entrenched bias, both conscious and unconscious. According to a research project completed by the British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG), this threat particularly applies to older men who still seem to dominate decision-making in many UK universities. In a 2017 EU report on progress towards gender equality at work, the UK had made no progress on this issue in the last ten years.

Underscoring this situation in academia is women’s lack of appropriate training as leaders, lack of support and mentoring,  women’s own conditioning to accept the roles assigned to them rather than fight for more career-defining opportunities, and by obfuscation on the gender pay gap.

The project was inspired by a BFWG Colloquium held in 2011, addressed by women who had reached the top in academia. This examined issues such as women’s reluctance to challenge the status quo, the complexities of reconciling a career with childcare, the involvement of supportive men  and the need to ensure that head hunters are fully briefed on the women available to be put forward for top jobs.

Sixty one women at various ages and stages in their academic careers, from different universities and disciplines, were interviewed. It was apparent that younger women faced some of the same issues as the older interviewees but that in recent times men and women at the beginning of their academic careers were facing particular challenges. The research emphasis was on feelings rather than numbers with some surprising data gathered on being overlooked for promotion and unable to get papers published as women.

With 45% of academic posts now filled by women it is disappointing to find that at many universities women still struggle to make themselves heard and appreciated. Society has changed so that most people now accept in principle that gender-based discrimination is unacceptable, but the fact remains that respondents across all age groups, especially among the younger ones, pointed to “unconscious bias”.  While the law protects against discrimination it is hard to implement on the ground, and women are still less assertive in demanding fair treatment. While the blatant sexism, harassment and lack of promotion opportunities have disappeared today’s lack of job security, a seemingly uncaring system which demands undeliverable work levels and publication demands and the divide between teaching only and research positions have replaced them and affect all genders. There is still some way to go for real equality to be achieved and as a result the losers here are not just women but the whole higher education sector.

Further information on BFWG can be obtained from Gail Sagar, gailsheridan75@hotmail.com, 07786 577425

Further information on the research process and findings can be obtained from Dr Gillian Hilton

gillianlshilton@gmail.com, 07527 145813

Note: The British Federation of Women Graduates was established in 1907 in Manchester to advance the careers of women in academia and is the voice of women graduates in England. As a founding member of Graduate Women International (GWI) it promotes the necessity of education for women and girls globally. It provides money for Ph.D students to complete their research at UK institutions. It is also a member of University Women of Europe (UWE).

Academic Women and the challenges they face

Research from the British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG) highlights the problem areas

Introduction
The British Federation of Women Graduates’ (BFWG) qualitative research on women in academia has found that gender issues still exist, though these can also affect men. Legislation on equal treatment irrespective of gender plus the valuable contribution made by the Aurora and Athena Swan initiatives has seen progress but women in academic life still feel that their career is threat-ened by entrenched bias, both conscious and unconscious. This threat is particularly prevalent in older men who still seem to dominate decision-making in many UK universities. In a 2017 EU report on progress towards gender equality at work, the UK had made no progress on this issue in the previous ten years. Underscoring this situation in academia is women’s lack of appropriate training as leaders, lack of support and mentoring, women’s own conditioning to accept the roles assigned to them rather than fight for more career-defining opportunities, and by obfuscation on the gender pay gap.

This project was inspired by a BFWG Colloquium held in 2011, addressed by women who had reached senior roles in academia. This examined issues such as women’s reluctance to challenge the status quo, the complexities of reconciling a career with childcare, the involvement of support-ive men and the need to ensure that head hunters are fully briefed on the women available to be put forward for top jobs.

Sixtyone women at different ages and stages in their academic careers, from different universities and disciples, were interviewed. It was apparent that younger women faced some of the same is-sues as the older interviewees but that in recent times men and women at the beginning of their ac-ademic careers were facing similar challenges. The emphasis was on feelings rather than numbers with some surprising data gathered on being overlooked for promotion and unable to get papers published as women.

With 45% of academic posts now filled by women it is disappointing to find that at many universities women still struggle to make themselves heard and appreciated. Society has changed so that most people now accept in principle that gender-based discrimination is unacceptable, but the fact re-mains that respondents across all age groups, especially among the younger ones, pointed to “un-conscious bias”. While the law protects against discrimination it is hard to implement on the ground, and women are still less assertive in demanding fair treatment. While the blatant sexism, harass-ment and lack of promotion opportunities have disappeared today’s lack of job security, a seeming-ly uncaring system which demands undeliverable work levels and publication demands and the di-vide between teaching only and research positions have replaced them and affect all genders. There is still some way to go for real equality to be achieved and as a result the losers here are not just women but the whole higher education sector.

