Professor Tim Hunt: The trouble with girls

There won’t be many academics in the Twittersphere who are unfamiliar with the parable of Professor Tim Hunt, the Nobel prize winner whose career came to an undignified end after making sexist remarks about women in science. In early June 2015, at a lunch for women in science, Professor Hunt remarked that women in laboratories are problematic because of the tears and sex (to summarise). These statements (google if you want to see them) were picked up by various media and there was a resulting social and mainstream media stink. With some speed Hunt was asked to resign by University College London where he was an Emeritus professor. He also resigned from positions with the Royal Society and the European Research Council.

Predictably this has triggered a number of opinion pieces and twitter hashtags (#distractinglysexy for example). Many have argued that these resignations were just, while other including Professor Brian Cox and Professor Richard Dawkins (and Boris Johnson) feel aggrieved on behalf of Tim Hunt. I’ve been muddling through what my thoughts are and why I feel some discomfort over the resulting focus on this one person. There are two main concerns I have; the well-being of Tim Hunt and what these ‘resignations’ means for the organisations.

Firstly, Tim Hunt’s well-being. Whenever these kinds of social media storms occur I worry for those at their ‘eye’. As Tim Hunt’s positions were honourary, I don’t know what, if any, employment protection he would have had. He may well not be protected by a disciplinary process where his employer would have a duty of care towards him. I know nothing of his personal circumstances, but I hope he is being well cared for. His comments were sexist and there should be consequences. However, there are human beings at the centre of this story and that should never be forgotten.

More broadly, I find myself wondering whether the resignations were appropriate. Hunt’s comments were unusual in that they were said in a public forum. I’ve seen very similar ‘jokes’ made, and so far I’m not aware that any of those men have faced penalties. Sometime ago I attended a conference where one of the opening speakers commented that he had felt honoured to be invited to attend an international conference – but then he saw how many women there were in the audience and realised it wasn’t prestigious after all. So, it strikes me that Tim Hunt has faced these penalties because he said out loud what others mutter in private.

This leads me to the idea that Hunt is a ‘sacrificial lamb’ of some kind. Even before the nauseating pieces by Boris Johnson and the gang, I predicted that Hunt would be positioned by some as a martyr to feminism. However, I think he’s the opposite. Organisations such as UCL can demonstrate their intolerance of sexism by calling for the resignation of someone in a high profile position. Wow, how impressive. They must really dislike sexism! However, to what extent are all of these organisations tackling the day to day, insidious, grinding sexism which women face? The kind which is far politer, whispered and culturally embedded. When an organisation effectively sacks a high profile person, for sexist or racist language, do they then absolve themselves of responsibility to look inwards. To tackle the more difficult cultural change, rather than engage in a high profile act which provides an image inclusivity.

I would have preferred an investigation of some kind – given Hunt’s comments we have to wonder how women who have worked in his labs have fared. He should have been given the chance to explain, to learn and perhaps to use his position in a more positive way. Instead we have the current unedifying position, while the organisations he was connected to can sit back comfortably, having shown how committed they are to women’s careers. On a final note, I’ve seen some on Twitter suggest that Hunt may be on the Autism Spectrum and his ‘jokes’ are evidence of that. I’ve no idea whether the former is the case, but linking ASDs with sexist behaviour is a dangerous path to walk, and one we should steer clear of.

Update: it seems Tim Hunt has some form in this area – although this interview suggests confusion rather than malice

Further update (this is going to drag on for a while): Tim Hunt thanks women for their support and discusses his support for women scientists

Fox hunting

This is nothing to do with my work at all, and just a personal issue. Fox hunting is being discussed a lot, especially on social media. Firstly due to the Conservative party’s pledge to overturn the 2004 Hunting Act. Secondly due to perceptions that the SNP MPs may abstain on the vote due to it being an English and Welsh matter, and not directly affecting Scotland (so long as a Scottish fox knows where the border is I guess).

Within these debates it is implied that fox hunting has somehow been banned, both in Scotland and England. This is not the case. The Hunting Act 2004 and the Protection of Wild Mammals Act (2002) prohibit hunting with hounds. Or more precisely the use of hounds to kill the fox (or other mammal). It is legal to use hounds to flush out the fox to be shot in Scotland and hunting still persists. Hunting with hounds remains legal in Northern Ireland.

