International Women and Girls in Science Day celebrates the success of women who have pushed the boundaries of gender inequalities to achieve beyond their expectations within the world of science. Most importantly, they are role models for younger generations, encouraging them to excel in their chosen field.
Within health and wellbeing, we are incredibly lucky to have such an outstanding role model in Professor Dame Carol Black. Supporting the Health and Wellbeing at Work event for 15 years, we are delighted that she will be sharing some of her career highlights with us on Thursday 18 March. Today she shares with Event Director Lauren Sterling some thoughts about her success and how women in the workplace can be supported:
LS: Tell us about your major achievements both within medicine and health and wellbeing at work:
CB: Perhaps my earliest achievement was to defy limited family expectations but looking back at what I have achieved in my career, I am most proud of being able to improve the lives of scleroderma patients. Scleroderma is an orphan disease and being able to make a real difference to patients, as well as research, has been immensely rewarding. With health and wellbeing at work, elevating the subject in the eyes of Government, employers and the third sector has been both a passion and achievement. Putting it truly on to the map, getting many individuals to support the agenda and bringing about real change has been a major accomplishment.
LS: What are the fundamental factors that have driven you to succeed?
CB: Absolute determination, resilience, believing that change can happen. I’m not going to be put off if I think a thing is worth doing. If you’re going to succeed, you must somehow develop the resilience to recover quickly from setbacks. My starting premise is always to try to achieve progress consensually. I realised that I had the influence to effect change and I didn’t shy away from the difficult things.
LS: What barriers do you think working women will face post-COVID and how can employers address these?
CB: Working women have in many cases been under additional strain during COVID, often juggling with home schooling, lack of additional family support, the stress of a full household as well as holding down a job. Some may even have given up working and many will have reduced their hours and lost out on promotion. Employers will need to look at their female employees seriously and provide customised support that manages their mental health and wellbeing and offers greater work flexibility if they are to harness the unique skills and contributions that women bring to the workforce.
LS: Gender equality in science – are we there yet?
CB: No, although this is a complex issue. We still need to build resilience and opportunities in order to establish parity. We need to take action and support women who take time out to have children – they can easily fall behind. And we need to develop more role models, mentors, and those who will champion the next generation of scientists. In order to have the sort of career I have had, I have had to get over low expectations of what women can do, and meaningful change and support is crucial to achieving that.
Join Dame Carol at Health and Wellbeing at Work Week as she talks about the Work Landscape: COVID and Beyond (Tuesday 16 March) and for an upfront Interview: A Journey Through Health and Wellbeing at Work (Thursday 18 March). 100 hours of insight and best practice. Early Bird rate ends tomorrow.
Our thanks to Professor Dame Carol Black DBE for the interview and The Meaning of Success published by Cambridge University Press 2014.