Questions about women’s equality in higher education institutions (HEIs) have been asked since the early 20th century and it is pertinent that women doing the same course as men were not granted degrees universally in the UK until the 1950s. Gender discrimination was an underlying theme of the 2011 BFWG Colloquium on Female Leadership in Higher Education: Overcoming the Barriers – real or imagined’? This identified women’s reluctance to take risks plus their lack of self-esteem as factors in a very real situation. That women still tell stories in 2019 of discrimination, being overlooked for promotion and being unable to get their papers published indicates that, while some progress may have been made, it is by no means enough. It should concern everyone that today, despite the fact that 45% of all academic staff are women, 78% of professors are men. Women make up only 22% of professorships in the UK.

The type of entrenched attitudes which still exist were dramatically illustrated in 1997 in the USA. Stanford neurobiologist Professor Barbara Barres transitioned into Ben and overheard her work be-ing denigrated – “Ben Barres is much better than his sister”. This enraged him and he championed women encountering bias in academia until he died in 2017. A colleague who transitioned the other way found her invitations to present papers and join committees declined, her work and her leader-ship qualities taken much less seriously.

The sample

Interviewees were sought from all UK institutions. Sixty women of different ages, at different stages of their careers including retired, in different disciplines and from different university types were in-terviewed. While the large majority were from a white ethnic background, black African and black and Asian English were present as a small minority. Levels in the hierarchy covered vice chancel-lors, deans and chairs, heads of departments, senior managers, those seeking work or having a teaching role alongside their PhD studies and those in temporary positions after their PhD (post docs). Semi-structured interviews using open ended questions were carried out by BFWG mem-bers, who were either already experienced researchers or were trained via paper instructions and email. They were conducted by Skype, phone or face to face and collated by the lead researcher who examined them for emerging themes, commonalities and differences. A Research Ethics Committee was involved at all stages.

Methodology: Qualitative v quantitative

According to many women researchers, when it comes to research men have an almost obsessive focus on numbers. Women often prefer to look at the factors between or underneath the numbers, extracting an arguably more realistic picture of the subject they are researching. For this reason, the BFWG project is purely qualitative, creating an opportunity for respondents to express all as-pects of their experiences and feelings related to the project which used purposive sampling across a wide range of disciplines. Content and theme analysis was then used to pinpoint similarities and differences between older and younger women. For some interviewees this was a cathartic experi-ence indicating the depth of feeling and frustration experienced. By including questions around the extent of support received, the impact of their domestic situation and encouragement to be ambi-tious, the project was able to extract the reality which many women face which cannot be ex-pressed in numbers.
The stories were examined for the similarities and differences faced in these women’s careers and for any themes from the ideas presented. These were compiled to produce a coherent narrative.

Summary of results

There are more similarities today in the challenges faced by men and women than previously occurred and employers need to reconsider their attitudes to all staff. This is within a climate of too few permanent posts available and the reluctant acceptance of most to sign short term contracts. This has to be seen in the context of funding for universities, especially those who are under-endowed.
The gender pay gap still exists but, because money is a dirty word in this context, it is not trans-parent. The 2017 EU report on gender equality, supported by detailed information from the Fawcett Society in 2018, placed the UK low in the ratings, on a level with Slovakia and the Czech Republic and well behind Scandinavia, the Netherlands and France. A subsequent 2019 report on UK univer-sities cited major gaps in both pay and bonuses, much of this down to the lack of women in higher paid jobs. The largest gap was 33.7%.
Significant differences in starting salaries of early career researchers were found with attendant lack of support and mentoring. This depends on the university concerned and the discipline chosen. For example, in the sciences, maths and engineering women are still not progressing to senior grades.
Pregnancy and maternity leave can result in many women being made redundant with little re-dress and, according to the Fawcett Society, paternity leave has not been very successful in re-dressing the balance while flexible working is often not available, despite provisions being made in law.
Harassment in the workplace is still very much of a reality. The TUC’s Everyday Sexism Project says that “52% of women have experienced it in some form and 80% did not report it to their em-ployer “(Fawcett Society 2018).
In-built male prejudice still exists in publishing research. Even today a male name on a research paper means it is more likely to be published These biases can be implicit but they affect women’s career progression.
There has been an exponential rise in teaching only contracts, even when someone expresses a desire to do research and this seems to affect women more than men. This could be an uninten-tional outcome of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). What is certain is that the closer the REF the greater the increase in teaching only contracts
Women are pressured into taking on mundane, time-consuming roles which did nothing to im-prove their promotion prospects and which men refused to do.
Athena Swan has made some progress, depending on the institution and discipline but early career responders said that having a family was all but impossible.

