International Women’s Day 2017

International Women’s Day takes place on the 8th March each year. This year at UCLan we are celebrating with a number of events:
From 12:00 – 3:00pm come along to Adelphi Foyer and try on a colourful Chinese ethnic costume. A photographer will be there, if you want your photo(s) taken and there will also be Chinese music and singing during this time.

From 2pm in Foster Lecture Theatre 4 there will be a screening of the film ‘She’s beautiful when she’s angry’ followed by a panel discussion. The film is an exploration of the Women’s Liberation movement in the ’70s and discusses the progress made on Women’s Equality to the present date. This event is open to the public, and free to attend. There is no need to book for this event; just turn up on the day.

And if you are feeling energetic, come along to one of the women led fitness classes in Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre. Admission to these classes is free for everyone.
1-2pm Ab Attack.
1-2pm Meditation
2-3pm Bollywood
3-4pm Circuit training


If you have any questions about these events please contact Claire Meadows-Haworth (

The Women that Science Forgot: Part 3 Maggie Aderin-Pocock

In this third part of the series (part 1 here) I’m going to introduce you to one of my women in science heroes – Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocockmaggie aderin-pocock. She is a space scientist and Engineer come Science Communicator, who recently took over presenting the BBC’s Sky at Night programme. I was lucky enough to meet Maggie when she came to UCLan recently and she is a bright, vibrant person. Maggie delivered an excellent keynote for us, which provided most of the material for this blog post.

Growing up Aderin-Pocock moved around a lot and so attended several different schools. She was inspired to become a space scientist when watching The Clangers as a three year old. At 14 she made her own telescope, after buying a cheap one that had terrible chromatic abboration (the image was distorted so that it looked like it was double exposed). She joined a club making her own telescope, not only was she the only girl there, she was also the only young person; the rest of the club were middle-aged men.

In her early career she worked in defense creating land to air missile detection systems and land mine detectors. She also worked on several projects at massive telescopes around the world. But Aderin-Pocock found her passion when she discovered science communication. Aderin-Pocock has worked with children from all across London, conducting several projects to increase interest in science, and she speaks passionately anout this work. Her success as a science communicator has been confirmed by her being chosen to take over on The Sky at Night when long time host Patrick Moore passed away.

When she visited UCLan I asked Maggie what she would want me to say about her and she told me two things:

Firstly: “You don’t need to be ‘clever’ to be a scientist”. Maggie has dyslexia and as a child this meant that she was in bottom sets at school. When she told a teacher that she wanted to be a scientist, the teacher told her to consider nursing as ‘that’s sciencey’. The teacher didn’t think Maggie could do science. Thank goodness she didn’t listen.

Secondly: What you do need to be a scientist is curiosity. If you are the sort of person who constantly asks ‘why?’ you are perfect for science. Scientist are constantly questioning and trying to figure things out, this need to understand drives them.

Meeting Maggie, just brought home to me how cultural femicide still operates. She is an articulate, bright and passionate person who gives engaging talks. She presents a TV show. And yet, she’s not as well known as Brian Cox.

The Women that Science Forgot pt1: Why are they ‘forgotten’?

Last weekend was Lancashire Science Festival. Hosted by the University of Central Lancashire, the science festival is a big event in our calendar and many staff across the University get involved. Over the course of three days we were expecting roughly 10,000 visitors (I don’t know the actual numbers yet, but I’ve feeling it was much higher). This year, I participated in the science festival by giving a public talk entitled “The Women that Science Forgot”. The talk explored women who had made significant contributions to their fields, but are largely unknown and the reasons why they are unknown. I enjoyed doing the research for this talk so much that I wanted to share what I learned about these women here on the blog too. Over the next few weeks there will be posts for:

Vera Rubin
Maggie Aderin-Pocock
Ada Lovelace
Lise Meitner
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin
Rosalind Franklin
But first, in this post I want to introduce the ‘Why?’ to these women’s limited notoriety – cultural femicide.

The ‘problem of women and girls in STEMM’ (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) is widely acknowledged. We don’t have enough girls taking STEMM subjects post 16, and we lose too many women at every stage of career progression (the leaky pipeline). There are several reasons for this, but one that is often touted is that there is a lack of role models for girls. This lack of role models means that girls don’t see STEMM as something that girls/women do, and so see it as not for someone ‘like me’.

However, there is a flaw in this argument: women have been making important discoveries in Science for centuries and today there are many women (although not enough) who do work in STEMM. The problem is not a lack of role models, but a lack of visible role models. The women in science are invisible from its present day publicity to its history. This is clearly evident when you ask people to name famous scientists; often they can list several men and perhaps Marie Curie.

So, why are these women invisible? And what is ‘cultural femicide’?

Cultural femicide is a process by which women’s work is either ignored, dismissed, minimised or stolen.

Ignored/Dismissed – people don’t pay attention to the accomplishments of women or they assume the woman must be wrong. This is by far the biggest aspect of cultural femicide and its effects are highlghted in the stories of Vera Rubin and Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Minimised – this is where people play down the contribution that women make, to make it appear that they had less to do with the discovery than they actually did. Usually, this also involves the emphasising of the contributions of men, so that the work always seems to be mostly done by men. This is a characteristic in the stories of Lise Meitner and Ada Lovelace.

