Sunday, 26 November 2017

An inspiring story of an early pioneer in STEM...

Today marks the 100 year centennary of the death of Elsie Inglis, with a commemoration plaque honoring her unveiled in Edinburgh. Elsie worked as a doctor for the poor, especially women and children, at a time when women surgeons were still a rarity.  Appaled at the way women were treated, especially during childbirth, she established a dedicated maternity hospital women, which was fully staffed by women.

At fifty, when war broke out, she volunteered to help at the front lines, but was told to "go home and sit still", as reported in this BBC news article.  Instead, Elsie set about raising funds to establish hospitals in France and elsewhere, before working in one of those hospitals herself. Despite being taken a prisoner of war, she continued this work, after being released.  Between periods working on the front line, Elsie was diagnosed with cancer.  Even this did not deter her from completing her work, and she remained in Serbia to ensure the safe passage of  injured soldiers. 

The Edinburgh News summarises her life story by saying:

"She defied instruction from the War Office to return home from the frontline, was lauded by Churchill as a heroine who 'will shine in history' and was a staunch advocate of women's rights."

Now, 100 years after her death, she is finally receiving more widespread acknolwedgement of her commitment to medicine, her sacrifice and her dedication to her calling.  Hopefully her name may become as well known as that of Marie Curie, providing inspiration for a new generation of female scientists and doctors.
She defied instruction from the War Office to return from the frontline, was lauded by Churchill as a heroine who “will shine in history”, was a staunch advocate of women’s rights

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She defied instruction from the War Office to return from the frontline, was lauded by Churchill as a heroine who “will shine in history”, was a staunch advocate of women’s rights

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0 Have your say She defied instruction from the War Office to return from the frontline, was lauded by Churchill as a heroine who “will shine in history”, was a staunch advocate of women’s rights – and now the life of Elsie Inglis surely deserves to be honoured in her adopted home city.

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0 Have your say She defied instruction from the War Office to return from the frontline, was lauded by Churchill as a heroine who “will shine in history”, was a staunch advocate of women’s rights – and now the life of Elsie Inglis surely deserves to be honoured in her adopted home city.

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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Unearthing women's contributions to planetary science!

An interesting article from the BBC reveals that historically, women have had a much more active role in astronomical discoveries than recently recognised.  Now, female historians are working to ensure the contributions of such women are recognised and, hopefully, identifying those involved so that many currently unknown women can receive belated recognition of their contributions to science.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Carol Ekinsmyth is leading research on ‘Reconceptualising Urban Landscapes of Work’

This week, the Geography Department (at UoP) is hosting the first of three seminar series entitled "Reconceptualising Urban Landscapes of Work".  The first event, spanning the 20-21st April, has been organised by Dr Carol Ekinsmyth and focuses on "Spatial Reconfigurations of Work in Cities."  This two day event recognises that employment is increasingly undertaken outside traditional employer-employee systems given many people hold multiple jobs and an increasingly mobile workforce works in multiple places including own homes, co-working spaces, virtual spaces and platforms as well as public spaces and communal areas such as coffee shops. Consequently, such research is highly relevant for questions of equality and diversity by encompassing the working practices of the entire workforce, not just the proportion within traditional employer:employee scenarios.

As the first of three seminars exploring the spatial reconfiguration of economic practice in contemporary ‘developed economy’ cities, this 2-day seminar will focus on changing urban labour markets, commuting and work-patterns, new work technologies, new urban work sites and creative spaces. It aims to rethink existing concepts in urban research such as ‘the journey to work’, clustering, formal vs. informal work(spaces), private vs. public spaces and corporate vs. social spaces.  The current workshop brings together researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds for a lively mixture of paper presentations, panel sessions and informal networking.  Participants will be drawn from across the Uk and Europe with our very own Donald Houston also speaking at the event.  