Some story excerpts

• Although I finished my career at senior management level I should have pushed more for Profes-sorship – I had the publications, had made a lot of money for the university, been involved with European grants and worked in Europe for the university and other bodies. However, no-one en-couraged me to go for it. The environment was not favourable for women. I regret that. (Retired Head Dept Education 1992Uni)
• I would have liked to make Dean. I was a Deputy but had no real encouragement (Retired Head Dept Sociologyi).
• I wish I had started earlier. I would like to make Professor but am not sure I have the energy now (Principal L Law 50s)
Note: all these had children and were from different disciplines
• I like where I work but think that the standard of student ability has dropped considerably in the last few years. There is not the same ability to analyse critically and I think that just doing teaching would bore me after a while (Senior L International Relations 30s), also with an unpaid post as a research assistant in a Russell Group university)
• I applied for 45 Post Doc posts before I got this one (Post Doc Physics 20s)
• I can only do this because my husband works in the City and earns a very high salary (Post Doc Vet Sciences 30s)
• I am satisfied with the work but not the precarious nature of the work with semester only hourly paid contracts. The pay doesn’t equal the work done and I cannot plan for the future (Lecturer, t Business 50s)
• The work/life balance is poor, the amount of work is unsustainable, most people (but not me) work ridiculous hours and this is increasing if anything – totally different than 20-30 years ago (Reader Engineering (40s)
• I am very angry I was never awarded Senior Lecturer level. There was total discrimination against women, gender discrimination was rife. I was the first woman in the subject area (Lecturer Engi-neering Retired)
• I was told (by a man) I would never get promotion in that university and not to bother to try. I had to change jobs to a different university. There it was totally different. was supported and encour-aged to apply for and achieve promotion (Prof. Education Retired)
• In that position (Post Doc) there is no entitlement to maternity leave. I did get pregnant but lost the baby. Now I have a more permanent post and I am still worried about maternity leave and asking for part time work. The top people are all men, though 75% of the students are female now and there is no support for family life. Clinical work starts at 8.30 and finishes at 18.00, too late for pick up from a nursery and there is no child care provision on site, despite us being in an isolated position away from such services (Lecturer Vet. Sciences 30s)
• I did not try to get promotion until the children were older and I felt I could cope so am slow in my progression. I was a Deputy for ages. (Dean Social Sc 40s)
• I love the work but can’t get a post doc place full time. I am working on two different projects, very stressful, and am in my thirties (Post Doc research Sciences 30s)
• It took ages to get a post doc position and some of the interviews were awful. I think because it was for Physics there was an anti-female bias and I am also an Asian Post Doc Physics 20s)
• The best thing to do is to work overseas as there is more respect for academics and better sala-ries than in this country (Senior L Health 50s)
• The environment in higher education is hostile, a blame culture, always the fault of the individual here (Lecturer Social Work 30s)
• I feel under threat in academia with government funding cuts and the devaluation of performing arts education in schools (Senior L. Drama 30s)
• I’m frustrated like others with the increasing bureaucracy of the institution (Prof Sociology 60s)
• No allowance is made for the time writing and publishing takes (Senior L Education 50s)
• I work in Engineering as the only woman and have the only telephone on my desk which I have to answer. All callers assume a woman who answers is the secretary (Researcher Engineering 20s)
• At my initial interview to join the maths department as the only woman I was interviewed by seven white men, all with beards. At the time I did not even question whether this was right but now I do everything I can to ensure that interview panels have a gender balance and possibly at least one representative from an ethnic minority (Prof. Maths 50s)
• I had to explain to my appraiser (also my head of department) that I could not take on any more work by showing him my teaching timetable at which he was astonished, apologised and with-drew his suggestion (Prof. Maths 50s)

Women’s challenges

Unconscious bias
While older women talked about discrimination, younger ones tended to use the phrase “uncon-scious bias” while two young women said that as a result of women only programmes for progres-sion there is now discrimination against men. However, this was the exception. Most cited maternity leave and child care as major hurdles with negative attitudes among some university leaders who regarded it as a waste of time to bring returnees up to speed, especially in the sciences, psycholo-gy, health sciences and engineering. Some universities were leading the way by banning early and late meetings and expecting men to take their full paternity leave but these were still exceptions.
Unrealistic expectations
There were strong feelings from all age groups and HEI types about the pressure of academic work, the unrealistic expectations of their employers and the effects on their lives. These were not necessarily gender related – rather the desire to achieve a work life balance by all. While older women tended not to have had children, younger women don’t want to make this sacrifice and it was pointed out that academia may be losing a lot of talent to industry where pay and hours were so much more realistic.
Research approaches
Bitter complaints were registered from women in science and psychology regarding men taking over in the choice of research approaches, favouring quantitative techniques whereas many wom-en (and some men) prefer a qualitative approach which is often dismissed as non-scientific. Some women moved universities to overcome this problem but the tide of male dominated research was against them.
Sexual harassment
How to deal with sexual harassment remains an issue, though more men now do their best to pro-tect vulnerable young women who are offered preferment or publishing opportunities in return for sex.
Chauvinism
The familiar shouting down or ignoring of women in meetings after which the points they made are greeted favourably when proffered by male colleagues remain an issue. Attempts to pacify women when they complain revolve around their “attractive” appearance rather than their ability (“that dress is very pretty and makes you look lovely”).
Women’s expectations
Some women seem not to notice evidence of gender discrimination even when they are providing it. One respondent asserted that she suffered no discrimination and that her treatment was always fair, yet five minutes later complained that when she first arrived, she was expected to make the tea.
Networking
Building productive networks still seems to be better done by men. Many women mentioned the need to be noticed, a problem when they are physically isolated. “I am in a building a good distance and across a road from the main building where all the important people are and there is not time to get there for coffee or lunch, so most of the people there have no idea who I am or what I do It is not good for my career but I can’t do anything about it” (Researcher Engineering 20s).

