Carol Rosati OBE

An outside perspective from an ED&I professional on diversity in science.

Carol was a head-hunter for 20 years recruiting CFOs, CEOs and MDs in a huge variety of organisations and hadn’t really noticed they were pretty much all men until she stood up to speak at an event one evening and realised she was the only woman in the room apart from a waitress. And that’s how Inspire, her global network for senior business women came to be. Over the next decade she took it global and it connected 8,000 of the most senior women worldwide. It gave her a unique insight into the many differences between men and women and how unlevel the playing field actually was and still is. As a consequence of her introduction to gender diversity and becoming an ardent campaigner she ended up in the D&I space for the last 12 years. She also runs her own coaching business and sits on 3 Boards.

In Carol’s experience, there is a striking lack of women in top positions in all sectors, not just science. But times are changing, and she is optimistic that things will continue to steadily improve for women in leadership positions.

What is holding women back?

  1. The hierarchical structure of management. This type of management gives your manager a lot of power over your opportunities and your career advancement. It also promotes the status quo and makes it unlikely that a culture will change, will encourage group think conformist behaviour which is likely to be detrimental to anyone who challenges the norm or doesn’t fit with the accepted idea of an ideal candidate.
  2. How you communicate. Don’t ask, tell. Learn to say no effectively. Ask for what you need (in order to do X, I need Y). Don’t wait to be praised for what you have done – tell people!
  3. Promote yourself. Get comfortable with self boosting it will accelerate your career. What are you proud of? Tell people about it.
  4. Make sure you spend time investing in your network as you progress through your career. So many opportunities come from people who you meet along the way.

What is needed for positive change at work?

Improving inclusivity requires the government, organisations and individuals to work together to provide a positive work culture and opportunities for advancement. An opportunity to improve work culture is to include early career staff members in senior level meetings or to have reverse mentoring where junior members of staff explain their experiences with a senior staff member. This is typically illuminating for the senior staff member and highlights issues within the organisation, without early career members feeling like they are comprising their career by speaking out publicly.

Do I need to act more like my male colleagues?

No! Women are perfectly capable, intelligent and experienced as their male colleagues. If you feel pressure to act more like your male colleagues, this reflects a negative working environment. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking women need fixing. They don’t. What we need are people working to their strengths and training opportunities to excel in areas they enjoy. A positive thing from COVID has been the recognition of soft skills – collaboration, interpersonal skills, wellbeing have all come to the fore and finally rated as valuable skills to have – and these are often associated more with women.

Women tend to exhibit less confidence and sometimes less resilience than men in the workplace. By becoming more confident in their skill sets and abilities and actually starting to tell people about them, they are more likely to get noticed.

What do I need to get ahead?

What you really need is an advisory group. Ideally a mentor, sponsor and coach. Even more than one of each if possible. So what is the difference?

  • A mentor talks to you. They help you set goals and plans for the future.
  • A sponsor talks about you. They advocate and promote you.
  • A coach talks with you. They believe in you and help you feel positive about your choices.

These people do not need to be at your current place of employment. They may be colleagues around the world. The goal is to have several people looking out for you and helping you succeed. Don’t forget to pay it forward as you become more senior! Carol’s favourite saying is “ We need to lift as we rise”

Do you fear what will happen if you speak out about bad behaviour?

Be brave and speak out. There is safety in numbers. If more people speak out then it is harder for it to be ignored. Get your sponsor involved (if your sponsor is employed at the same location). If you find yourself getting burnt out (from always being the one speaking out) then engage others around you to help amplify your voice. Get help and don’t take everything on yourself to fix as this can be detrimental to your wellbeing.

How do I know if a missed opportunity is because of a protected characteristic?

Ask. If you don’t get an opportunity (a job, grant, talk at a conference), then ask for in-person (or digital face-to-face) feedback. Ask questions and assess their response. Interpreting their response is not just about what they say, but how they say it. You will have to judge this on a case by case basis.

Challenge your organisation. Do you have access to a women’s leadership program? Is there mentoring available? Do you have access to training? Are you being supported for advancement?

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.

Why Publish? Q and A with Mat Collins

On Friday 5th June we talked with Mat Colins about: Why Publish? Here is a summary of the most relevant questions.

Q. How do I choose between shorter page limit (eg GRL) vs long journal articles (eg J. Clim)?

Shorter page limit articles are not necessarily easier to write so do not assume shorter is easier. They require concise explanations and fewer figures. So you will spend more time editing and reformulating. The fit to the journal is more relevant than the page length of the article.

