Biomedical Sciences

Gender equality - Prof Catherina Becker

Prof Catherina Becker discusses how Biomedical Sciences is working on equality for female academics

Professor Catherina Becker

Professor of Neural Development and Regeneration, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences and member of Deanery Self Assessment Team.

CAREER SUPPORT: I joined the University of Edinburgh in April 2005 as a tenured Senior Lecturer at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. My research, teaching and support activities, including the very visible role of Director of Postgraduate Training of the Centre for Neuroregeneration, were mainly concentrated on the Vet School in the following 4 years. In early 2009, most research active Vet School staff transitioned to the School of Biomedical Sciences (BMS). At that time, I was thinking about promotion and was concerned that my previous activities, contributing to teaching, postgraduate administration and curriculum development, would not be recognised. Instead, I met with strong support from the Head of School and was promoted to Reader in August 2010. Annual appraisals following the promotion allowed me to voice my ambitions and provided a forum to clarify expectations for my future development. The School supported my personal development through the provision of several leadership courses, which I was actively offered instead of having to seek out. Furthermore, the Head of School supported my external engagement working for the European Commission in one of their grant programmes, which had only limited immediate benefit to the School, but strengthened my personal competence in leading international grant assessment panels. In recognition of my achievements, I was given a discretionary salary increment in 2012, and in 2013 I was promoted to a personal chair.

PERSONAL SUPPORT: As a mother of two school-aged children, I appreciate the flexibility to work from home, for example during school term holidays or cases of illness. Furthermore, when my mother needed my care for terminal illness in 2011, the School was extremely supportive, immediately providing care-leave regulations and taking paper work off my hands. Also, the provisions for a deputy for all courses meant that I could confidently leave my teaching in the hands of a colleague without the need for further arrangements. In general, the supportive nature of the School leads to an extremely collegial atmosphere amongst staff, without (gender or otherwise driven) competition issues.

EFFECTS OF GENERAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SCHOOL SINCE 2009: The School has visibly invested in the Athena SWAN/gender equality ambitions, and is constantly adopting best practise in a number of areas that are important for me. For example, all seminars are now held in core working hours, usually around lunch time. It is striking to see how much relief this provides to colleagues with child care responsibilities, including myself, allowing much more active participation in scientific and administrative meetings. As the Centre for Neuroregeneration’s Director of Postgraduate Training, the recent introduction of mandatory gender representation on PhD selection and supervision teams has raised general awareness of the importance of the visibility of female academics in senior/leadership roles.

Read Prof Catherina Becker's staff profile