Promotion structures
Several women mentioned unclear promotion structures which differ between universities and do not favour those who are self-deprecating. Possibly because of conditioning, many women feel that if they don’t meet every criterion, they have no right to apply for promotion. However, universities which have panels to assess draft applications and give feedback on how to improve were highly praised.
Assertiveness
Lack of assertiveness was also to blame for the pressure on women to take the soft, caring time-consuming roles which men would refuse to do on the basis of not having the time.
Juggling for low pay
Many raised the difficulties at Post Doc stage of doing others’ research and having to juggle differ-ent posts at the same time for very low pay, though they were unanimous in saying that this was the same for men in their first jobs
Gender pay gap
The secrecy surrounding the gender pay gap, particularly at higher levels, concerned many. Re-spondents acknowledged that women often accept what they’re offered while men tend to negoti-ate a better salary.

Possible solutions

• While many universities now offer courses to empower women to take charge of their careers these need to be tailored to the demands of academia. Too often they are delivered by people coming from the business world who do not appreciate the context of academic life.
• Create a climate of transparency on pay and promotion prospects by better enforcement of legal frameworks already in position
• Train male academics in how to behave in order to create an environment in which their female colleagues can thrive rather than being discriminated against, put down and ignored
• While there are presently uneven results across universities, those with a pro work/life balance culture should be seen as a model to be rolled out throughout academia
• Encourage universities to be more proactive in mentoring and developing their staff (both male and female) with a model appraisal system which all can use
• Initiate blind reviews of papers for publication to remove the seeming bias against female authors
• Create exciting teaching preparation programmes – “I did not finish it as it was so poor”
• Introduce positive discrimination to create opportunities for non-white candidates and those from a working-class background

Then and now

Most respondents enjoyed their academic roles, even those with caveats as to how things could be improved. However, it was becoming increasingly difficult for both men and women to obtain per-manent status as opposed to short term contracts – a problem which is a very recent manifestation.
Today’s academics are expected to absorb high administration loads following the money saving removal of admin staff including having to learn new computer programmes to record data, and this tends to affect women more as they are often burdened with mundane, time-consuming roles which the men refuse to accept
The younger respondents all cited the difficulty of managing a family life while pursuing an aca-demic career and, while there are some illuminating exceptions, this remains an issue. In past times women academics ended to have chosen a career over children but today’s women do not accept that this is a way forward for them. Therefore, the ability to attend conferences and network de-pended on having a supportive partner at home
Many cited the desirability of child care facilities within the university but wondered whether this would be even discussed until more women were leading universities
Changes in the law plus training and support initiatives had made things better in the opinion of older respondents but younger women felt that the paternalistic, patronising culture within universities still created problems for them with regard to promotion and valuing of their contributions.
Whereas men in the past had left it to women to field all the caring roles, today’s generation strongly felt that this should be shared more evenly and there was evidence of some universities taking a proactive stance in this regard
Today the law encourages women to complain if they feel they have suffered gender-based dis-crimination but, some universities excepted, there was little actual support from the hierarchy, es-pecially the human resources departments and this is a practical issue which needs addressing
The excellent Athena Swan initiative was influential but its effect was often patchy across universi-ties and disciplines, with departments sometimes employing rather a tick box approach. Older women saw this as another element in supporting women’s progress which they would have appre-ciated.

Conclusion

With 45% of academic posts now filled by women it is disappointing to find that at many universities women still struggle to make themselves heard and appreciated. Society has changed so that most people now accept in principle that gender-based discrimination is unacceptable, but the fact re-mains that respondents across all age groups, especially among the younger ones, pointed to “un-conscious bias”. While the law protects against discrimination it is hard to implement on the ground, and women are still less assertive in demanding fair treatment. While the blatant sexism, harass-ment and lack of promotion opportunities have disappeared today’s lack of job security, a seeming-ly uncaring system which demands undeliverable work levels and publication demands and the di-vide between teaching only and research positions have replaced them and affect all genders. There is still some way to go for real equality to be achieved and as a result the losers here are not just women but the whole higher education sector.

Townswomen’s Guild 90th Anniversary

The Townswomen’s Guild is celebrating their 90th Anniversary.

As a token of the contribution BFWG President, Patrice Wellesley-Cole has made in exemplifying The Townswomen’s Guild ethos and values, they have made Patrice an Honorary Member and awarded her a badge.

The Townswomen’s Guild has proudly built on its suffragist (not suffragette) Foundation to support women in order to empower them to make their own lives and those of others better. This year is a special year in its history – its 90th Anniversary. The Townswomen’s Guild remains a nationwide forum still campaigning to improve the lives of women.