Q. When should I start writing?

When you feel the story you are trying to tell is becoming clearer. This is a personal perspective and you may want to start writing very early in the process. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Q. What do I do if I get a review back that is offensive or inappropriate?

This is not common but can happen. If it does, contact the editor directly and ask for their review to be discarded and explain why.

Q. Can I challenge an editors decision?

For example the paper is rejected and one reviewer had very negative comments. Yes you can challenge the decision but only if you feel you have a very strong reason to and do not do it regularly. Write a description of why the you the reviewer’s assessment was not correct and explain your position. Then contact the editor to explain.

Q. Do you have any tips for staying on top of the literature?

Twitter is excellent. Find the people in your area and follow them. It is common to tweet about new papers and a great way to interact with the authors and community.

Q. Should I include supplementary material?

This can be tricky and journal specific. In general, people do not read supplementary material unless their are very interested in the paper or are trying to recreate your results. So keep that in mind.

From post-doc to private secretary

Below is a summary of the discussion from Natalie’s presentation.

One of the key take home points from Natalie is this: make a plan and work towards your goal but be prepared to change your plan to take advantage of new opportunities. You will grow and change during your career. Be open to new and exciting opportunities.

Like many PhD students and post-docs, Natalie was looking for a career in academia and with the end goal of getting a professorship. It is important to acknowledge that academic career paths are affected by a lot of things outside your control. Unfortunately discrimination based on gender, sexuality and ethnicity remain ongoing issues within academic and society more generally. Acknowledging the biases that exist does not detract from the achievements of others. Everybody benefits from a fairer system.

In 2011/2012 here is how gender changes with career stage for physics and maths

On applying for jobs

Don’t wait to apply for a job until you meet all the selection criteria. Interestingly, if you match 50% or 90% of the criteria your probability of getting an interview are very similar. Women are far more likely to choose not to apply because they don’t feel they meet enough of the criteria. Forget that and just give it a go!

On applying for lectureships

Do your market research on positions, look at your long terms aims and how they are aligned with the department’s vision.

Apply for other positions at the same time. You might find something better. You might get more than one offer in which case you can use this to negotiate your contract.

On applying for fellowship

Expect to fail. A lot. While we know it is part of the process, it is very different to experience failure. One of Natalie’s inspirations is Dr Izzy Jayasinghe who showed reliance and determination to succeed when faced with repeated rejections for fellowships.

How to improve your odds

There are different ways to increase your chances for academic (and non-academic) positions and fellowships. Traditional ways include: publishing papers, applying for funding, independent research, supervising and teaching. Other less traditional ways include: participate in training opportunities, networking, entering competitions, putting yourself forward (or asking to be nominated) for awards, reviewing grants, engaging with the media and having an online presence.

Here are some hot tips

  1. Don’t wait for invited to talks to come your way. Seek them out and ask to be invited!
  2. Don’t be scared to start in a whole new area! Natalie did and loves it.
  3. Find out what motivates you and what matters to you.
  4. Be true to yourself.
  5. Be brave! Don’t let fear of failure stop you.
  6. Find a mentor (or multiple).
  7. Keep your cv updated so you can act on opportunities. Get feedback on your cv and continually workshop it.
  8. Regularly search for opportunities.
  9. In addition to having a plan, you also need an exit strategy. When will it be time to move on and to what?
  10. Be flexible in your planning and adapt as needed.

How do I get a lectureship?

From our discussion there seem to be two common pathways into lectureships.

Path one: Get your own research money

Then use your research to leverage a lectureship.  Getting your own funding helps in two ways:

  1. It shows you have a bigger picture plan for your research and why it is important. It shows you have passion for your research, else you would not have convinced a panel to fund you. It also demonstrates key skills such as grant writing, budgeting a project, and potentially managing other people. Getting your own funding also means you are more likely to be awarded future grants.
  2. You can negotiate a permanent position based on your fellowship or grant money. Our college has a good history of giving permanent lectureships to post-docs who win a fellowship. While on a fellowship you would likely be employed as a proleptic lecturer. If you bring your grant with you to Exeter from another university there is scope to negotiate a position to be created for you (you will likely have to go through formal recruitment but since the job was created for you to apply it will be well suited to your skills).

Path two: Apply for a job that has been advertised

This has the advantage that there is already a lectureship available, but has the disadvantage that you will go up against your peers and you need to demonstrate you are the best for the position. There are two stages to getting that job. The first stage is preparing yourself and your research. The second is nailing the interview and presentation.

Preparation for the lectureships before you start applying

You should be thinking about this phase before you start apply for jobs.

