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Women in Science

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Portrait of Kay DaviesInterview excerpt: Kay has had good mentors. She thinks that sponsorship may be more important than mentorship. She keeps a list of women whose names she can put forward when opportunities come up.


I think mentoring is very important. You need someone who will push you. I mean my husband was in some ways, somebody who would push me back, whenever I felt battered, would put me back in there and I had mentors as I went through. That’s very important but I ran a ‘Women in Science’ day at the Wellcome Trust recently and a senior women made a very good point and that is that sponsorship is the issue, not mentorship. Any time anything comes up, the men, senior men have a number of protégés that they would put forward for every single job. Women don’t do that and we need more sponsorship. So ever since that meeting, I’ve tried to collect names so any time anybody asks me about anything, I’ve always got some name to put forward that is female.

Do you think men somehow engineer that they’re going to be on the list for the job, so that bosses put them forward or do you think it’s just that men only think of men?

I think men only think of men. That’s because there aren’t very many women for them to think of and one of the good things that the Royal Society did was to make a separate list of the women FRSs because, you know, you think, who should we nominate for this award? And, of course, it’s bound, because of the proportion of men versus women, the Royal Society are bound to think of a man and even I would do that but if I’m given the list and I can go down that list and think would this award suit any of the women on this list, and it doesn’t have to be positive discrimination. We’re just making the playing field level.

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