The bestowing of this honour on the current BFWG President indicates the bonds being forged between the members of 6-0 – the six leading women’s’ organisation in the UK.

Supporting research through scholarship

The University of Chester has recently renewed its commitment to supporting scholarships for women studying in challenging research scenarios.

The University and the British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG), have re-signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organisations. The document, which was first initiated in 2014, was signed by the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Wheeler, and Professor Cynthia Burek, Professor of Geoconservation at the University of Chester, and Chair of the Trustees of the British Federation of Women Graduates Scholarship Fund.

Professor Burek said: “I am delighted that we are continuing to work alongside the BFWG in this way. This MoU promotes understanding between two institutions aimed at improving education, especially at the tertiary level. The successes so far have been through exchanging educational courses and training, academic publications and, perhaps the most successful has been sponsoring and supporting an Afghan female PhD student from Kabul. She is now in her last year finishing her research on ‘An autoethnographic study of the obstacles for Afghani women in career advancement – barriers and resilience strategies at the workplace.’ This work has already been presented at the Scottish parliament and at international conferences.

“The University of Chester has also had students who have been the recipient of grants in the past when, for example, Foot and Mouth Disease prevented students from doing fieldwork or when divorce forced a student into financial difficulty. I am proud to say that this MoU was unique when it was first initiated and several other universities have followed the example set. Through cooperation and collaboration, we have achieved success in furthering equality in difficult research situations.”

The British Federation of Women Graduates through its wholly owned charity (Funds for Women Graduates) and its own Scholarship Fund gives away over £250,000 a year, to  deserving, final year female PhD students in cases of both academic achievement and hardship, often to those who have an emergency which is through no fault of their own, such as bereavement, termination of funding from their own country or medical problems. This is a hard fought competition with several hundred applications per annum.

2019 Westminster Seminar

On 14th November, members of BFWG gathered from across the country to attend the Westminster Seminar sponsored this year by Baroness Hazel Byford DBE.

The BFWG President welcomed everyone and introduced the Baroness who was involved for many years with the WRVS (Women’s Royal Voluntary Service) and was also lay canon at Leicester Cathedral, Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers and a member of the House of Lords since 1996. Baroness Byford lives in Leicester and has four honorary degrees, but she left school at 16 and now is often asked which University she attended – to which she replies, ‘The University of Life’. When giving us background about how the House of Lords works, she mentioned that you cannot work in an empty house and stressed the importance of ‘living in the real world’. She feels that Food, Farming and Rural Affairs must have flexibility.

First speaker:

Professor of Immune Cell Biology, Janet Lord’s department is based in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. She is a scientist working closely with medical doctors. The hospital is a paperless hospital (an iPad at the end of the bed) and it has 650 volunteers. Speaking about how life expectancy has changed and showing us many wonderful slides and statistics, she mentioned that in 1917, George V sent out nine congratulatory cards to people celebrating 100 years of age. Now the Queen will send over 13000 such letters. However, health span is less than life span. In targeting some of the issues around ageing, research indicates that we need to eat less and exercise more. In Okinawa (the longest-living community in the world) people believe in leaving the table slightly hungry. As you get older leg strength is important because you lose muscle mass. Trials into this are going on at present with 125 cyclists. Research has shown that statins can help with the fight against an increase in inflammation which is one factor in the ageing process. Further trials across the world have to be carried out but there has been success with reversing the ageing process to some degree, using drugs already known.

Second speaker:

Councillor Janet Clowes from Cheshire East Health and Well-being Board, spoke about the importance of improving health and the NHS England Long Term Plan, a five-year plan based on a joint health and well-being strategy with an integrated care system. She mentioned the social determinants of health: individual lifestyle, social and community lifestyles, living and working conditions, and general socio-economic surroundings. Income is also a factor along with cultural and environmental conditions. Social isolation can have a bad impact on your life. Janet spoke about having to assess need, not want, and produced a map nicknamed a ‘tartan rug’ which was an evidence based public health indicator as to where the differing areas of need were. This helped with conversations and decision making with their partners.

Both the speakers took many questions from the floor. The vote of thanks was given by BFWG VP Carrie de Silva. Baroness Byford and the speakers joined with members for afternoon tea in the Attlee Room with a view of the Thames from one of the windows.

Pat Brown, Sutton Coldfield

Canterbury and District LA Fundraising Christmas Lunch

Canterbury LA work hard at their fund raising.

This year, at their Christmas lunch, Canterbury and District raised £26O for The Women’s refuge. In addition £200 of toiletries were collected for this charity.

In 2018 a total of £1,168 was raised:

£530 Scholarship Fund
£278 Hogg Hoffet Fund
£150 Keyne’s pride
£210 Nappy fund / Women’s refuge

 

Many congratulations to Canterbury LA!!!