Stolen – This is the process where men actually take credit for the work of women and completely write them out of the story of the discovery. This is a key factor in the stories of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and Rosalind Franklin.

This process happens throughout history and is not specific to STEMM but operates across all cultural knowledge. Cultural femicide happens in part due to stereotypes about women. Stereotypes are like ‘blue prints’ that tell us what someone from a certain group is like – for example there are stereotypes about what girls and boys can do such as ‘boys play football and are tough’ and ‘girls like princesses and make-up’.

xkcd imageThis cartoon from XKCD highlights one of the stereotypes that contributes to cultural femicide in STEMM – that girls/women can’t do STEMM subjects. This combines with the stereotypes that women’s work is unimportant and that women aren’t ‘clever’ (women are ditsy, heads full of make-up and shoes and sparkly things, apparently) so that when a woman does make a discovery of import, she is not given the same credit and recognition as a man. Women performing well at STEMM directly challenges these stereotypes and so is threatening to the status quo, it is easier for us to play down what each individual woman does, than it is to change our stereotype completely and acknowledge that women can do STEMM.

I think that in order to address the ‘role model’ aspect of the women in STEMM problem, we need to raise the visibility of the role models that do exist. When I was researching for this talk I came across loads of interesting women, but I had to really look for them, and that’s the issue. It’s my hope that in some small way this blog series will raise the visibility of at least these ten women.

UCLan Diversity Conference 2014: Gender in Higher Education

Friday 28th November saw roughly 80 people descend on UCLan for our annual Diversity Conference. The theme for this year’s event was Gender in Higher Education, in part driven by UCLan’s successful Athena SWAN application.

The conference was opened by Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Gerry Kelleher. In his opening remarks Gerry congratulated the Athena SWAN team on achieving the award and said he was proud to lead a university that took diversity seriously. He demonstrated that commitment from the highest level by joining the conference delegates for the morning session.


Engineer Roma Agrawal, whose work includes the Shard structure, delivered the first keynote. She talked about how, often, she is still the only woman in the room and how this can have a huge impact on confidence. Roma gave us some background to her life and highlighted how some of the issues with have with recruitment and the leaky pipeline in STEMM are cultural. Her talk covered some of her background, growing up and her somewhat unusual path through physics to engineering.


One of the things she said really struck me, she ‘flipped the stats’ to say that 92% of engineers are male. Framing the problem this way had more impact on me than the oft quoted ‘only 8% of engineers are women”. Roma then went on to discuss how diversity is lots of things, age, social background etc. And made the case for why we should aim for a more diverse engineering workforce. She argued that more diversity means better ideas and these lead to more profits. Furthermore, she argued that the workforce should reflect the society it is trying to serve.

Finally she argued that we need to be engaging with key influencers in young people’s lives, such as teachers and parents. Roma called for a re-branding of engineering to reflect the creativity inherent in it, and to stress the fact that engineers ‘help people’: both things that are traditionally valued by girls and women in their chosen vocations.

Following the keynote, there were four workshops. I chose to attend the workshop delivered by the Equality Challenge Unit about how Athena SWAN awards affect an institution. The workshop was excellent, with James Lush providing us with some background to how Athena SWAN started, and the current state of affairs. Today, almost all UK universities are signed up to the Athena SWAN charter and many have awards at the Bronze level.

James also congratulated UCLan on achieving their award first time, as this is highly unusual. This achievement shows the excellent work done by UClan’s self-assessment team in putting together an excellent application (and in a relatively short time).

James stressed that it is not just academics – and not just women – that benefit when an institution achieves an Athena SWAN award. The policies that are implemented are beneficial to non-academic staff and to men. He pointed out that “what’s good for women is good for everyone”.


Following lunch there was a keynote by Alison Johns. Alison opened her keynote by reminding us that progress has been made; for example, it is only in the last hundred years that a woman can hold a mortgage. Alison agreed that it can sometimes feel as if we are getting no-where and that all our efforts are in vain; so it is important, every now and then to focus on the things we have achieved. Alison talked about the importance of having top level buy in for changes to be made: “If you want to change something in this world, you need to start from the top”. She gave us examples of VCs who are committed to diversity and gave some insight into the reasons for their commitment. Alison also stressed the Importance of “small symbolic gestures” in making changes.

Much as Roma did, Alison gave a business case for why diversity is important: she told us that gender parity in an institution/business leads to a 15% increase in profits, whilst race parity leads to a 30% increase.  Finally, Alison reminded us that “well behaved women rarely make history”.

In the afternoon parallel session I attended the session on Gender and attainment at UCLan. This session was delivered by Dr Joanne Doherty and Dr Ebrahim Adia. They demonstrated that Males are underperforming for ‘good honours’ degrees at UCLan. Ebrahim talked us through the statistics and showed us that there is a very strong link between entry points and ‘good honours’ – females come in with higher entry points and are more likely to achieve good honours. However, this does not translate into graduate level jobs. There is no advantage for females in grad level jobs in getting good honours. So the leaky pipeline is apparent even as students graduate. Ebrahim also stressed that Intersectionality is important for understanding the gender gap: he highlighted how for ethnicity and social class the attainment gap within genders is wider than between genders.

All in all it was a fantastic day! I cannot wait for next year!

If you want to hear more about the day you can check out a Storify of the tweets to the #uclanED14 hashtag here.