It may seem unbelievable now, but certainly until the end of the 19th Century, the female brain was considered inferior to that of the male. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, it was thought that women couldn’t handle science. When, in 1890 Phillippa Fawcett achieved the top score in the Cambridge University Mathematical Tripos (without the usual hot-housing), then quite frankly that should have put paid to that.
The fact that this wasn’t the final nail in the coffin of centuries of discrimination is a tragedy. Women have struggled forward towards equality of recognition in academia. Just how close are we? Are we at a tipping point?
If Cardiff Women in Science (CWIS) has its way, then perhaps we might just be able to see that tipping point. Yesterday’s seminar from the group contained brilliant presentations on cross-disciplinary research, something that all members of the group, bottom-up and top-down, are doing well. There is a determination to get this very important work recognised, and it is difficult to get this understood by our REF system. However, let’s be clear, this is the work that will make a difference to our outcomes, be it our environment, our patients, our population: our society. Cathy Holt, Debbie Mason, and Kate Walker gave excellent presentations of this type of research. Alison Paul led an excellent, frank and challenging discussion.
Left: Alison Paul leads the way at CWIS. Right: Networking with CWIS
The best bit for me were discussions over cheese and wine at the end: getting together. Academics came and asked for innovation and enterprise advice. Through this we’ve all made new research connections and even a new company for Cardiff University is being mooted. Now that’s a good meeting. Make sure you don’t miss the next one!
Professor Judith Hall