Whatever the decision of MPs (whether to vote or not and how to vote), fox hunting is legal. It is the method of ‘the kill’ which is the matter under debate. Also relevant to those who may argue to overturn the Hunting Act for countryside management purposes.

Fox hunting is ‘alive’ and well. We need to be careful with our use of language.

Useful material here:

Call for Papers Special Issue of Organization Diversifying the Creative: Creative Work, Creative Industries, Creative Identities

Call for papers—Special Issue for Organization

Diversifying the creative: Creative work, creative industries, creative identities

Deadline 1 December 2015

Guest Editors:

Deborah Jones, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Kate Sang, Heriot-Watt University, UK

Rebecca Finkel, Queen Margaret University, UK

Dimi Stoyanova Russell, Cardiff University, UK


To diversify the creative is to ask how certain bodies, certain work practices and certain identities come to be counted as ‘creative’, while others are excluded. Creativity and creatives have become desirable, socially and economically, as creativity has been rebranded as the engine of post-industrial ‘creative economies’ over the last decade or so. The rhetoric of creativity encompasses specifically designated ‘creative industries’ and ‘creatives’ (Caves, 2000), as well as a much wider idea of ‘the creative’ at work in all kinds of organisations and occupations (Bilton, 2006). Creativity is conceptualised in a wide range of forms, in which traditional and new are spliced together. For instance, a romantic framing of arts and artists, based on a distinction between the creative and the industrial, is linked with ideas of art as a vocation and of the artist as a distinctive kind of individualised genius (Becker, 1974). A more recent, 21st-century vision is linked with the idea of innovation as the key to economic success so that workplaces are specifically designed to attract and affirm creative talent (Hesmondhalgh, 2012). Here, the ideal ‘creative’ may be imagined as a member of smoothly functioning team of passionate and diverse talents, a member of a new, ‘creative class’ (Florida, 2002). Contemporary governmental policies—national, regional, industry-driven—have set out to extend, evaluate and monetise it (Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), 2001; Flew, 2012).

Creative work has increasingly been recognised as work, with governmental technologies accounting for creative subjects—artists, technicians, entrepreneurs—in data sets where earnings and occupations can be surveyed. In oppositional mode, critical scholars have increasingly paid attention to creative labour and have raised questions about the forms of exploitation and exclusion with which it is associated (Nixon and Crewe, 2004). They frame creative work in relation to other kinds of exploitative or precarious work, while maintaining a focus on the distinctive features of the creative (Gill, 2002). In particular, such research recognises that struggles over the creative are also struggles over the control of cultural production (Dean, 2008; Hesmondhalgh and Saha, 2013). But people working in creative fields often refuse such analyses. Identifying as artists with a vocation, they often work in what they see as non-creative jobs, perhaps part-time or intermittently, to fund their creative practice (Menger, 1999). The distinctions between paid and unpaid work are blurred (Hesmondhalgh and Baker, 2011), and unpaid positions such as internships may be institutionalised as a way to get a foot in the door of a creative industry (Siebert and Wilson, 2013). The language of workplace rights is frequently marginalised or silenced altogether, and forms of collective organising such as unionisation are often unavailable or rejected (Blair et al., 2003). Some government initiatives to develop creative industries also attempt to address social diversity in terms of equal access to work and of cultural inclusion and exclusion, but there is not much evidence of success (Proctor-Thomson, 2013).

In this context, it can be very difficult to articulate claims about diversity and (in)equalities within creative work. For example, it is nearly impossible for women to find a forum or space to raise issues of creative work and gender equality, such as pay, status, recognition or acknowledgement of family responsibilities (Thynne, 2000). Even if they are in paid creative work, creatives may accept low pay, extremely demanding working conditions and precarious employment (Haunschild and Eikhof, 2009). Such patterns are also seen within established professions such as architecture, where members often reflect on architecture as a lifestyle and persona rather than as a job or career. The construction and negotiation of personal and professional identities, as well as the performance of creativity through dress and demeanour, bodily comportment and body art, compound the complex understanding of what it means to be a creative ‘worker’.

