The system is broken, how can an individual change it?

Dr Sheryl Maher @maher_au

Reading Time: 2 minutes
There has been a number of articles identifying the decreased female productivity due to COVID and the subsequent shutdowns including – Inside Higher education (April 21), FemEdTech (May 1)Australian Academy of Science (May 17)The Conversation (May 18) and more recently Nature (May 20).
And while it is important to increase awareness of how female academics and researchers are being disadvantaged. It isn’t it more important to shift to proactive conversations about how we can work together to overcome this? I challenge you to ask yourself:
  • How are you supporting female researchers to regain, or maintain their productivity? What choices are you making within your research groups, disciplines and schools to show your support?
  • Are you making reasonable adjustments to the teaching allocations in semester 2 to allow increased researcher productivity in the short term?
  • Are you ensuring a fair allocation of committee or administrative work to enable female researchers to increase their productivity?
  • Are you — and the male researchers and postdocs within your team — being asked to take on additional marking or grade administration responsibilities? What about the female researchers/postdocs? Are they being asked to take on these additional responsibilities? If so, why? And what can you do to make this more equitable?
  • Are you respecting boundaries when someone says they don’t have capacity?
  • Are you inviting a female researcher to collaborate with you on the next paper, project, grant, submission?
  • Are you encouraging your industry association/journal/… to create opportunities to showcase projects led or conducted by female researchers?
  • Are you supporting your female colleagues who say no to additional non-research workload?
  • Are you nominating and supporting your female colleagues for awards, promotions or career advancement opportunities?
  • If you are invited to contribute (to a special issue, panel, conference…) are you checking to see if there are any female participants, are you providing the names of qualified females who should also be invited?
  • Have you asked the women and carers on your team how you can support them effectively? Are you actively listening to their responses?
  • How are you showing female researchers and carers you value their ongoing careers?
  • What else should we be asking?
Ideally this encourages you to consider how you and your actions may propagate or ameliorate this problem of bias. I’m sure there are early career researchers who now have additional caring responsibilities particularly female who are being significantly impacted by COVID, and who will be further disadvantaged if the status-quo is not changed. Can you think of other questions we should be asking or ways we can work together to help female researchers to excel both during and in the future?

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  1. I’m so pleased to see this post Sheryl. It’s very much in tune with our Open Letter to Editors from #femedtech http://femedtech.net/published/open-letter-to-editors-editorial-boards/ #solidarity

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