Friday, 27 March 2009

CareerStep - more fabulous women in Electronics and Computer Science

Following on from my Ada Lovelace Day blog, I thought it would be timely to write about some of the things we are doing in ECS to help colleagues progress through their careers, and hopefully sustain and help grow the diversity of our researchers in the School.

The initiative has provided a discussion space for colleagues to identify and discuss the issues they face in furthering their individual careers, and is providing support through activities such as co-coaching to enable them to each actively progress their individual personal career objectives.

There are sound reasons for seeking greater diversity across our academic community, with a lot of evidence showing that balanced teams are significantly more effective than non balanced teams. I picked this info up from one of the guest speakers at a Girl Geek Dinner event in London last year.

Elisabeth Kelan , a researcher from Kings College London and the London Business School was reporting on studies into the effect of gender balance on the performance of teams (Innovative Potential: men and women in teams). A set of individual factors associated with successful innovation were considered in a study of over 100 teams drawn from a wide range of different organisations worldwide. A gender balanced team appeared to optimise perfomance against each factor, and although individual effects were small, it is suggested that together these impacts are significant. A further study looked at gender stereotypes, and considered the ways in which they are limiting, both to those who apply them, and those to whom they are applied.

Initiatives like CareerStep are not new, but as with many instances of organisational and cultural change, devising an approach which is effective in the particular climate and culture of an organisation works best with approaches which are given clear leadership but which also grow from the ground up.

Interesting work has been done in the US following an NSF initiative begun in 2005. The ACES project was hosted at Case Western Reserve University, as well as collecting substantial quantities of data on female academic careers, their project findings included some suggested models of transformation which are relevant to CareerStep.

Links, References and Further Reading
GirlGeekDinners - a women's networking community which combines face to face social networking with a programme of guest speakers on topical technology subjects. London Girl Geek dinners are the nearest regular venue, but meetings take place across the UK.

Women and IT Scorecard: joint publication from the BCS, BERR, eSkills and Intellect report providing an overview of participation, challenging some assumptions, and pointing to some ways forward.


In ECS our students (under grads and post grads) have a community with regular coffee and cakes, meetings, and guest speakers which provides a focus for women across the school.

Our school is based in the faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics. Pearl John from Physics leads this activity convening regular meetings, guest talks and activities which reach across the faculty. This provides many opportunities for our students to meet and make new friends and gain an insight into the activities of other schools in the context

Working with more senior women in the University in Science, Engineering and Technology. There is a regular programme of meetings and events, including the annual Campbell Lecture. WISET has run action learning sets to develop women with the specific objective of enhancing their promotion prospect. Currently it is supporting mentoring schemes across the University.

Reena Pau: post grad in ECS whose study is looking at the relationship between Career Choices and experience of IT among school age young adults.

Ada Lovelace Day

Was an effort led by Suw Charman Anderson to get people to pledge to blog about influential women in technology on March 24 2009. You can read about the event via some observations from Guardian correspondent Sue Schofield, or take a look at the map and list of posts.

Short Bibliography

Settles, Isis H.; Cortina, Lilia M.; Stewart, Abigail J.; Malley, Janet Voice matters: Buffering the impact of a negative climate for women in science, Psychology of Women Quarterly. 31(3):270-281, September 2007.

Gratton, L., Kelan, E., Voigt, A., Walker, L. and Wolfram, H.-J., “Innovative potential: men and women in teams”, report by the Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Business, London Business School, London, 2007

Diana Bilimoria, Breaking Barriers and Creating Inclusiveness: Lessons of Organizational Transformation to Advance Women Faculty in Academic Science and Engineering, ACES project (Power Point) 2007

Mary Frank Fox, Institutional Transformation and the Advancement of Women Faculty: The Case of Academic Science and Engineering, , in Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, vol. 23. Edited by J. C. Smart. Springer Publishers, 2008.

Dorota Bourne and Mustafa F. Ozbilgin, Strategies for combating gendered perceptions of careers ,International Journal of Career Management, 13,4 , p320-332

Mary Frank Fox, Carol Colatrella, David McDowell, and Mary Lynn Realff, Equity in Tenure and Promotion: An Integrated Institutional Approach, in Transforming Science and Engineering: Advancing Academic Women, edited by A. Stewart, J. Malley, and D. LaVaque-Manty. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 2007

Mary Frank Fox, Women, Science and Academic, Graduate Education and Careers, Gender and Society (15) 5, p654-666, 2001

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