University of Northampton I *heart* consent week

At the end of this week, the Women in Research blog will be looking to storify your tweets from this fantastic week of events at the University.

Get involved using the hashtag #uonconsentweek

If you’d like more information and times of the events, take a look at the blog post here: I heart consent week


News Round Up -09.02.16


Sexuality and culture: The appeal of studying gender at university

Courses focused on sexual inequality and diversity can be a key step towards careers in charities and academia.


Advancing feminist scholarship through activism

‘Shelley’s work offers the missing link of how to create sustainable, positive change’


Time is a feminist issue in academia, too

‘let’s remind ourselves that time is power and not everyone has equal access to it’



Seen anything of interest in the media? Let us know: @NorthantsWIR

I, we and she: Beyond being ‘just’ pregnant

I wanted to write a blog to convey the experience of being pregnant. I have purposefully not reinforced my experience with research; I wanted to reflect on my (and our) experience of growing a child – being ‘pregnant’. The nature of being a phenomenological researcher, and an individual who feels intently has entailed that I really do feel my pregnancy – I notice the spaces I occupy and the spaces she is occupying within me.

The whole experience of ‘being pregnant’ I have found both interesting and strange. Much work has been written about pregnancy, both scholarly research and informal ‘guides’. I remember one of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was buy several of these ‘guides’ and read some qualitative literature around the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth; none of which fully prepared me for my experience of pregnancy. The whole process of pregnancy in these guides is described in such generic terms (i.e. in trimester one you will feel this, this and this), but my experience of pregnancy was/is personal, shared and changing. I felt myself interpreting my own experience within the realms of ‘pregnancy’ just to comprehend and manage the experience and what I was to expect of it.

I feel pregnant, both through my body and within it. At some points I can feel so empowered, just being aware of her presence would make me feel like I am more than just myself. I have her; she is both me and a part of me. This ‘additional presence’ was not just felt, but embodied and seen; I have this ‘thing’ (no disrespect intended, daughter-to-be) that provides me with more of an embodied presence to the outside world. As I grew bigger people would/do notice me (or rather my child) more; I am more there than I was before, but in the same instance less there as me. Other times I have felt more vulnerable than I have ever before; I would reinterpret my experience within the generic pregnancy discourse of ‘oh you’re a hormonal mother, that’s expected’. But this sense of vulnerability feels so much deeper than that; I feel a sense of responsibility to my child. She is my ‘cargo’ that I need to deliver safely; I must eat weird stuff, I must not eat other stuff, I must not drink alcohol etc. etc. This message is reinforced constantly in my husband’s father-to-be-books, which for all intents and purposes state ‘what not to let your pregnant person do’.

The experience is both one I feel within and through my own body, but also a shared experience between myself, my partner and my unborn child. Prior to being pregnant, I would hear people say ‘we are pregnant’, which I found strange; surely only you are pregnant? Your partner is definitely not complaining about sickness, an overlarge belly that reinforces how far away the floor is when you drop something, and does not actually have a child inside them, and therefore is not *actually* pregnant. But the responsibility is shared (and felt) between us. In our final trimester we had a ‘scare’ from the midwife (which turned out to be fine); where they were concerned she was too small and not growing. The experience really did frighten the both of us and reinforced how precious the experience of having a child was/is. My husband really did feel the responsibility of having a child that day, a child that he could not contribute to, or feel or hold.

One key reflection I have learnt is that pregnancy is anything but generic; in fact ‘pregnancy’ doesn’t really explain what it means to be pregnant. I am a carrier, I am a mother, and we are holding, nurturing and connecting with our child, and, whilst she is not ‘here’ and ‘seen’; we feel her and we see her. Being and feeling all of this means the generic ‘I’m/we’re pregnant’ doesn’t quite cut it.


By Lauren Alexandra McAllister, Academic Practice Tutor


News round up – 26.01.16

Bias against female instructors

New analysis offers more evidence against the reliability of student evaluations of teaching, at least for their use in personnel decisions.