The construction of identities takes varying forms in relation to the creative. For instance, the creative is typically constructed so that women do not become the creative stars or geniuses, do not have equal access to creative work, are not equally rewarded and are subject to various forms of occupational segregation that reinforce these inequalities of both recognition and reward (Sang et al., 2014). Intersecting with gender are constructions of class, ethnicity, age, disability and sexuality, which complicate and extend privilege and inequality (Grugulis and Stoyanova, 2012). However, less is known about how other marginalised identities experience creative work, and in particular how gender may intersect with other identities to construct these experiences. Furthermore, there is poor understanding of how these intersecting identities may affect who or what is considered creative. Economic development rhetoric has been influential in claiming that cities ‘tolerant’ to diversity will attract the ‘creative classes’, but this claim is frequently undercut by continuing patterns of class, gender and racial inequalities (Leslie and Catungal, 2012). At the same time, new creative spaces can operate as sites where claims to cultural citizenship can be contested by marginalised identities such as sexual minorities (Yue, 2007) and people with disabilities (Darcy and Taylor, 2009). A critical examination of creativity and diversity therefore allows us to interrogate and denaturalise both of these concepts: we can ask how the ‘creative’ comes to be seen as a kind of essence inhabiting particular kinds of bodies, and also how the ‘diversity’ that is supposed to generate the creative works seems to rewrite traditional relations of power.

The special issue invites empirical, theoretical or methodological papers critically exploring creative work and, in particular, the ways in which it is diversified. For instance, the gendered construction of creativity can be seen in analyses of women’s employment within creative industries and in the ways in which creativity is imagined or represented in a range of occupations and practices. Intersectional perspectives regarding how gender intersects with class, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation for those working in the sector also can be explored. Although the special issue is open to any discussion of diversity in creativity or creative work, explorations of specific work settings or contexts, for example, architecture, film and television, comedy, literature, music and design, will be prioritised. An inter-disciplinary approach is welcome, acknowledging that the literatures of work in the creative industries, like the sector itself, have developed in and across a range of disciplines, including cultural studies, sociology, geography, management and organisational studies. Contributions also could include explorations of innovative methodologies for studying and understanding the creative industries, creative identities and creative labour, such as those employing visual and ethnographic methods. Research may open up new discourses for imagining, re-negotiating and managing diversity in creative work, opening up in turn new opportunities for marginalised groups to lead, collaborate and develop skills in creative spaces of greater equality.


  • Embodying the creative: How is creativity embodied as gendered, racialised, aged and able? How do organisations do support or discourage these embodiments, implicitly or explicitly?
  • Imagining and organising diversity in creative work: What would decent work in the creative sector look like for women and other marginalised groups? How do minorities organise in guilds, professional groups, unions or lobby groups to raise issues of equality in this sector? How do they organise creative projects with across or within boundaries of difference?
  • Experiences of women and other marginalised groups in the creative industries: Autobiographical and third-party accounts of experiences in various creative fields can ask questions such as follows: How is equality approached and negotiated? What challenges have been faced and what kinds of approaches taken to varying outcomes and successes?
  • Intersectional analyses of working life in the creative industries: The complex intersections between different identity categories sometimes create unexpected effects, both negative and positive. How does the compounding or intersection of diversity categories in single cases add to a study of working life in the creative industries?
  • Claiming the creative: How are ‘creative’ identities allocated and recognised? How is the ‘super-creative core’ constituted in relation to the ‘below the line’ people, that is, the ‘crew’, support workers and administrators? What systems are there of awards, grants, training and networks, and how are they diversified? Who are the gatekeepers to these resources and who receives them? Who in a profession or occupation actually gets to be creative at all, and why?
  • Personal branding and the benefits of difference: In the creative industries, standing out as distinct from peers can sometimes be advantageous in the construction of a creative persona, even when this difference stems from being part of a marginalised group. How can it sometimes be beneficial to be in a minority? How does difference link with constructions of originality and uniqueness in such cases?
  • Authorship, attribution and credit in collaborative work: Creative work is very often collaborative, yet the credit is often attributed to one individual. This is not just a case of unscrupulous individuals stealing credit, but publications and awards and organisations insisting on a single creative figurehead. What implications and effects does this practice have in terms of equality?
  • Exceptionalist discourses: How do some creative professions frame themselves as unlike any other profession and entirely incomparable? What are the unequal consequences of this framing?
  • Anti-management: There are tendencies in creative professions actively to resist perceived managerialism, including any kind of official equity initiatives. How is this resistance exploited by employers to increase their own profit at the expense of their workers or to prevent equity interventions?
  • The creative profession as cult: Colleagues may become the creative’s only friends, romantic and business partners and family. How does this exclusive culture engender inequalities?
  • Creativity and vocation: There is often a sense of ‘calling’ to the creative professions. What are the effects of such quasi-metaphysical ideas? For example, are people willing to put up with exploitation and precariousness because they are dedicated to a larger ideal, one which frames economic and business imperatives as dishonourable and low-minded?
  • Methodologies for studying gendered creativity: Explorations of innovative methods for studying and understanding the creative industries and creative labour. What methods are most appropriate or interesting (e.g. visual, ethnographic) for understanding diversity and creative labour?


