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International Women's Day 2018: Jodi Lindsay on eliminating gender bias and Athena SWAN

Published: 08 March 2018

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, some of our female staff talk about pushing for progress, overcoming career challenges, achieving work/life balance and excelling.

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Jodi Lindsay, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis

Jodi Lindsay, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis

Professor Jodi Lindsay, who researches bacteria, particularly antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, feels very strongly about eliminating gender bias and has been a part of Athena SWAN at St George’s from the very beginning.

She said: “It’s something that’s important to me. There was an open call for people [to join the Athena Swan group] in 2013 and I found it a good way to find out what’s happening and get involved.

“I actually found it the best way to meet other women at St George’s. I was astounded by all of these lovely women that I had never met before, so, for me, it was a fantastic social opportunity as well.”

Professor Lindsay has herself had experiences where being a woman in her field proved to be difficult.

She said: “The first issue I experienced was when I was a PhD student and I had some problems with my main supervisor.

“He behaved inappropriately and he responded very badly to what happened subsequently.

“I didn’t feel very supported at the time and it was a very difficult time for me, but I’m really proud of the fact that I stood up and looked after myself.”

Professor Lindsay got through her PhD and has taken the positives from her experience.

She said: “In the long-run, it was very good for me because I was rather proud of how I handled the situation.

“It ended up being a good experience for subsequent problems that arose, because I had a much better idea about how to spot problems in advance and how to make sure I was protected and looking after myself and nip things in the bud early on.”

That didn’t stop her from being discriminated against in various positions for being a woman.

Professor Lindsay said: “As a post-doc in America, I was the first person fired in my department.

“We ran out of funding and it was basically the women that were fired.”

Professor Lindsay experienced the same issue in multiple ways over her career.

She said: “Despite this, I’ve done very well in my career. You can get over and find ways around these issues.”

Professor Lindsay noted that having more people to talk to about her experiences at the time would have helped her.

She explained: “In the past, it always felt like something I couldn’t talk to people about, because you do feel that in someway, it’s your fault, or to talk about it is to tag yourself with a label that people will remember.

"Sometimes it’s really easy to pretend that it’s not happening or to find your own path through it, but actually I think it’s much better if we can talk about it and acknowledge it.

“As a bigger group we can support each other and make sure everyone has the best opportunity to do what they can to produce their best work.

“I do think that one of the things that I can perhaps do is be of support, seeing as I am one of those people who has gone through it and been able to speak about it.

"I can be someone that people going through the same thing can come to."

Organisations like Athena SWAN encourage people to talk about issues surrounding gender bias.

Professor Lindsay said: “It’s good because it gets a lot of people to think about their role and what they can do to support people who need it.”

Professor Lindsay’s external network includes academic friends from other universities, many of which are abroad.

She said: “It’s interesting to see how they do things differently. We are much more proactive about gender bias in the UK.

“The issue is a frustrating one, but I’m optimistic about where we are heading and the changes that are being made.”

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