It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #PressForProgress. What does the word “progress” mean to you in regards to women and gender?
Attaining gender parity across the board.
What is your role at the University of Stirling?
I am Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences which comprises Aquaculture, Biological & Environmental Science, Computing Science & Mathematics and Psychology. My research area is biominerals and includes climate proxies and ocean acidification. My current NERC project deals with clumped isotopes and is in collaboration with an isotope geochemist and an engineer.
Why did you choose this career path?
Excellent teachers at school inspired me to pursue science. After my PhD, I had a two-year post-doc in biominerals and I have worked on biominerals ever since. I have taken every opportunity to take up leadership roles which I like to combine with research.
What do you love about your job?
I enjoy working with excellent colleagues, striving for common goals including scientific excellence.
What impact do you hope your research will have?
I hope that I can make a significant contribution to scientific knowledge and that the knowledge is useful in ways that we are yet to imagine.
Did you face any barriers in your career and how did you overcome them?
Challenge of juggling family and work-life including the requirements to travel. In my early career I was the only female academic in the Department and such lack of diversity brings challenges.
Who do you look up to?
I looked up to Sir Alwyn Williams with whom I collaborated for many years. He was an active researcher while Principal of Glasgow University and he demonstrated that it is possible to lead and be a researcher. His time management was second to none! He gave me advice on maternity leave!
What do you think needs to happen to help more women progress in their chosen careers?
Full recognition of societal influence and acknowledgment that women and men are socialised differently and will therefore respond differently to situations, interview questions etc. Even aspects that may appear gender neutral may not be, so we should always ask that question.
What advice would you give to young girls who are thinking about a career in science?
Do it. The quest for new knowledge is a fundamental aspect of our humanity. Science is an opportunity to relish in that pursuit.
Why are days like International Women’s Day important to you?
It’s an important opportunity to raise awareness of gender issues. Unless people are fully aware, they can’t have the conversations that are required to move us to full diversity and parity.
Name a woman that has inspired you, either professionally or personally
On International Women’s Day, I couldn’t name only one. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars and famously, unlike her male supervisors, did not receive the Nobel Prize for the work. Dame Jocelyn has just completed her term as President of our national academy, The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). She was the first female President of the RSE and has been succeeded by another inspirational woman, Dame Anne Glover who was Chief Scientific Advisor to the European Commission. Scotland’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sheila Rowan is an inspirational scientist advancing scientific knowledge with her work on gravitational waves. Professor Andrea Nolan is inspirational as a female Principal of a Scottish University… I could go on!
How will you #PressforProgress in 2018?
Find out how you can take part by visiting the International Women’s Day 2018 website.
Join in the conversation on social media and use the hashtags #IWD2018, #InternationalWomen’sDay2018 and #PressForProgress