Recruitment visit to Cambridge

Gail Sagar and Dr. Gillian Hilton VPs gave a talk to women graduates at Cambridge Uni, to explain what BFWG stands for and its work with graduate women, including our awards and grants system and the Research Presentations Day.

In addition some information was also shared about our project on Academic Women with the audience, who wère around 40 in number. A great deal of interest was demonstrated and questions asked. Some of the audience had heard of BFWG, but most had not.

It was very good to be supported by the Student Service’s team at the uni in our attempt to spread information about us and the advantages of membership of our organisation.

Gillian Hilton VP

Educating Women to overcome bias at work

Educating women to overcome bias at work  – our theme for the year.

During the research on Academic women so many respondents, old and young complained about the biased attitudes at work to the female sex, especially after having children. Out and out bias was freely expressed in places and assumptions made that women were there to make the tea and if they could touch type, they must be the new secretary etc. Many women said that they and men in particular, should be obliged to undergo programmes that challenge conscious and unconscious bias towards women.

So BFWG are looking for women from a variety of professions, outside of Higher Education in any area of employment, who would be willing to talk about their experiences and more importantly asked what can we do to educate women to overcome these often accepted and ignored attitudes.

So BFWG member again we are asking you to step up to the face and become involved as so many of you did last year, doing a great job. Do you know anyone who is involved in training programmes on this subject?

Please let us now if you do as we are also looking for speakers for the AGM and in the new year I will be asking people to listen to stories of bias from women they know. Please, we want another success to put BFWG on the map; do help us, even one story will make a difference to the result. Thank you. Gillian Hilton VP

Quiz on Sexism

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Gender Equality Division of the Council of Europe has just produced a QUIZ which highlights some misconceptions people may have about everyday sexism.

The QUIZ is part of a series of activities of Sexism: See it. Name it. Stop it., a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the Recommendation on preventing and combating sexism. In order to make sexist behaviour visible and to prevent it, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a this recommendation in March 2019, which contains the first ever internationally agreed definition of sexism. It spells out how it manifests, the harm it causes, and what can be done to combat it.

Sexism is everywhere: in classrooms and in offices, on football pitches and magazine covers. But it is sometimes hard to pinpoint what it does, exactly, and we often tend to minimise sexist acts as harmless or not so important. However, all the incidents of sexism that accumulate over days and years create a climate that makes violence and discrimination – mostly against women – possible.

So take the QUIZ and then have a look at the information video and the action page, to found out how the Council of Europe is taking a stand against sexism in our everyday lives.

Dundee researcher praised with prestigious award

A University of Dundee researcher has been awarded a prestigious science award from the British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG).

Azul Zorzoli, a PhD student from Argentina, has received the Johnstone and Florence Stoney Prize, which recognises outstanding academic excellence in postgraduate researchers.

Her current research at the Helge Dorfmueller Laboratory focuses on understanding the basic biology of the Group A Streptococcus, a microorganism that causes 500,000 deaths a year worldwide. Recently, she discovered of a new enzyme which could prove crucial in the fight against this bacterium.

The 38-year-old researcher is one of seven winners to be honoured by the BFWG following a competitive nomination process which saw more than 240 submissions to the global graduate network.

Established in 1907, the BFWG aims to promote women’s opportunities in education and public life. BFWG awards are conferred based on the candidate’s outstanding academic excellence.
Azul said, “I’m incredibly proud to have been honoured with this award. The BFWG is an organisation that promotes women in science and education and defends values that mirror my own, such as gender equality in the workplace and empowerment of those interested in the sciences.

“Applying for the award was a brilliant experience, and I recommend it to all graduate students. After being shortlisted for the prize, I presented my work to a panel of academics from different fields. This award was also an excellent opportunity to reflect on my career path and future projects.

“I’m a proud member of the Helge Dorfmueller Laboratory here in Dundee, and I’m excited for what the future holds for our research.”

Azul is now working with her team and the University’s Drug Discovery Unit to develop compounds that could target their newly discovered enzyme. These investigations will aid the development of a new class of antimicrobial drug that could completely inhibit or reduce the enzyme’s activity and as a consequence, fight the Group A Streptococcus infections.

Recommendation on equality between women and men adopted by the Conference of INGOs

The recommendation on equality between women and men has been adopted by the Conference of INGOs on 30 October 2019.

 

This recommendation was proposed by Anne Nègre , President of University Women of Europe and Vice-President in charge of Equality with the participation of:  Association of Women of Southern Europe (AFEM), University Women of Europe (UWE), and support by: European Centre of the International Council of Women (ECICW), European Network church on the Move (EN/RE), European Union of Women (EUW), Intereuropean Commission on Church and School (ICCS), International Alliance of Women (IAW), Soroptimist International Europe (SIE), Zonta International (ZI), European Buddhist Union (EBU), ANDANTE Europa, European Action of the Disabled, (AEH), Conference of European Churches (CEC).