In additional, two related events will take place within the next 12 months, based in Southampton and in Rome.  This seminar series is funded by the Urban Studies Foundation and jointly organized by Dr Carol Ekinsmyth (University of Portsmouth), Dr Darja Reuschke (University of Southampton) and Dr Maria Tsampra and Dr Alex Afouxenidis (EKKE, Athens).  This funding demonstrate's Carol's international reputation as a researcher in the fields of work and labour with a particular focus on entrepreneurship and self-employment.  Carol's other interests include 
·         Conditions of labouring in the creative economy; 
·         Self-employment, portfolio and fractured work; 
·         Spaces, places and practice of micro-entrepreneurship; 
·         Gender, self-employment and work-life balance; 
·         Motherhood, parenting and work;
·         The intersection of the economic and the social at the level of the working pratices of individuals and households. 

These seminars will not only enable valuable research interactions with researchers from across Europe but are likely to lead to exciting new research projects and collaborations.  Another tangible outcome of this seminar series will be the production of a special issue expanding on the ten best presentations from across the series.  I am sure we all look forward to reading Carol's contribution (and the reflection of the esteem in which her work is held).

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Examining the gender pay gap in Higher Education

Tara Woodyer kindly pointed out that the Universities and Colleges Employers Association released a large variety of infographics pertaining to employment in the Higher Education sector earlier this week. This included information about pensions, how higher education organisations are investing in their staff, and the gender pay gap. They also addressed some key questions about different contract types in HE.  

The information on gender pay gap showed some improvment with the actual gap decreasing to around 5-6% for both academics and support staff.  Desptie this, some trends including the lower proportion of women employed in higher grade academic roles, are still an ongoing issue.  

Gender pay gaps are likely to be hitting the headlines over the coming year, as from today, UK companies with over 250 employees will be legally required to collect information regarding pay differences associated with gender.  In addition, this information must be published before April next year.  As reported in the guardian, this could potentially have a greater impact on closing the gender pay gap than any legislation in the last four decades. Whilst this may be an overly ambitious claim, surely any additional material that demonstrates the insidious nature of the problem, must be a good thing....

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Unemployment, Underemployment and the power of perspective

Today I read an article in the Guardian called "How the collapse in full-time jobs for men is fuelling record underemployment". As the title suggests, the author was arguing that a decrease in full-time work for men was fuelling the increase in under-employment.  Whilst he presented some data to support this, he also overlooked a few basic facts.

Firstly, the data shows that over the last year there was an increase of 0.6%in the number of men who are "under-employed" when averaged over all age groups whilst the number of under-employed women remained constant.  However, the previous year, the number of under-employed women decreased whilst the number of un-employed men remained the same.  Given that unemployment has increased in this period, it might suggest that perhaps the decrease in underemployed women resulted from them losing their part-time jobs.  Furthermore, the number of underemployed women is much higher than the number of unemployed men - thus the above changes actually result in a very minor increase in the average underemployed rate overa the last three years  (see Graph 2 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics).  Prior to that, the number of underemployed men and women both showed the same trends, thus highlighting the increase in underemployability as an issue specifically impacting men seems somewhat flawed.  However, if the number of underemployed is considered as a propotion of the workforce overall, then this may explain the apparent bias, given the workforce is still dominated by men.  This does not, however, consider the complications of those trying to enter the work force.  

This is particuarly true when one considers that if the data are broken down into age categories, women have higher rates on underemployment within every age category.  In fact, all categories for men aged over 25 have lower rates of underemployment than any age category of women. Admittedly, 15-24 year old males have a higher rate of undermployment (at 16%) than women from older age groups, but the underemployment rate of 15-24 year old females is higher still (20%).  In fact, there is a pronounced increase in the number of 15-24 year olds over the past 10 years (see graph 3).  As this age group form a smaller component of the workforce, the actual increase in the number of underemployed youths is similar to the increase observed in the number of underemployed people aged over 45 (ABS, 2017).  It should be remembered, however, that within each of these age categories, women have a higher rate of underemployment.

These graphs suggest that women and youths are under-represented in the  work force but over-represented in the underemployed component. More detailed comparisons with umeployment rates and how these change over time for different genders and age groups may help shed some more light on the topic.  If, however, a decrease in the number of men working full-time is associated with a greater number of women being able to access employment (either part-time or fulltime), is this necessarily a problem?  Isn't a greater, more balanced representation of women in the workforce an outcome that benefits society overall?

If you are intersted in finding out more, you can access the data or  read the original report published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.