On the 24 May the Women’s Academic Network (WAN) held their first public research seminar entitled ‘“Back in the Women’s Room”: Dialogues on gender-focused research’. This seminar, organised by Professor Sara Ashencaen Crabtree (in reference to the famous feminist novel The Women’s Room by Marilyn French), focused on research that had been either funded by WAN or were closely linked to WAN’s aims and interests. Accordingly 5 paper presentations were given by BU academics with a guest appearance by our founding member, Professor Heather Savigny of de Montford University, speaking on the topic of the hidden injuries to women in neoliberal academia.
A profoundly erudite keynote lecture was offered by our eminent speaker, Professor Ann Phoenix of the Thomas Coram Research Unit at the Institute of Education at UCL, who flew in from her secondment at the Helsinki University Collegium for Advanced Studies to attend the seminar. The day was completed by two successive 90 minute workshops, one given by Professor Phoenix on feminist intersectional research and the other being a fascinating, participative social dreaming workshop on women in academia, conducted by Dr Aanka Batta of the Faculty of Media & Communication (FMC). Professor Tiantian Zhang of SciTech gracefully closed the day.
There was good attendance by BU and external academics along with PGR. The seminar was seen to be enormously successful and received excellent evaluations from participants. However, while a thoroughly gratifying outcome (and hopefully the beginning of other such seminars) the main impact of the day was to be able to focus on issues of genuine relevance and concern to women (and male) academics through papers on gendered barriers to academic careers by Professors Ashencaen Crabtree and Chris Sheil. A paper on women knowledge workers and flexible working by doctoral candidate, Aleksandra Biernat, resonated with our awareness of the difficulties of negotiating masculinised workspaces as women. Drs Haana Osman and Lorraine Brown delivered a WAN-sponsored paper on UK Muslim women tourists. Professor Candida Yates followed with another sponsored research paper on perceptions and emotionality in the wake of Brexit – a most topical issue. Dr Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers gave an impressive account on the ambiguities of gender in post-War Kosovo. Finally, Professor Ann Hemingway et al. discussed their early work on Slow Professorship as a means of reclaiming deep scholarship – where synergies were found with colleagues from the Faculty of Management, who are also engaged in exploring this area. We were also really pleased that this work inspired such a strong response for further engagement with our colleagues across Faculties, where Professor Mike Wilmore, Dean of FMC was eager to continue discussions at a higher level.
The day provided a number of valuable opportunities for colleagues to explore gender as both an analytic framework, a subjective experience and as firmly embedded in ubiquitous contexts and daily social interactions. It provided an invaluable forum to examine the complexities, paradoxes and oppressions that form the problematic and bone of contention in gender politics – and in so doing privileged those vital areas of concern that otherwise too often remain unheard and unseen.
Professor Sara Ashencaen Crabtree