When teamwork doesn’t work for women

New evidence suggests that the under-representation of women reflects a systemic bias in that marketplace: a failure to give women full credit for collaborative work done with men.

‘Striking’ inequalities in higher education fuel gender pay gap

The UK’s female academics are paid £6,146 less on average than men, with lack of women in leadership and management roles a factor, says report.



Seen anything of interest in the media? Let us know: @NorthantsWIR

News Round up – 19.01.16

Starting the new academic term, as well as blog contributions, here you will also find a summary of recent news articles related to Women in Research, available for discussion. Do get in touch if you see anything of interest.

Governance of HE: Gender balance of university boards

A 2013 KPMG report into gender balance in higher education looked at the ratio of women on university boards across the country and presented data which showed that 33% of all governing body members across 166 institutions were women.

The more women earn, the less healthy they feel

Are executive women gaining power at the expense of their health? Or do their high earnings and advanced degrees protect them from unhealthy outcomes?

Under-represented, underpaid, and over-exploited: Economic policy remains sexist

Gender inequality exists in the UK, despite half a century’s worth of efforts to the contrary, argues Diane Perrons, co-director of the LSE’s Commission on Gender, Inequality and Power. She writes that the gender pay gap has declined, but men continue to be over-represented among full-time workers and in high-paid jobs, while women are at a greater risk of poverty. She argues that gender-sensitive macroeconomic policies and gender-responsive budgeting are some of the changes that will help avoid another century slipping by without us achieving gender equality.

Discussion Point – BBC 100 Women 2015

It has been a few weeks since our last blog post, and it has been lovely to read the feedback we’ve had so far.

For this week, rather than providing a formal blog post, I’d like to provide a point of discussion.

I came across the BBC 100 Women 2015, and was intrigued by the list, what the focus of the list was, and what it actuall means.

Feel free to have a look at the inspirational women on the list, and post your comments below, or engage with us on Twitter: @NorthantsWIR


BBC 100 Women 2015: Who is on the list?

The women I met: A journey through half of Italy

I will try in this brief blog to portray the many women I met in the last few days. Their lives span almost 90 years and show the possibilities and impossibilities of being a woman then and now.

On Thursday morning I left home at 5.30am for Rome. The journey was an uneventful Ryanair flight punctuated by the usual waiting on the stairs before boarding, the many useless announcements and the fanfare for having arrived on time. At Ciampino, Shirley and I decide to get a taxi to our hotel. The first woman is the taxi driver (there would be another woman taxi driver later on). It is pleasing to see that in a country where the refrain ‘donna al volante, pericolo costante’ (a woman at the wheel is an ongoing danger) is ubiquitous, women have actually managed to own the streets of Rome, albeit in their cars.

At 3pm I am at the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research to meet the first woman. She is young, mid-thirties, educated, full of ideas, supportive of my project and helpful. We share a dream of making the voice of students heard, not just as consumers, but as citizens. If these are the young women of Italy, the country has improved.

I spend the rest of the afternoon visiting the parts of Rome that I never had a chance to see. Dinner is on the north side in a restaurant by the river Tiber. My friend, L organised it since she knew I was in town. The group is mixed gender, but there are three further women worth mentioning. L is now retired, an emeritus professor but still a pro-rector for inclusion and disability. In her life she has been involved in setting up two of the newest universities in Rome, established partnerships between her university and key partner institutions in other countries in the world and occupied positions of authority in the Italian HE sector. We have an Erasmus agreement with her, but when she came to visit us she was not even asked what she teaches. An old woman, I suppose. The other two women at the table are younger in their mid-thirties. One is a brilliant administrator for L, and L ensures that she travels around the world. M is a researcher who L sent to Brussels to spend time working at the EC to learn how to write European proposals and to develop her work. She would like to do a Marie Curie fellowship with us and I look forward to it.

