Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Helping People with their careers

Coaching or Mentoring, that is the question.

We are concerned in our school (Electronics and Computer Science) about the low numbers of female academics, and the apparent low progression rate from post grad, to post doc and academic.

Of course not all post grads will want to pursue an academic career, but we seem to have proportionally less females at each succesive level up the career ladder.

The University of Southampton has a number of initiatives which are specificially designed to assist/support female academics, post docs, post grads and undergraduates. See note at end of this post.

Plans are underway in ECS to introduce some life coaching for current post docs. Female post docs will all be approached directly, although the activitiy will be open to all post docs in the longer term.

Over in SES and Chemistry, there is a mentoring scheme which has just been launched. I think both approaches have particular strenghts, and will be interested to compare the two sets of activities.

WISET has already implemented action learning sets for senior female staff which has been found to be useful for those who participated, and may have contributed to a number of colleagues gaining promotions to Professorial level.

We have some fabulously high achieving women across our faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics. The provide wonderful role models for our female colleagues at all levels. Academic careers are highly competitive, there are some interesting issues inside the work we propose to consider to what extent the lower than normal levels of female progression is due to active choice, and to what extent it is due to structural barriers to female progression and the impact of perceptions on judgements made on both sides of the interview table.

WISET is a national organisation, and the local 'branch' is active in our faculty of Engineering Science and Mathematics. WISET's focus is predominantly on employed academic staff.

Theano is an initiative across the faculty which supports undergraduate and post graduate students.

Locally in ECS we have a group called ECS women which works to provide support specific to our school and the needs of students in our subject areas of Computer Science, Software Engineering, IT in Organisations, Web Technologies, Web Science, Electronic Engineering , Electro and Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Enginering

In ECS we also have a school diversity committee which concerns itself with all aspects of diversity amongst out staff and students.

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