Becker, H. (1974) ‘Art as a Collective Action’, American Sociological Review 39(6): 767–76. Bilton, C. (2006) Management and Creativity. Oxford: Blackwell.

Blair, H., Culkin, N. and Randle, K. (2003) ‘From London to Los Angeles: A Comparison of Local Labour Market Processes in the US and UK Film Industries’, International Journal of Human Resource Management 14(4): 619–33.

Caves, R. (2000) Creative Industries. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Darcy, S. and Taylor, T. (2009) ‘Disability Citizenship: An Australian Human Rights Analysis of the Cultural Industries’, Leisure Studies 28(4): 419–41.

Dean, D. (2008) ‘“No Human Resource Is an Island”: Gendered, Racialized Access to Work as a Performer’, Gender, Work and Organization 15: 161–81.

Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) (2001) Creative Industries Mapping Document. London: DCMS.

Flew, T. (2012) The Creative Industries: Culture and Policy. London: Sage.

Florida, R. (2002) The Rise of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work Leisure Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books.

Gill, R. (2002) ‘Cool, Creative, and Egalitarian? Exploring Gender in Project-Based New Media Work in Europe’, Information, Communication, and Society 5: 70–89.

Grugulis, I. and Stoyanova, D. (2012) ‘Social Capital and Networks in Film and TV: Jobs for the Boys?’, Organization Studies 33(10): 1311–31.

Haunschild, A. and Eikhof, D. (2009) ‘Bringing Creativity to Market—Actors as Self-Employed Employers’, in A. McKinlay and C. Smith (eds) Creative Labour: Working in the Creative Industries, pp. 153–73. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hesmondhalgh, D. (2012) The Cultural Industries, 3rd ed. London: Sage.

Hesmondhalgh, D. and Baker, S. (2011) Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries. London: Routledge.

Hesmondhalgh, D. and Saha, A. (2013) ‘Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Production’, Popular Communication 11(3): 179–95.

Leslie, D. and Catungal, J. P. (2012) ‘Social Justice and the Creative City: Class, Gender and Racial Inequalities’, Geography Compass 6(3): 111–22.

Menger, P.-M. (1999) ‘Artistic Labor Markets and Careers’, Annual Review of Sociology 25: 541–74.

Nixon, S. and Crewe, B. (2004) ‘Pleasure at Work? Gender, Consumption and Work-Based Identities in the Creative Industries’, Consumption Markets & Culture 7(2): 129–47.

Proctor-Thomson, S. B. (2013) ‘Gender Disruptions in the Digital Industries?’, Culture and Organization 19(2): 85–104.

Sang, K. J., Dainty, A. R. and Ison, S. G. (2014) ‘Gender in the UK Architectural Profession: (Re) Producing and Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity’, Work, Employment & Society 28(2): 247–64.

Siebert, S. and Wilson, F. (2013) ‘All Work and No Pay: Consequences of Unpaid Work Experience in the Creative Industries’, Work, Employment and Society 27(4): 711–21.

Thynne, L. (2000) ‘Women in Television in the Multi-Channel Age’, Feminist Review 64(1): 65.

Yue, A. (2007) ‘Hawking in the Creative City: Rice Rhapsody, Sexuality and the Cultural Politics of New Asia in Singapore’, Feminist Media Studies 7(4): 365–80.


Papers for the special issue must be submitted electronically between 31 October and 1 December 2015 (please note dates) to SAGETrack at

Papers should be no more than 8000 words, excluding references, and will be blind reviewed following the journal’s standard procedures. Manuscripts should be prepared according to the guidelines published in Organization and on the journal’s website:

Early abstract submission

The editors are anxious to ensure speedy review of the submitted works. In support of this, they have requested that authors please send them the abstracts of their proposed papers by 31 October 2015. This will ensure that potential reviewers for these papers are identified prior to paper submission.

