International Women’s Day and me
Welcome to CE 8th March 2016
In our second post from International Women’s Day, previous #ChemEngCatchUp interviewee Aline Miller tells us why this day is important to her and shares some of her experiences as a women working in chemical engineering:
“Today is International Women’s Day, an important day to celebrate the many successes and achievements of women and focus on the drive for equality.
Across the UK and on a global scale the words ‘That’s not for girls’ are whispered, spoken, and very often shouted. This stays with the people who hear, and can change the way they behave and even their life direction. This needs to be recognised and stopped as it is holding girls back.
Such behaviour is prevalent in the UK and throughout the world to differing degrees. In my on experience, I have been fortunate enough to receive tremendous support from family, friends, and teachers, but surprisingly it was only when I began working as a lecturer that I became aware of the ‘leaky pipeline’ in terms of workforce and the statistic that (at the time) only 4% of Professors in Chemical Engineering were female.
I was also astounded when to hear that ‘my career was over’ from my then line manager when I announced I was expecting my first child. This was in 2005! Thankfully I didn’t believe him, and he is also now retired. What he did do, however, was make me more determined to carry on and prove him wrong! The number of females taking on senior roles within the university sector is on the rise, but until there is parity between males and females more needs to be done to raise awareness of the need for diversity in the workplace. This allows different perspectives to be brought to the table and ultimately benefits and enriches all of us.
As a female Professor of Chemical Engineering, who happens to have three young children, I am often asked how I manage to juggle work and bringing up a young family (my children are currently 6, 8 and 10). I have no secret or magic wand; it is a constant struggle and juggling act! Not surprisingly my husband has yet to be asked this question, but he faces exactly the same issues. The key I believe, to combining career and family life is having a fully supportive partner. Everything from school pick ups to homework and laundry are shared equally between my husband and me.
It does help that my husband is also an academic and we benefit from the flexibility that the university environment has to offer. And I have been very fortunate to have a Head of School who creates an environment that fully adopts family friendly practices. I have also found that having a strong network of local friends to call upon in an hour of need when meetings overrun, trains run late, or my husband is travelling, has been invaluable and I am always happy to return the favour when I can.
Moving forward we must strive for equality not only because it fosters innovation and growth, but mainly just because it is right.”