Mentoring: This is important at all stages but especially when your transitioning between post-doc and lecturer. One mentor can’t provide everything you need. Consider having a few different people in your corner and work out what areas they are best to help you with. Don’t overlook junior faculty, as they have gone through it more recently and can relate to what your going through. Find people who will champion for you – and don’t rule out having a senior mentor who is a different gender.

Get on other peoples grants: Being the named post-doc or a co-investigator on an awarded grant is a really important way to get started on grant funding. It also gives you insight into how grants are written and will give you useful experience in this process.

What’s your vision: You need to know what you want to research in the future and what goals you are aiming towards. Start laying out your research vision and goals. It is never too early to think about this.

Applying and interviewing

Which jobs should I apply for? Don’t wait for the perfect position before you apply. You need practice in academic interviews. Then when the right job does come along you are ready. You might even find one of the jobs you apply for is better than you thought!

Be proactive in your preparation. Work with a senior member of staff on possible interview questions and how you will answer them. Also practice your lecture with them so you pitch the content of your talk correctly. For example, should I talk about teaching, should I give a broad overview of my research or be very specific on one topic?

For those of us who feel like an imposter: If imposter phenomena is holding you back, then you need to work a little harder on how to describe your research and why you’re best for the position. Practice these with your mentor (this is why you need your mentoring relationship already strong for times like this).

Is the position new or a replacement? Do find out if the position is a new position or taking over an existing post. This will have a big impact on how you transition into the role. You may be expected to teach right away or you may get a 1-2 year transition into teaching. You really want to know which.

Apply for jobs that you do not expect to get or that you don’t fit all the criteria for. Don’t wait for the perfect position. Consider applying for jobs that don’t fit exactly in your specialist area – look out for the wording “or anyone else in a related field“. They may actually want a broad range of applicants. You goal is then to convince the hiring committee that what you do, and you specifically, are a good fit for the position. Also keep in mind that poorly written job descriptions receive less applicants than very polished ones. The polished ones will be more competitive.

Own your luck. There will likely be some element of luck to your employment. But still own your success. Sure you might have been in right place at the right time. You might have even been lucky enough to have a stronger candidate removed themselves from the application or not accept the position. It is okay to see yourself as lucky, but also see yourself as the one who was prepared and qualified, which is why you got the job!

Interview Skill

Before applying for the job

Do’s

  • Do email the contact person and introduce yourself. This is a great way to ask questions about the position and let the person know you’re interested. No need to attach any documents (i.e. no cv). But do sell yourself and your research interests.

Preparation for the Interview

Do’s

  • Do try to predict the questions and prepare for them. It is not necessarily to be very specific, think more along theme lines. The goal is not to have a rehearsed answer.
  • Do consider your answers for common interview questions and work out your examples ahead of time. Here are some common interview questions and more common interview questions.
  • Do read some of the papers from the interview panel. Get a feel for their research specialities.
  • Do get a contact number of someone in HR (that is not on the interview panel) in case you run late or there is a problem on the day. They can get a message to the panel (who will likely no have access to emails or their phone).
  • Do work out what you want them to know about you.
  • Do look at common interview questions and plan how you would respond to them.

Don’t’s

  • Don’t forget to be prepare to address the personal specifications as outlined in the job advertisement. Work out strategies for how to answer areas you may be a weak in and how you will change that.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of preparation

During the interview

Do’s

  • Do use the interview was a two way process. You should also be asking: Do I want to work with you and within this company/university?
  • Do remember that if you get asked a question and you blank or don’t hear it properly the best thing to do is stop, collect yourself (eg take a sip of water) and ask for the question to be repeated.
  • Do have a list of questions or points you want to make during the interview and take this in with you on a piece of paper. Just don’t fidget with it or use it too often.
  • Do make good eye contact but don’t over do it.
  • Do shake hands if it feels appropriate. Let the panel lead on this.
  • If you give a seminar, consider writing up a summary of the key points and give it to them on an A4 piece of paper. It will help them remember your talk.
  • Do use the STAR approach for answering questions.

Don’t’s:

  • Don’t worry about being nervous. It is expected you will be nervous. Work out how to use your nerves to your advantage. They can help you? Often helps when you’re talking about things that excite you.
  • Don’t volunteer humour, jokes or giggling. If the interview panel want a relaxed experience they will initiate it.
  • Don’t forget to check in with your body language.

Finishing the interview

  • You will always be asked if you have any questions. Don’t say no. Always answer that your questions have already been addressed.
  • What questions should I ask at the end of the interview?
    • What would being success in this role look like?
    • You can ask about the diversity of the university culture, but perhaps don’t comment on this at the department level. You can ask about what strategies are in place to address diversity.
    • You can ask about career progression.
    • You can ask about training options. What type of training do you want?
    • You can ask when you will hear the outcome, when you might get feed back.
    • Never ask about pay and benefits. This is to be done only after an offer has been made.