Special Issue Editor contact details

For further information, please contact one of the guest editors:

Deborah Jones:

Kate Sang:

Rebecca Finkel:

Dimi Stoyanova Russell:

PhD opportunity Heriot Watt LGBT employees in the 21st Centry UK workplace

Dear All,

I would be most grateful if you could share the following information with anyone you think may be interested. The closing date is set as 11th May, but we are flexible on this.
This is a three year fully funded scholarship in the School of Management and Languages and would require attendance at Heriot Watt (Edinburgh).
LGBT employees in the 21st Century UK workplace
Dr Pierre de Gioia-Carabellese and Dr Kate Sang
Within the UK legal protections for employees on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity have undergone significant advances within recent years. Subsequent to the introduction of the 2010 Equality Act, further legal advances have been made in terms of marriage, specifically same sex marriage and further provisions related to gender identity. However, the human resource management literature demonstrates that LGBT employees face significant discrimination in the workplace, including harassment and exclusion from informal networks. These effects are gendered, with lesbian women reporting further discriminatory treatment and bisexual employees largely absent from the literature. Along side this, work-life balance policies are disproportionately utilised by women with small children. This project would examine the experiences of LGBT employees in the workplace in the UK, in light of the efficacy of the legal protections. Projects may examine work-life balance policies, experiences of discrimination and harassment or other aspects of people’s experience of work. The project will bring together perspectives from sociology and human resource management with business law. It is likely to combine legal methods, including doctrinal analysis of relevant legal frameworks, with qualitative examinations of the workplace. In addition, projects may wish to take an intersectional perspective, drawing together gender with sexuality/gender identity.
Application details (please scroll down):

Writing: Addressing reviewer comments

I have a paper which has been floating around for a few years. This precious paper has been abused by reviewers and editors of various journals, although so far only one journal has suggested that the theoretical development is inadequate. This because ‘intersectionality’ was not recognised as a valid theoretical framework. While these comments were bruising, the depth of the reviews I received from said journal were impressive. My poor little paper had been taken seriously and rightly critiqued on a number of levels. Although a ‘reject’ these comments and the time taken by the editors and the reviewers to read the paper with such engagement inspired me to work on it (again). To the anonymous reviewers, I’m sending a thank you out to you – for your time and willingness to critically engage with my work.

Now the paper has come back with R&R and the comments range from technical (grammar) to more oblique requests for improved analysis. I started out feeling hard done by. This paper has been worked on for a few years now and never rushed. This is my usual response to reviewer comments. Read, fume, read, fume some more, then relax. My strategy for addressing comments to copy each comment into a table and in an adjacent column how I will address them. This then forms the basis of my response to reviewers.

Again a familiar pattern emerges, but this time self-induced confusion is emerging. The comments are not unfair at all. They are quite appropriate, but too opaque and fuzzy to know exactly what the reviewers and the editor want. Two short paragraphs are leading to a rewrite of the paper and now I am tied in knots. This is my own doing, I’ve likely over thought the comments. I am looking at the paper and not quite remembering what it was about in the first place or whether I like the paper or not. Now I think the reviewers were being kind. There is so much more they could have picked up on.

This precious, long abused paper, is my first effort at sole authoring. There is no one bounce ideas off. No one to do the tricky parts (!) or to proof read. No team to work with. It’s an isolating experience and an unfamiliar one. A kind friend has offered to help – to be a critical friend and give some feedback before I send the paper back to the journal. One day this paper will see the light of day and the feedback of friends, reviewers and editors will have shaped the story it tells. Rejection is part of publication, and this I keep reminding myself of as I go back to the manuscript and work out what on earth I am trying to say!


Along with some other academic friends I am part of a week long experiment to chart my full workload. Everything. Emails, work related tweeting, union work, FWSA work, working lunches. The lot. This was sparked by the recent series of interviews with academic parents – many of whom were working evenings and weekends. Drawing some (gross?) generalisations, men said they worked evenings and weekends to do the work necessary for promotion. Women felt they had to do this additional work just to keep up with teaching related admin and maybe research. What was perhaps more interesting is that this out of hours work is framed as normal. Needed to do the job. We all work those hours don’t we?

