On November 14th, a good crowd of AWiSE and Lucy Cavendish members were entertained by Sue Black talking about her life and many achievements. She is a wonderful example of how you can bring about change, not just in your own life, but for the benefit of others too.
Finding herself a single mum with three under-fives living in Tower Hamlets, she decided that she needed to get a qualification to provide an income for her family. She started by doing a Maths access course where she was one of only two women, who came joint top of the class. She followed this with a computing degree at the University of the South Bank – chosen as the nearest place to home so she could juggle childcare. When she was asked to continue to PhD level, she admits she did not know what a PhD was. She then followed an academic career in computing, becoming Head of Information and Software Systems at the University of Westminster.
Sue’s first step into making a difference was to set up BCSWomen, which she did to provide a forum for women in IT, who were often the only women in their department or at a conference, to interact and support each other. On a visit to Bletchley Park, Sue was surprised to learn that over half of the war-time staff had been women. So she started an oral history project to tell their story. Read more
This sell-out event was attended by wise women from Nottingham, London, Dublin and just down the road – all keen to relaunch their careers. Many intend to return to work after a career break, others want to change career direction, most planned to do both. After a long wait, our time had finally arrived.
First up Katie Perry who isn’t a pop star but has had a much more interesting career path. By embracing planned happenstance, she’s gradually transformed from physics PhD student to CEO for the Daphne Jackson Trust which assists professionals returning to all sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. In her current role, she’s streamlined the fellowship application process so it’s not as long and the number of fellowships have increased – does this have anything to do with Katie doing karate?
Next up Tennie Videler. Always entertaining but I didn’t think I’d learn anything as I knew my values, or so I thought. After a few questions on what we’d enjoyed most and least in our lives, Tennie described 7 key values (not including lifestyle “which isn’t a value – you just have to make your life fit”). Small changes in emphasis compared to the careers workbook I’d previously completed but wow, what a difference! My main career driver became crystal clear!
‘If there’s one thing you take away from today, it’s to create a LinkedIn profile’. Read more
Pandora’s Breeches: Women,Science and Power in the Enlightenment By Patricia Fara
This book examines the roles women played in science in the period of about 1600 till 1830 by a clever use of woman-man pairs. The pairs acting as bookends at the beginning and end of the book are authors (non- scientists, as it happens) with fictional characters: Francis Bacon with ‘Lady Philosophy’ and Mary Shelley with Frankenstein. The eight pairs giving rise to a chapter each in between are women corresponding with influential scholars, women who translate science either into other languages or for broader audiences and women who assist their men (husbands, brothers) in doing their research at home. Women are also discussed in their role as patrons of scholars but not to the extent that they get their own chapter. It is telling that Queen Christina of Sweden, who invited René Descartes to Stockholm (where he died), has to make way for his correspondent Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia to make up a pair.
I really liked the idea of re-examining historical evidence such as pictures and surviving letters and learning about women I hadn’t heard much about before (especially apt on Ada Lovelace Day). The book is great at debunking heroic versions of scientific history, which annoy me as I see science as such a collaborative effort at its core.
Society was markedly different in the 200 odd years described and more unapologetically patriarchal from what it is today. But I was wondering whether there is still something to learn from these women that is recognizable today? Maybe it is the difference in the women’s own attitude. Both Elisabetha Hevelius and Marie Paulze Lavoisier appear to have determined their own destinies, by choosing established scientists as spouses and carving out their own niches alongside them. In contrast Caroline Herschel “seemed determined to be miserable” and “colluded in her downtrodden state”. After all, our own actions and attitudes are all we have control over.
Patricia Fara will speak at the Cambridge AWiSE Festival of Ideas event asking “Is it a feminist position to encourage women to work and study in male dominated fields?” on 28 October 2013, 19.30, Lucy Cavendish College. Other speakers include Jenny Koenig, founding chair of Cambridge AWiSE and CUSU’s Lauren Steele who organised the campaign “I need feminism because” which went viral and proves that new generations still have an apatite for feminism! Come and join us to debate, inform and be informed. I am definitely looking forward to it!
Whether you are thinking of returning to work after a career break, or would like to branch out in a new direction, either can be a daunting prospect.
Our event on Friday October 11th aims to give you the tools and know-how to take the next step. A full day of high-intensity training for women with a background in Science, Technology, IT, Engineering, Maths and Medicine, it will enable you to identify your skills, gain confidence and be inspired to take the leap.
Come and hear Katie Perry, CEO of the Daphne Jackson Trust, speak on the subject of returning to work and changing career path. There will be workshops on career anchors, using your networks, finding jobs, and honing your CV. We’ll also have a panel discussion featuring successful returners and transitioners, to show you what can be achieved.