National Council of Women of Great Britain Annual Conference 2019

National Council of Women of Great Britain (NCWGB) was founded in 1895 and is affiliated to the International Council of Women (ICW) 1897. NCWGB aims to bring together women of all ages to learn more about local, national and international affairs that affect us all. NCWGB is active with a wide range of concerns to improve the quality of life for all – to interest and educate, to represent views at the highest possible level. The NCWGB vision is a world where it is no disadvantage to be born a girl!

Sudha Srivastava (R) with NCWGB President Elsie Leadley

This year’s Annual Conference was held in Woodland Grange, Leamington Spa between 11-13 October 2019 with the theme – Women and Justice: Towards A Fairer and Safer World.

Opening of the Conference had the presentations by Ministry of Justice staff – Administrating Justice: The Role of the Ministry. And, also had inter-school session for National Council Young Women (NCYW). Dr Kate O’Brien from University of Durham spoke about – The inside-out programme in prisons.

The film ‘On the Basis of Sex’ was shown after Friday dinner.

I attended the AGM and the presentations led by CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) 63rd session delegates – NCWGB at the UN (United Nations).

The delegates were mostly young members and they attended the sessions on their own field of study or interest.

Elsie Leadley took over the position of new President of NCWGB from Dr Andrena Telford (now Immediate Past-President).

Next year in 2020, the NCWGB will celebrate 125 years of its establishment and continuous support to uplift women.

I enjoyed the day wearing the two hats – BFWG NCW Representative as well as NCW Individual Member.

On a personal note: the new President Elsie introduced me to the floor and wished on stage (it happened to be my birthday on the day I attended the AGM!) with everyone singing the birthday song for me!

A very kind and valuable gesture to remember.

Left to Right: Elsie Leadley, Sudha Srivastava and Andrena Telford

Sudha Srivastava (NCWGB Representative)

October 2019

Domestic Abuse Bill

MPs debated the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in the House of Commons on 2 October 2019.

Second Reading

The Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, opened the debate on behalf of the Government. Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Carolyn Harris, responded on behalf of the Opposition. The Bill passed second reading without a division and now progresses to Committee stage.

A carry-over motion was also passed meaning that, if necessary, the Bill can continue its passage through Parliament in the next Parliamentary session.

Dr. Patricia Gillard visits the UK

Dr. Gillian Hilton VP (left), Gail Sagar VP (centre) and Dr. Patricia Gillard (right)

In Dr. Patricia Gillard’s words:

My role is President, Hunter Branch, NSW. We are members of GWI through Australian Graduate Women, our national organisation. I live in Newcastle NSW.

On holiday in London for a month, I thought it would be lovely to have an informal meeting with members of BFWG here. I was delighted to get a response to my request through your website. What I hadn’t anticipated was the focus we quickly found around research and issues for women in universities (the BFWG Project 18/19). In Australia we have related issues for women as leaders and professionals. Gillian and Gail were just the people to speak to about this!

I’ll report back and see if this research conversation we began can contribute to improvements for women in both countries.

World Teacher’s Day

On World Teacher’s Day, Graduate Women International celebrates young female teachers

Geneva, Switzerland, 5 October 2019

Today, World Teacher’s Day, Graduate Women International (GWI) joins the global community in honouring young teachers worldwide.  This year’s theme “Young Teachers: The future of the profession” is of special relevance and appeal to GWI who currently administers its Teachers for Rural Futures Programme, which supports young women to train as secondary school teachers and return to their rural communities as qualified teachers and role models for girls’ education.

“Education is crucial in the development of any country. It is also crucial that young women are offered the opportunity and incentives to become teachers. Only with unwavering commitment will leaderships produce more young women teachers and provide more girls’ the opportunity for education”

GWI President, Terry Oudraad.

GWI remains concerned about the challenges faced by young women today who want to become teachers. The teaching profession has become more difficult in the twenty-first century; it is less valued, incentives are reduced, hours are longer, resources are fewer and government commitment to producing qualified teachers is a shadow of yesteryear. As a turning point, GWI is encouraged by the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are the shared blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all; notably SDG 4, that aims towards recognising teachers as key actors in the success of the 2030 Agenda.

GWI is also concerned about the lack of incentives for female teachers to continue their career path. According to Education International’s 2018 report on the ‘Global Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession’, in the United States, 41% of 50,000 teachers leave the profession during the first five years. A similar statistic or even worse can be found throughout the world. GWI underscores that more must be done to attract and retain more female teachers who stay in the profession.

BFWG Research Paper Wins Award at Dubai Conference

VP Gillian Hilton summarises the results of her paper on the research results so far on Academic Women and the Challenges they face – their stories then and now

The conference brought together a highly eclectic mix of delegates, from a wide variety of countries. I was delighted to have 2 ex staff members of mine from my old university there and some colleagues who also attend with me the Bulgarian Comparative Education Society Conference in Bulgaria each year. To add to these well-known faces were people from Australia, the USA, UK, Nigeria, Japan, India, South Africa and Mexico, to name just some of the countries represented.. Most spoke excellent English, though I was sorry for the 3 Japanese who seemed to be totally at sea and not really able to follow what was happening at all.

