Understanding body language

Women in Climate teamed up with Women in Physics to host an interactive one-day training session on understanding body language, led by Sadie Sharp.

The focus of the training event was improving confidence by understanding ourselves better and thinking about how we may be seen by others.

We considered our:

  1. inner self,
  2. outer self,
  3. exposure, and
  4. boundaries.

During this discussion there were a few things that jumped out to me.

  • Did you know that imposter syndrome is more common in high performing women, especially in academic or technical environments? The dice is already weighted towards us feeling like an imposter.
  • Learn to listen to your inner critic. You can listen into your inner critic and use it as an opportunity to grow. The goal is to not let it dominate, and try to ignore some of the anxious baggage!
  • What you think on the inside will shape how you look from the outside. Control your thoughts and you can control your body language. Try to project confidence even when you don’t feel it.
  • Part of our outer self is about managing our reputation and our ‘personal brand’. How do you want your colleagues to see you? What can you do to change this?
  • We are not being fair to ourselves when we put other people’s needs indiscriminately ahead of our own.

We covered a lot of practical techniques for being in uncomfortable situations, how to approach difficult conversations, ways to be assertive, and influence how people perceive us in the workplace. We talked about how to be confident at conferences to help us build and develop our networks, and how to self-promote without sounding like we are bragging.

This session was possible thanks to funding from the Researcher-Led Initiate awards from the University of Exeter’s Doctoral College.

This training was featured on the University of Exeter’s news page. Sadie also creates regular content for her Linkedin profile.

Writing workshop for climate scientists

Last week Women in Climate hosted a two-day writing workshop led by Professor David Schultz. If you have not come across his excellent book Eloquent Science then we highly recommend it!

Our two-day workshop was an excellent opportunity for us to focus on improving our scientific writing. Why? Because writing improves thinking!

We spent day one talking about different aspects of writing papers.

For example:

  •   What is publishable science?
  •   Have I asked a good question? (Do I even have a question?)
  •   How can I improve my chances of getting the work published?

One thing that has stayed with me since the course is:

Scientific research is rarely 100% bulletproof. Almost all of your work will have limitations or rely on assumptions. It is the task of the author to address them in their writing.

This concept takes some pressure off the idea of what is publishable science — it does not have to be perfect!

We discussed each section of a manuscript, digging into pitfalls, things to avoid, elements to consider. We had a great discussion about defining your problem statement. If you don’t know that this is then you need to find out (here is a wikipedia page on problem statements to get you started). Without a problem statement your paper will lack focus and it is harder for your audience to follow.

We then spent day two talking about editing.

I realised that I (almost always) let my editing get in the way of my writing. When I sit down to write a paragraph, I usually make sure the reference are the right ones, the sentences are free from spelling mistakes/grammatical errors and that the writing is as good as it can be. Can you relate to this? David suggests that instead we should focus on the writing, leave comments in your text like (ref needed), find another example etc. Then when you have drafted the paper, come back in and fix these.

Another mistake I have been doing is “editing” the paper without a clear purpose. David suggests we should have a particular task in mind (e.g., checking concision, flow, or spelling) and read the paper only for that! It means you make multiple passes over the same text (lets be honest, we are already doing this anyway as we “edit” in general) but each time looking at a different aspect of the writing.

There are four parts to good writing.

  1. Unity: is your text structured correctly?
  2. Coherence: does your text flow consistently?
  3. Concision: does your text include only essential content?
  4. Precision: be qualitative and clear!

We then spent some time talking about overcoming writing barriers. There are five reasons you might not be writing. Can you relate to any of these?

  1. I don’t understand what I need to write.
  2. I can’t find the time or space to write.
  3. I am easily distracted.
  4. The words don’t come to me.
  5. I have written other parts, but I am stuck on this current text.

Once you work out which of these problems you are having you are better positioned to address the problem.

Thank you to everyone that participated. Because this training was online we were joined by people across the South West England (e.g. Exeter, Bristol, Reading) and quite a few participants from abroad. We were pleased to have almost 100 people participate in the workshop. We are grateful to the Royal Meteorological Society Legacy Fund, and the Global Systems Institute whose funding made this workshop possible.

Shut-up-and-write sessions

Following our successful writing workshop for climate scientists we have decided to hold fortnightly shut-up-and-write sessions. The schedule of the events can be found on our shut-up-and-write page.

We will be using the pomodoro technique. This will involve 25 minute writing blocks and then 5 minutes for a break/chat with the group. We will host all of out shut-up-and-write sessions on zoom. We will send out an email to our mailing list before each event. If you are not already on the mailing list and would like to join, please email Penny.

If you can’t join us for the start time, please join whenever you can. During work blocks we will not be admitting people from the waiting room (this is an important part of the technique where we remove distractions – as keeping an eye on the waiting room is one such distraction). If you do not get admitted right away then assume we are in a work block and we will let you in during the next break.

Why join in?

  • They are fun.
  • To help motivate your writing.
  • Help structure your work day.
  • You want to connect with us during the break.

We look forward to seeing you very soon. If you would like to recreate a session, here is the radial timer we use from YouTube.