On Friday Shirley and I work with 4 other women and one man at ANVUR. The women are colleagues from three different universities and different disciplines all interested in setting up professional development opportunities in teaching for university staff. They are all members of the management and leadership in their universities, but clearly teaching and learning is a woman’s job. We nurture, I suppose. The fourth woman is a representative of the ANVUR. The day is a brilliant experience. The discussion about the need to ‘professionalise’ teaching is strong and we all acknowledge the challenges, excitement and pitfalls. I finish the day with a stronger view that we are not alone and that we as a university are actually rather ahead of the game.

Friday afternoon I get a train to Udine where I arrived at 10pm. V’s husband picks me up and I join a late dinner with V, my friend and colleague working on student voice and evaluation, and her two guests, R and her mother, both English. The next day, we travel to Trieste to pick up S who joins us from Rome for a meeting about the Erasmus Plus project on student voice in HE. S, V and I will be joined by T who travels from Ljubljana. T works for a national research centre and is an expert on the use of social media for teaching and learning. She is V and I’s age. All three of us are quite strong-willed. S works for a private research centre, determined and strong-willed and very professional and efficient. In less than 3 hours we have lunch, discuss the project, catch up with life, welcome children back from school and feed them, and wish each other goodbye. We now have a better plan to share with the other partners. Tasks 1 and 2 of the visit to Italy are over.

In the evening we have dinner with J who is younger than V, S and I but with plenty of experience in the field of technology for learning especially in HE where she works. We met on Facebook and the conversation we started on the changes happening in HE continues to the point of planning a visiting fellowship with us.

On Sunday I visit my relatives: my aunt, 87 years old, my cousins, my age, and my aunt’s grandchild, 14 years old. This is a world apart from the one I have lived in for the last few days. My aunt was born during the 1920s, a time of poverty especially in the North-east of Italy. My grandmother, 94, tells quite some stories about the poverty, hunger, and emigration soon after the second world war. Neither my granny nor my aunt went to school beyond primary school and while one stayed to work on the land, the other was sent to work as a child-maid in Turin. Their lives were lives of toil, labour, little money and great hopes for their children and grandchildren. These are the women who raised families, worked the land, did extra work on the side and now are the last ones left to bring back to life the memories of almost a century of Italian women’s lives. And such lives finish with little G who next year will have to choose which school to choose. When asked for a piece of advice, I could not say. What can this young woman achieve more and better than her grandmother and her mothers and cousin?

All the women I have come across so far have fought for getting where they are. They are all different and still they share the same struggle to get out of the four walls of the family kitchen. Reflecting on 100 years of history, we achieved much and yet I can see how the road ahead is steep still, winding, full of opportunities, possibilities and dangers.

Blog post by Cristina Devecchi, Associate Professor

Twitter: @dmc_devecchi

The struggle to be heard

Finding a voice, as a woman researcher, can be hard.

One of my most frequent comments on women PhD students’ work is to ask them to try to ‘write like yourself’, to try to ‘find their own authorial voice’.  Sometimes it feels like, as we take our first few steps as writers, we feel we have to take on a grown up voice, another voice, a not-mine-voice. This problem seems to be compounded when we are working class women, or black women, or othered in some other way. As I read doctoral work, I can feel women reaching for big words, for unfamiliar phrases, for some mythic academic voice that is not their voice.   Why is it writing with authority that makes us feel like we have to ventriloquate someone else?

From the youngest age, young girls are told to be quiet, not to be too loud, not to be too boisterous – not to be too much of anything really. We learn that nice girls are to be seen and not heard. We learn not to draw attention to ourselves – that claiming the space to speak is somehow unfeminine. Research on men and women’s talk in groups highlights that men and women use turn-taking rules differently. Well, really, it highlights that women wait for their turn, while men seem to think it’s always their turn.  Perhaps being a woman in academia means constantly negotiating the tacit social ­­rules that function to always position women speaking out as wrong. As unfeminine. As uppity.

