Women in Science
Leadership, everyday working and administration
The work the women did was varied and revolved around leadership, lab time, writing research applications and academic papers, postgraduate supervision, teaching, conference presentations and administration including emails and meetings. Many of the women acted as role models in their field and mentorship of early career researchers was an important part of their work.
The more senior the role, the greater the responsibility for administrative work within the university although leadership involves other ways of contributing to science. These include ‘giving something back’ to junior scientists, having a strategic overview of their field and influencing debates and resource allocation by editing journals or sitting on funding committees.
We asked the women we interviewed to give us an insight into their everyday working lives, what they did, what they enjoyed and what they wish they could do less. They told us that it often seemed there were no two days the same with a mix of lab time, research grant applications and paper writing, post graduate supervision, teaching, and administration including emails and meetings.
Managing this varied workload was not always easy, and it can be hard to say ‘no’ – especially if they suspected they were the only person available. Unsurprisingly most said they wished for less administration, especially the ‘bad’ kind, and more time on their research or with students, although some found the administrative and managerial work a rewarding way to ‘do science’.
What is administration in the context of being a researcher or scientist? We asked the women we interviewed what ‘administration’ they do. Their answers included a broad set of duties, tasks and responsibilities including project management, departmental management, finance, teaching administration, responding to emails and attending internal or external meetings. While some compulsory tasks were dismissed as ‘box ticking’ women found work such as sitting on funding committees, editing a journal, or attending college meetings more rewarding.
Julia explains that research necessarily involves a degree of administration, but suspects that some of the 'box-ticking now required has little value.
Some women we spoke to thought that because woman are still in a minority at senior levels in STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) departments, and there is a desire to have better gender balance on committees, they could end up being asked to do more than their male peers.
Strategies For Working
The women we spoke to had found various ways to manage their workloads – including maintaining a work-life balance – and the university bureaucracy.