After the Interview

  • Always ask for feedback from the panel.
  • Write down the questions you were asked, how you answered and reflect on improvements you could make.

Where can I get help?

Check out Goinglobal if you want to see differences in other countries. This is helpful for cvs.

Set up a one-to-one with Kate. You can work through mock interview, work on your cv and other areas. Kate has shared with us some more tips on interview skills.

Press Releases

The key points about press releases:

  •  Don’t use words without explanation.
  • Always lead with the punchline in the first sentence. This should be where you answer: You will never guess what…
  • Your first sentence should never be background information or something people already know.
  • If you are in the field or can take a photo of your release, this really helps an article have traction.

What makes a great story?

  • Things that affect me,
  • things that make me feel something,
  • something I did not already know, and
  • good storytelling

When should we contact the media office?

If you have a publication that you would like to write a press release on, then  contact the press office when the paper has been accepted, or close to accepted. The article has to be new else it is not news.

Do I need to write the press release?

No. You explain your research to the press office and they write the release for you. Their task is to help the researchers phrase their work in a way for journalists to easily use.

Can I write the press release myself?

Yes you can. But you will still work with the press team to fine tune the piece.

How to write a press release:

  • Start with the main findings, then elaborate.
  • Stress the relevance to the publication.
  • Use simple language.
  • Don’t waste words.
  • Focus on the story.
  • Be accurate.

The key to a good press release is that you are not ‘selling’ your findings, but rather to clarify what you found and why it is important.

Is there training offered by the University of Exeter on how to engage with the media?

Yes. The press office organises practical training on TV and radio interviews, run by an external company. There is a waiting list for this. To be added, please email

Leave types

All of the links in the blog are for staff. If you are a student, please see the Learning and Teaching Support Handbook

Quick links: Leave options, parents and careers

Please note that all of the information below is just a guide. You will need to review the current policies and identify the correct policy rules.

What types of leave are there?

1. Sick leave:

a) Sick leave: If you are absent for more than 7 consecutive days you will need a doctor’s certificate. This should be the hard copy version but you can send a scanned copy or a photo initially and this should be emailed to your line manager or supervisor. However you must follow up by sending the hard copy to your manager. Your manager will then enter this on trent. See Sickness Absence Recording

b) Long term sick leave: If you are off for more than 28 days. You will need to provide a medical certificate (e.g. from your GP or from the hospital as appropriate) to cover any continuous period of sickness absence of more than 28 consecutive days.

The maximum amount of sick leave you’re entitled to depends on your length of employment (1-6 months). See the table here for more info.

2. Compassionate or emergency leave (staff only not PhD students):

a) In the event of death or serious illness of a close relative you are entitled to basic provision of 2 days paid leave although consideration may be given to certain circumstances where there is responsibility for making arrangements or significant travel is involved. After this you can consider taking annual leave or other leave types.

b) Emergency leave is 1-2 days unpaid leave to manage unexpected issues which occur without warning.

Continue reading here for more information.

3. Maternity leave

The total length of leave you can apply for is 52 weeks:

  • 26 weeks university maternity pay,
  • 13 weeks statutory maternity pay/maternity allowance (as eligible – see guidance online), and
  • 13 weeks unpaid.

Keep in mind that any bank holidays/closure days that fall within the period of maternity leave are not paid but given back as discretionary annual leave days after maternity leave ends. They should be taken before the return to work. You continue to accrue annual leave during this time.

Conditions:

  • You must be employed at the uni until 29 weeks into the pregnancy.
  • You can start maternity leave at any time after 29 weeks.
  • You need to advise your employer (HoD/Line manager/HR) by the 15th week before your baby is due (eg approx. 25 weeks’ pregnant).
  • There is a return to work period of 3 months (see below).

If I do not return to work do I have to pay back part of the maternity leave? This is a tricky question for fixed term contract employees such as post-docs. Prior to maternity leave, your return to work should be discuss with your line manager and Research Finance to discuss if the funding your position depend on could be paused or extended. If the fixed term contract ends during the period of maternity leave then you would not be required to repay the University maternity pay.

4. Paternity and partner support leave

The total length of leave you can apply for is 6 weeks:

  • leave needs to be booked in 1 week blocks
  • can only be taken after the birth
  • need to notify HR 28 days prior to the start of your leave
5. Parental and carers leave

This is unpaid leave to allow you to take care of dependent children or relatives. More information can be found here.

If you would like further information please contact HR on: hradvisors@exeter.ac.uk