Gender Equality

Gender equality at work depends on gender equality at home

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, just outside of Cambridge in the UK, is a major center for genomic research. Nearly 1000 people work there and they’ve recently begun a Sex in Science program which has led to an Athena SWAN award.

When I visited them recently, we recorded a short interview. In it, I emphasized how one important prerequisite for gender equality in the workplace is gender equality at home. That requires a significant infrastructure ranging from affordable day care facilities to effective transportation systems to employers who are willing to accommodate the sometimes unpredictable needs of employees with young children.

When offering advice to early career women, I touched on this issue more directly than I usually do, encouraging them to bring the topic of gender equality at home into their discussions with a potential life partner. It can be crucial for their future career success.

I also touched on key issues for organizations wanting to change. The impact of the top leadership is profound; changing your workplace culture is going to be an uphill battle unless your management is committed to the idea that it’s a mistake to sacrifice part of the talent pool for reasons completely unrelated to the jobs being performed.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about this video. Does it touch on important issues? What do you wish I had said differently? How would you answer these questions? What other topics would be useful to have in this format?

My interest in moving universities towards balance encompasses gender equality, the communication of scientific results, promoting research-based education and leadership development more generally. Read more



  • Meg says:

    I am surprised that there are no comments yet! But as one of your Twitter fans, I’ll offer a few words. First, I agree with all the points made here. Top leadership in the university has to not only support gender equity, but provide resources to make it happen. Too often, it’s just lip service. On my campus, I find that faculty are often their own worst enemies–as you note, gender equity at work requires gender equity at home, even if the couple is same sex and childless. I appreciate your use of ‘work and non-work’ instead of work-life, a phrase that always make me cringe. I wonder if there is a better phrase still, something less binary? I’m leaning toward professional-personal. Finally, I think the advice you give is fair. My husband stays home and was ‘at home’ before we married and started a family (post tenure). I would ask young women to search their own souls about parenthood, however. I see many women who think men can’t parent; sexism works both ways.

    • Curt Rice says:

      That’s a great comment, Meg. Thank you. We’ve probably all seen cases where a partner assumes the other can’t do something, probably based on the effects of long-term exposure to stereotypes. It’s important to work to increase introspection around these issues.


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