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Halkes lunch meeting February 26th

On Tuesday, February 26th 2013, the Halkes Women Faculty Network organized her second activity:

What? A lunch meeting with round-table discussions on visibility, work-life balance, and publishing. 
When? Tuesday 26 February, 12.30h to 13.45h. 
Where? Anton van Duinkerkenzaal, Aula, Comeniuslaan 2

Round-table discussions offer a good opportunity to learn from other women’s experiences related to gaining visibility, striving for work-life balance, and getting your work published. People from different stages in their career (PhD candidates to full professors) were present to exchange experiences, tips, tricks, and pitfalls. All tables were chaired by an expert on the topic. Click here for pictures.

The feedback we received was very positive: a comment often mentioned is how interesting and insightful it was to meet women from different disciplines and levels of seniority to come together and share experiences and tips. Thank you for joining, and we hope to see you again at future Halkes activities!

For the ones who would like to know what went on at the other tables, or for the ones who missed the meeting, following are the summaries of the discussions that went on at the different tables.

The participants of the round table on publishing discussed a variety of issues, ranging from problematic aspects of the system to practical tips & trics. The system’s focus on quantity rather than quality of publications, and the way it rewards publishing journal articles rather than books, and scientific rather than professional publications, was discussed. While co-authored publications are encouraged, all of us are evaluated individually. As other countries have different systems, it may be even harder to figure out an optimal publication strategy. How to decide on the extent to which to engage in the ‘rat race’ or to resist and try to change it? How to decide what journal to submit a manuscript to, how to balance quantity (more, but B or C publications) and quality (fewer, but A-publications), how to decide whether a manuscript has enough quality to be submitted, how to balance scientific and professional publications?

It was remarked that having/building a network may be helpful: supervisors and colleagues may advise on journals to submit a manuscript to, or recommend renowned co-authors to be invited to participate; a small network of trusted colleagues may exchange drafts for a first review, et cetera. Practical tips and tricks were exchanged on how to find time to write, such as reserving (half) days every week, or certain hours every day, or invite excellent master students to (co-)write a scientific article on the basis of their theses (authors to be decided in consultation). The discussion also related publishing to work-life balance and visibility, the other subthemes of the round table sessions.

At both tables of work life balance the discussions between PhD candidates to professors were both relaxed and insightful. The participants were glad to see they were not the only one struggling with high work pressure, and that they were able to exchange experiences. On all levels, the women experienced how work creeps into private life: the fact that work never stops, leads to tensions for most of them. Different ways of coping with this (un)balance were discussed on both tables:

- Some set clear boundaries for themselves, such as going home on a fixed time or not checking work mail during the weekend. Others prefer to be flexible and find it important to be free in determining their own time schedule.

- Accept that you cannot do everything perfectly. It is a big task to combine a busy job with a social life, and perhaps a family life. Be content with doing your job on a sufficient level and try not to be annoyed when your house is not entirely tidy.

- Make conscious choices and use your time effectively. Determine what articles you really want to read, in what journals you want to publish, what contacts you want to maintain.

- Divide your research into small tasks, that you then celebrate once they are completed.

- Limit your educational activities to certain days/times.

- Take many short breaks during your working day.

- Enjoy lunch breaks with good company.

- Write down what you have done for your research, so you see that you are progressing when you think you are not.

- Make extensive notes of your educational preparations, so you can use them in years to come.

- It seems as if the work pressure is highest for the age group 30 – 45. In that period  you are expected to publish much and be very active, and on your way to a permanent job. You may want to consider having children earlier, but it is also remarked that it never seems the right time to have children. So perhaps you should just see how things work out.

- Having children when also having an academic career:  A (good) partner who supports you and takes care of half of the household at home makes a big difference. Let your partner do it in his or her own way. Focus on the most important things and outsource the rest (e.g. cleaning), invest in help (with children’s care for example), so you can spend quality time with your family. See the money you spend on those things as an investment in yourself. Dare to work less in a certain phase of your life. Reserve time to care for your children (or, perhaps, parents).

During the round table discussions on visibility, it became clear that many women – PhDs to professors – sometimes have a hard time being and making themselves visible. Experiences and tips & tricks discussed at the two tables were:

- Create visibility with relevant people in your network. It is important that people (gatekeepers) who can and want to support your career, and people who decide upon your career, know what your expertise, qualities and ambitions are. So try to inform those gatekeepers about your activities and successes, by talking to them informally in the hallways or at the coffee machine, or formally through a newsletter or mentoring relationship.

- Use social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs) to give your work visibility. However, be careful with the quality of your messages. ‘Wrong visibility’ exists (e.g., wrong interpretation of data)

-  How to make yourself visible in a meeting or during conference sessions, and get your idea to be heard by others? Make your statement early on in the meeting, so people notice you straight away; ask questions (but do not say ‘euh, may I perhaps ask a question?); talk slowly and with confidence; prepare the meeting sufficiently.  One of the attendees said she forced herself to pose at least one question during a seminar or session, to go against shyness or feeling uncomfortable.

-      It is important to do a follow-up after sessions. Go to persons with whom you have debated, and give them your business card. That will help your name to be remembered, instead of solely asking questions. Also, introduce yourself before asking a question (name and university).

- Organizing a symposium or workshop is a good way to enhance your visibility. Especially when you do this with people from different universities

- You could email the presenters in your stream before the conference to tell them how interesting their paper is. This will form a bond which will be helpful for seeking contact during the conference.

- The most important is to stay proactive and for instance, ask your supervisors for contact information of people in your field. If you ask actively for something, people will be prepared to help you.  Enthusiasm and self-confidence about what you’re doing and what you represent are very important.