We all have a particular orientation towards work and our professional goals. We approach our work with a certain set of priorities and values, which we call “career anchors”: a combination of perceived areas of competence, motives, and values relating to professional choices. Knowing and understanding these will help us be more self-reliant, make better career choices and thus enjoy a more productive and satisfactory career.
This was the objective of the first WiSE UP 2016 ‘Career anchors: Identify your strengths & values’ workshop facilitated by Tennie Videler and based on Edgar H. Schein and John Van Maanen’s publications. The evening started with a networking session and a mock-up job interview to help us get to know each other. After that and during the main part of the workshop Tennie helped us identify our career anchors among the eight possible:
- Technical/functional competence
- General managerial competence
- Entrepreneurial creativity
- Service/dedication to a cause
- Pure challenge
As Tennie pointed out, there are no good or bad anchors, only personal choices and preferences. And although Schein and Maanen imply that there should be only one anchor, Tennie’s experience suggests that many of us may have more than one to consider. In fact, many of the attendees had more than one career anchor and some of them even suspected that their career anchors could change with the passage of time. Tennie also pointed out that considering our anchor when selecting a career will help us choose the right path, avoiding incompatibilities with our true values. This prevents feelings of discontent and lack of productivity at work, and allows us to uncover our real values and use them to make smarter career choices.
Afterwards, we had a lively discussion about our career anchors and how being aware of them could be useful in all career stages.
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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!
Many AWiSE members are research bioscientists and how many of you have made New Year’s resolutions involving taking some positive action towards your career?
Now might be the time to invest in Sarah Blackford’s book ‘Career Planning for Research Bioscientists’…. Sarah has been working as a careers advisor for Lancaster University and as the Head of Education and Public Affairs for the Society of Experimental Biology for years. The book covers theories of career planning as well as practical aspects of capitalising on your assets. It covers how to write effective CVs, improve your interview technique and where and how to find jobs and ends with a ‘coaching’ chapter to get you action planning.
Sarah gave an enthusiastically received workshop at the WiSE UP career day in June last year on understanding Myers-Briggs personality types. Her expertise in the area of self-awareness is put to use for you in chapter 3.
There is a dedicated section for issues specific to women in chapter 5. I thought the appendices are really illustrative, they cover career narratives (which a lot of people like, as feedback to our events where women talk about their careers attest), social media, example CVs and a list of (web) resources, including a whole page on women in science.
Ada Lovelace wasn’t just the first female computer programmer, she was the world’s first ever computer programmer full stop. Ada Lovelace day celebrates women in STEM, which is also what Cambridge AWiSE is all about! There is lots of activity on twitter on the fact it is Ada Lovelace day, I even noticed it ‘trending’. Here are some of the links that caught my attention….
Plenty of posts with background on who Ada Lovelace was, but this one is my favourite. To get to know her in her own words, New Scientist have managed to secure a rare interview with her…. (well, they mined her correspondence very cleverly)
Even the BBC is promoting the occasion! The BBC has devoted front page coverage on its website to these profiles of female scientists.
The Guardian also has a lower profile, but very thoughtful piece focusing on ‘ women who have excelled in their field but have often been denied both opportunity and recognition’.
The Wellcome Trust publishes a blog by Professor Dame Kay Davies and Sir Mark Walport on the need for flexibility in research careers, which is right up my street.
Ed Yong, a (male, as it happens) science blogger I very much admire compiled an all-female list of top science writers. My favourite, Jenny Rohn appears to be missing. Yours?
Trawling through twitter in search of Ada made me find out about the Double X science blog for women, which although very American, I shall be frequenting from now on.
Book review: Dorothy Hodgkin- A life by Georgina Ferry
Last year Georgina Ferry gave a talk to Cambridge AWiSE. She has written biographies on Dorothy Hodgkin and Max Perutz. I bought a copy of ‘Dorothy Hodgkin- A life’ and really enjoyed it. I lent it to a crystallographer friend rather than writing the review straight away (which is a positive sign in itself). So here is a view of the book that has been mmm, left to mature… As I’ve said before, I quite like to structure blog posts around 9 points:
1. As a book it works really well, avoiding many of the pitfalls of a biography. There is a good balance between Dorothy’s life story and her science. Not too much foreshadowing of the greatness to come, the linear-with-time-format works well, especially as Georgina manages to still bring a twist in the tail.
2. Dorothy’s life is totally fascinating and she comes across as totally likeable but without any saccharine.
3. I did not know she suffered from arthritis. This made me admire her even more as she would have had no recourse to the drugs that us modern -day sufferers have!
So, what can modern day women in science learn?