In my own working life I am struck at the number of work related emails which I get at the weekend. I’m making a point of disabling my work email on my iPad on Friday nights through to Monday mornings. The weekends are my time. I could recount numerous anecdotes of being handed work on a Friday afternoon which is due on a Monday, or even receiving work on a Sunday which is due Monday. I can’t imagine I am unique in these experiences. Academia is not a 9-5 job! We have a vocation. We love our jobs. We do it for the love of the job/students/research. These are dangerous narratives. By saying academia is not a 9-5 job, we make it not a 9-5 job. Our care for students, enjoyment of research is used by institutions to stop us resisting these working patterns – never mind how it’s used to try and stop us taking industrial action!

Which then brings me to another observation from the data, the attitude towards women academics who don’t have children. These women don’t have the ‘valid excuse’ not to stay after work or research/email at the weekends. This led to an interesting discussion on Facebook on the ways in which organisations pit women against each other (non-parent women being given the work of women colleagues on leave etc) and how resentment can build up.

There are academics who work a regular working week. We need to hear more from them. How do they achieve this, how is it received by colleagues and managers?

The time experiment is ongoing. I will try and do it again when teaching starts. And yes, writing this blog post counts!

Letter to MEPs re mass death in the Med.

I am writing to express my concern and distress over the humanitarian crisis currently facing those migrants who, fleeing war, are willing to risk death to cross the Med to reach the relative safety of mainland Europe. After the EU refused to support Italy’s admirable Mare Nostrum efforts to rescue migrants, the numbers dying have risen. While any death is unacceptable, the loss of so many fellow human beings, young, old, woman and men, cannot be tolerated. The logic behind this refusal to support Italy was that no rescue would reduce migration, despite acknowledgement that this was based on anecdotal evidence (
Britain’s inability to effectively manage its role in other countries is at least partly responsible for this mass migration. We surely have a responsibility, as humans, and as a wealthy country help people who are in extreme suffering. Would we stand by as people drowned on our doorstep, or would we, like the brave civilians of Italy, Greece and Malta wade into the water to help. While British politicians have made noises about the evils of people smuggling, they have allowed our own culpability in this crisis to remain hidden.
The Guardian’s considered piece on the options is worth reading
It is clear that we must, if we have a conscience, work to help people in dire need. I hope you will consider pushing the EU to an effective solution to this crisis, including demanding an immediate restart to the rescue. The Med has become the most dangerous crossing point on earth for migrants. This is to our shame and it is within our power to do something about this.
I look forward to hearing from you with a positive response.

The geographies of academic life

The second week of interviews has come to an end, with over half of our data collection complete. I don’t think we’ve reached saturation point yet, although some trends are starting to emerge. One aspect which is particularly interesting is the physical location of academic work and how this is an influence in the working lives of academics.

We are familiar with the need for academics to travel to conferences, often overseas. This form of mobility is difficult for those with any kind of caring responsibilities. Conferences rarely provide childcare and I have yet to hear of any university or funder costing in childcare or other family costs which would be incurred if academics were to take their children to a conference. Our previous post suggested that attendance at events, such as conferences, is important for networking and the development of confidence in research skills.

There is another aspect to academic life which is emerging from the studies – where we live. For many academics, mobility is key – and this may include migrating to another country, or moving within home country. For those with children this mobility can mean moving away from support networks, such as grandparents, who can assist with childcare. Academics who do not live within easy reach of a broader family network must rely on other forms of childcare, including formal paid care and sometimes friends. Of course, there are cost implications of being reliant on formal childcare. In addition, the lack of informal childcare, such as grandparents, may have an effect on academics’ ability to maintain a life outside of work, for example, spending time with their partner.

The distance between home and work is also an important issue for academics. Those who live close to work may be able to make use of nearby childcare. For others, the working day is extended with considerable travel to different sites for example, one child at nursery and an older child at school. How this labour is managed within families can depend on a range of factors, including, working hours, flexibility of work and access to car/public transport.

The interviews are providing an insight into the dynamics of academic working life, parenting and the relationship to men and women’s careers. Looking forward to completing the interviews and becoming immersed in the data!


Being a parent and an academic: early thoughts.

