Sunday, 24 February 2013

Powerful Women, Media and Radar: the next Generation

For lots of different reasons, women were on my mind last week. It started with a conversation about women in powerful and influential positions in the University. It’s true to say that in different parts of the University there are many more men in positions of power than women. Only 3 of the 9 Heads of School are female, and of the 5 Pro-Vice Chancellors, only 1 is a woman.

Our School has a slightly different profile. 80% of the 200 academic staff are female, as are the students, 4 of the 6 Directors, and 3 of the 4 Associate Heads of School are women. We have a large School Executive and 12 of the 15 positions are held by women. However, while these are examples of women in powerful organisational positions, in the School Professoriate, the group providing academic leadership for our research and teaching activities, only 3 of our 9 professors are women.  

And it seems we are not alone in trying to get the gender inequality more balanced. Last week, the Women's Media Centre released their annual report on the status of women in the media for 2012. Although this is a US centric study, I think that some of the rather depressing findings are universally recognisable. Not unexpectedly thee are only 17 women working in media and technology companies to be found on Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business list. Men are far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio, even on programmes that cover such subjects as abortion, birth control, planned parenthood and women’s rights! Talk radio and sports talk radio hosts are overwhelmingly male.

There were other examples of inequality evident in all areas of media: 47% of gamers are women, but 88% of video games developers are male. Story framing and descriptions of women still too often fall into familiar stereotypes, from coverage of the Olympics to the resignation of the director of the CIA over the revelation of an extramarital relationship. Female characters are stereotyped and sexualised in media popular with youth. Indeed girls as young as age 6 are starting to see themselves as sex objects, based on a combination of media influence, parenting and religion.

The study also found that women outnumber men on social media sites, but are also more on guard about privacy and managing friends and contacts. This is not always the case. 2 of our students found themselves in front of Fitness for Professional Panels last week because of the way they chose to use social media sites.

On a much more positive note, last Thursday I was invited to the EU RADAR course dinner.  The EU RADAR (Recognition of the Acutely Deteriorating Patient with Appropriate Response) course is a unique and innovative programme of study developed by a group of colleagues in the School, led by one of the most creative people I have come across – Melanie Stephens. Student nurses from across Europe and the US participate in lectures, seminars and role play with clinical scenarios (informed by patients and families). A systematic approach to early recognition and response to acutely deteriorating patients is taught in a safe environment without risk or harm to real patients. Students also further develop their communication skills hopefully also broaden their cultural awareness and understanding of difference.

It was a buoyant and fun filled end to the 10 day course. This picture shows the incredulity on the faces of some of the students as they watched the tutors perform a dance routine to the music of Staying Alive. The prize-giving recognised the efforts the students and tutors had put in to course, their development of new friendships and acquisition of new knowledge. There was a special kind of energy and confidence to the celebrations. These are the next generation of practitioners, leaders, researchers, and teachers. The evening did much to fill me with confidence that we are helping to prepare nurses who will be able to influence and shape and deliver high quality health care services of the future and to be able to do this so well.