And of course, in entering academia, we are crossing over into a traditionally masculine world, claiming a space to speak with authority that has historically been held by white middle class men.

I have recently completed a project in which I acted as principal investigator, for a large scale, four nation European study. It is the largest qualitative study of children who experience domestic violence ever completed. The project has influenced policy and practice with children in 2 of the 4 participating countries. It has been huge. But my experience of ensuring that this work is noticed and celebrated has been one of endlessly hopping up and down like a five year old, shouting ‘look at me! Look at me!’ Drawing attention to our achievements as women academics can be uncomfortable. It can draw the wrong kind of attention, the attention that positions us as demanding, as arrogant, as problematic.

I’m not sure that I have yet found a way to use my voice comfortably. But I keep trying. I keep trying to make myself heard. I have so much to say. Most of it is, I’m pretty sure, very good. But it’s never easy to assert that.  The feeling of being an uppity woman, of not knowing my place is always present.

How do we find our own voice? Is it through capturing some essential, silenced but authentic feminine voice, Cixous’ L’ecriture feminine? Or is it more being tolerant of the way that we sound, the rhythms and tones of our own voices? I worry that my students feel that being an academic means using technical language, big words, sounding posh. I worry that in order to feel our work is sufficiently intellectual we need to squeeze out of ourselves a few thousand word caricature of Boris Johnson. We don’t have to sound like Oxford boys to be taken seriously. I think learning to write is about finding a space somewhere in between the extremes of ‘authentic feminine voice’ (I mean, come on! The pressure!) and ‘talking like a bloke’,  and instead finding a way to create our own academic dialect. We need to speak in our own voices. We need to speak with confidence. We need to claim that space in which we have a right to be heard.

Blog post by Jane Callaghan, Professor of Psychology.

Twitter: @JaneEMCallaghan

Early Career Researchers, Experiences and Justifications

When studying for my PhD, I really began to appreciate the challenges women experience within academia.  One of these challenges was the need to justify listening to womens, and only womens voices. My PhD considers the lived experiences of tattooed women, yet I am regularly questioned as to why I am not considering men when researching these experiences, as though mens voices have not already been heard.

There is a plethora of research (Kosut, 2000; Swami, 2012; Ferreira, 2014; ) which has considered the ways that tattoos are perceived on the body, but little research differentiates this in regards to gender. Little focus is given to how the female body is positioned under the male gaze, and how this intersects with that body being tattooed. As the practice of tattooing has historically been typified as a male activity, consideration for tattooed women is important in bringing recognition for this being acceptable for both sexes. More importantly, recognition is given for how the practice is experienced differently for women. It is for this reason that I am happy to justify my position.

I understand that the subject of tattooed women may not be of importance to everyone – this is my research, and everyone has their own academic areas. However, by failing to acknowledge why women’s voices should be heard in the first place further adds to the biased research field, before the actual subject has even been accounted for. As an early career researcher, I’m not looking to justify my position, but am exploring experience and providing an outlet for which experiences can be heard. Early career researchers should be encouraged to find ways of encouraging voices to be heard, without trying to shout over dominant ones.

Blog post by Charlotte Dann, Graduate Teaching Assistant in Psychology, and PhD researcher. Twitter: @CharlotteJD

The importance of acknowledging experience

Though I may be relatively new to the field of research as a PhD student, I understand that, regardless of academic and research level, it is important to acknowledge the experiences of women in research.

Though recommendations have been suggested for how universities can improve gender equality, there is always work to be done, specific to each institution.

Here, we look to comment on relevant news items, draw attention to important research and provide a space for discussion in relation to the challenges faced and overcome by women in research.

My experiences may not yet be vast, but I look forward to a future in research where women are not dismissed as distracting for ‘real men scientists’ and their research.

This short post is intended as a start point for new discussions and support for Northampton’s women in research.

Follow us on Twitter – @NorthantsWIR