The “Gender in Physics” conference hosted by CERN last week showed that our Organization has been at the forefront of the drive towards gender equality in science over the last 20 years, with the launch of its Equal Opportunities Programme in 1996 leading the way. With women representing around 18% of our scientific and engineering staff today, we can proudly say that we have come a long way since 1995, when women represented around 11% of computer scientists, 3% of research and applied physicists and 0.5% of engineers.
The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for us, as individuals, to take stock of things past and to set ourselves goals for the future. Why not then also make it a time where collectively, as CERN contributors, we choose to reflect on our everyday interactions and decide on ways in which we might contribute to fostering general wellbeing and a respectful workplace spirit around us.
When one is leading a project that is part of the activities of a team within a larger group that, in turn, consists of many sections, there is a real risk that information about who actually did what gets lost in the multiple layers of hierarchy. In large organisations like CERN, the middle management, namely the section and group leaders, play a crucial role in establishing a healthy work environment where credit is given to those who did the actual work and the multiple layers of hierarchy are appropriately informed as to the skills and performance of their personnel.
Sometimes sexism hides behind the words and apparent compliments that women hear from their colleagues, supervisors and managers. This can be a slippery slope, where the rules of the game often depend on the cultures involved, and the players’ actions may be said to be defined by their own perceptions and reactions.
“We have a great team! Three girls and two men working on this project”… Girls??? Who are you calling “girls”? Do you mean your female colleagues?
Confidentiality, impartiality, informality and independence: these are the guiding principles of the Ombud role. However, in order to have the best possible chances of a positive outcome, another important ingredient is needed: early action. Do not wait until a situation has deteriorated so far that it becomes unbearable – set the Ombud clock ticking and enlist support as soon as you begin to feel that things are not going well…
“When feedback is specific and timely, and also accompanied by a genuinely positive intention, it may be considered to be a gift”. This was the concluding message of the article in the last Bulletin. But how can negative feedback be perceived as an appreciated and useful gift?
Dealing with feedback is an essential part of any learning process. Taking into account other people’s perceptions of what we do or say can be a very valuable insight into ways in which we can develop and improve our performance. However, knowing how to give feedback does not come naturally, and we can all gain from developing this skill.
Patents, copyrights, trademarks… there are many ways to protect intellectual property and yet, despite these precautionary measures, it seems that colleagues sometimes still slip up: plots done by one person are used in another’s presentation without being appropriately credited, citations are wrongly assigned, references are inaccurate…
Can a world without lies exist? Are there different types of lies, some more acceptable than others, or is that just an excuse that we use to justify ourselves? What consequences do lies have in the working environment?
A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation in the cafeteria where a colleague was asked how it was that he was always smiling… his answer was immediate - “That’s easy”, he said, “I work in such a great place – great science, great people, great opportunities…”. Amidst the general laughter and acquiescent nodding that followed, I found myself musing on this response and thinking about all the different services that play their part in achieving the mission that inspired this sentiment.