‘Good girls’ don’t rise to the top

I'm not sure I can really wear such heels...

Female academics would be aided by the introduction of gender-blind peer review and an end to the culture of compliant “good girls” in higher education, a conference has heard.

The argument was set out last week at a British Federation of Women Graduates colloquium on “female leadership in higher education”, at which Elaine Thomas, vice-chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts, paid tribute to the work of the now-defunct “Through the Glass Ceiling” network, which was set up in 1991.

It was about this time that she had become a dean of faculty, she said, and “truly entered a world of men in suits”. The leadership courses of the time were either militaristic or, when aimed at women, soft-centred, with participants asked to describe their favourite colours or goddesses, she recalled.

The network, by contrast, had proved a breath of fresh air, pinpointing role models and networks. It had also helped overcome low expectations, where women did not put themselves forward despite “seeing confident but mediocre men rising to the top”.

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Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

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