We are a week into our interviews with academic parents working in Scottish universities. As with all research, I am grateful to those who are willing, not only to take the time to talk to us, but also to share their experiences with such openness. Just to recap, our study aims to understand how academics in Scotland navigate their lives as parents alongside their careers. There is considerable evidence that women are disadvantaged within the academic sector, with both vertical and horizontal segregation. As with other similar occupational groups, there is a persistent gender pay gap, with UCU recently calling for equality audits. Recently the Guardian’s series ‘Academics Anonymous’ published a piece on the perceived incompatibility of motherhood with ‘serious research’. Specifically the author, a recent PhD Grad, argues that mothers, due to time constraints and the flexibility of academic work, are able to produce high quality research. While we are not yet in a position to analyse our data, our early interview data suggests women in lecturing posts articulate a more bleak picture. The women we have spoken to so far describe their working lives in terms of keeping up with work, with little scope to do more than this. In part this is due to the structural aspects of university life including:

  • teaching – not simply the hours spent in the lecture hall, but also the administration associated with marking, updating materials (including virtual learning environments), and meetings with students.
  • Administrative roles – we see examples of part time workers (women) undertaking significant administrative tasks which do not take into account part time working.
  • Scheduling of research events, usually at the end of the working day or in the evening.

The timing of research seminars is tricky. They need to be at a time where a good turnout can be guaranteed and when a suitable room will be available. However, seminars at 4pm or evening inaugurals are not timely for those with responsibility for childcare, including, collection from nursery or school. In addition, conference attendance is difficult for those with primary child-care responsibilities. The importance of social networks for academic careers is well known (Brink and Benschop, 2014), and being unable to attend seminars and conferences limits opportunities to develop these resources. However, our early data suggests there may be a further impact – on academics’ confidence in their own research abilities. As a PhD supervisor I advise my students to attend all the seminars they can. It’s how we learn to play part of the game – namely how to talk about our work. How to articulate our ideas in ways which are appropriate to our disciplinary norms. This need does not disappear once the VIVA is over. For those academics who have been away from research, either due to extended leave or perhaps job roles which are teaching/admin focussed, confidence in designing and conducting research may be dented. WIthin in our study this appears to affect women to a greater extent, due to societal structures – namely the gendered household division of labour. This is not to say that for fathers there are not effects on career or day-to-day working life, but that the effects are different. The men we have interviewed so far have been able to dedicate time to their careers, including research, while their (female) partners have worked part-time.

Our recent interviews suggest that the flexibility of academic life is essential for at least keeping up with workloads, if not for undertaking the additional work perceived as necessary for advancement. However, there are then associated impacts on working hours – including working evenings and weekend. If workloads cannot be completed within the working week, then perhaps questions need to be asked about the allocation of work, particularly with increasing pressures?

Brink, M., & Benschop, Y. (2014). Gender in Academic Networking: The Role of Gatekeepers in Professorial Recruitment. Journal of Management Studies, 51(3), 460-492.

Parenting in Scottish Academia: call for participants

Parenting in academia
The experiences of parents working within academia has been neglected in the academic literature, specifically, how parenting impacts academic careers as well as the ways in which academic workplace cultures impact attitudes to parenting. The goal of the project is to interview 20 male and female academics across several universities in Scotland, focussing on those from social science disciplines. The interviews will last for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, and will be video/audio recorded for the purposes of later transcription and thematic analysis. The project has received full ethical approval from Heriot Watt University and the University of Western Sydney. All interviews will be fully anonymised, ensuring individuals and institutions cannot be identified. The interviews will take place by telephone or skype face-to-face, at a location convenient to the participants. We anticipate interviews taking place in April 2015.
The objectives of the project are to consider the following research questions:

1. How do parenting responsibilities impact career progression?
2. How do parenting responsibilities impact employment participation?
3. How do academic careers and workplace cultures impact parenting practice?
4. How do workplace gender and parenting policies impact employment and parenting practice?
Research team
The interdisciplinary research team will include people that represent each of the key stakeholder groups: (1) Dr Kate Sang, from Business Management at HWU; (2) Dr Kate Huppatz from Sociology at the University of Western Sydney; and (3) Prof Jemina Napier, from Languages & Intercultural Studies at HWU.
If you would like to participate in the research, or learn more about the study, please contact Kate on
Please circulate this call for participants to any colleagues you think may be interested.