In addition to the attending delegates, there were ones from various parts of the world who presented by the use of Skype. One person in Los Angeles had to present at what for him was 6.30 am to fit into the conference schedule.

Dr Gillian Hilton holds her award for best paper in education knowledge with (left) Professor James Ogunleye, University of West London and Professor (Emeritus) David Turner, University of South Wales and Beijing Normal University

 

On the first day I was presented with a certificate for Best Paper in Education Knowledge .This was a close to a 10,000 word paper, on the initial findings of the Project undertaken by BFWG members across the country. My heartfelt thanks to all those who gave up their time to interview and submit the results, plus those who agreed to be interviewed. It was hard work getting things going initially but then the results began to flow more freely for collation. Almost immediately themes began to emerge. I decided not to use any figures to report the results. as so many of the women interviewed and education press reports had confirmed that many academic women in Higher Education have been forced by university departments (science and psychology particularly guilty here) to adopt quantitative methods of reporting research, rather than qualitative ones which many women and some men prefer.  So, in solidarity with many of my sisters I recorded feelings, experiences and understandings expressed by the interviewees.

Our respondents came from a very wide variety of university types, from Oxbridge, Red Brick, Post 92, New Universities post 2000 and those with church affiliations or private funding. The disciplines of those who responded were also extremely wide from sciences of all types, medical education, psychology, veterinary sciences to film studies, arts and education and social sciences. There was a small number of respondents who worked in Wales and Scotland and ages ranged from late twenties to those in retirement. Employment was from Post Docs. attempting to find full time jobs in Higher Education, right through the range to Vice Chancellors. Ethnic minorities were represented but in small numbers, as there is a problem in particular with black women’s representation in Higher Education.

The paper was very well received by the audience, with many questions being asked, as it had sparked a great deal of interest. I had been given 45 minutes to present as an award winner, rather than the normal 30 which helped. As a result of the presentation I was asked if the work could be carried out in India and if I could attend one London University to repeat the presentation to staff there. The paper was presented as BFWG Research and as a result many delegates heard about us and our aims for the first time.

To conclude: – thanks again to members for helping me to raise the profile of BFWG internationally. This and the GWI workshop in Geneva have resulted in raised interest in what we are doing and in the research itself. There has even been a proposal for a book from a Germany based publisher. However, next step is a report for BFWG, some press announcement and if possible, information sent to the Universities’ Minister. Watch this space!

In addition, I would like to thank the Research Ethics Committee who were so helpful and supportive in ensuring that the research carried out met the standards expected at Higher Education level, which is essential if the results are to be taken seriously. Without their support we would not have been able to spread the findings internationally and have them taken seriously by Higher Education peer reviewers, which occurred in the case of the workshop and the paper presentation and publication.

The full paper is available online and is published in New Era in Education Journal, Vol 100 Issue 1 September 2019, pp31-46. ISSN    2054-3662.

Online go to http://www.newera.ijkie.org/journal-issues/ The paper will be listed under my name Gillian L.S. Hilton

International Day of Peace

Graduate Women International Urges Peace through Education

21 September 2019

International Day of Peace, Graduate Women International (GWI) and BFWG join the United Nations (UN) in encouraging all nations and people to honour the Day as a period of non-violence and ceasefire. GWI and BFWG further urge this cessation of hostilities as a commitment to improving education opportunities and standards for women and girls worldwide.  Accordingly, as an organisation dedicated to peacebuilding through education for 100 years, GWI passed Policy Resolution 2/2019 at its Peace through Education General Assembly and Conference held 25-28 July 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Policy Resolution 2/2019 declares that GWI and its National Federations and Associations (NFAs) worldwide will urge their respective governments to promote education to build peace in their communities and society, especially for those girls and women not currently in the scholastic system.  The resolution upholds that GWI and its NFAs seek “strong support from governments, including appropriate legislation to promote the advantages of having educated girls and women encouraging peace and increasing awareness in all communities and demonstrating the consequences if we do not help to build better societies without the fear of war and violence”.

“Education is one of the most powerful tools societies can implement to disarm the culture of war in any sense”

GWI President, Terry Oudraad.

GWI and BFWG recognize this year’s International Day of Peace theme, “Climate Action for Peace”, as critical to peace and the advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 13 on Climate Action and SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.  According to multiple studies, youth of today are key actors in achieving peace and crafting climate action. To provide essential climate action support to their generation and future generations, GWI and BFWG insist that girls must have an equal opportunity for education. Without education, girls and their futures risk being left behind.

Graduate Women International (GWI) is a membership-based international NGO based in Geneva, Switzerland, with presence in more than 60 countries. Founded in 1919, GWI is the leading girls’ and women’s global organisation advocating for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality education and training up to the highest levels. GWI is in special consultative status with ECOSOC since 1947 and is an NGO maintaining official relations with UNESCO and ILO.

BFWG Founded 1907

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