Jobs for the Girls: Claire talks about her career as a research scientist.
Occupation: Livestock Systems Scientist
Hours per week: 30
Do you enjoy your work? yes
What does your job/day involve?
As a research scientist, I have to write scientific papers and reports relating to the research we are doing. I also have to conduct research which involves organising experiments, field work and data collection. Sometimes, I even help the technicians to collect data (animal observations, shepherd behaviour, etc.) on the research farm. My job also includes organising meetings, seminars, focus groups with farmers and rural stakeholders. I run these with colleagues. I supervise students, discussing their research and their dissertation writing, helping them with organising and designing experiments and field work. I also analyse data (mainly spreadsheet analyses based and also statistics) and write-up results. I also have to write grant applications to win more research contracts. My day will be a combination of all of the above!
Writing up scientific papers once all the research has been completed. It is satisfying.
Least favourite thing?
Writing up grant proposals – very stressful and always with tight deadlines.
Why this job and how did you get to this point?
I trained to be an ‘Ingenieur’ in agriculture in France. This led me to do a Masters in the UK and the first job I got was working in a research institute in Aberdeen. I have stayed in research ever since as I enjoy this type of work. I did a part-time PhD whilst I was already a researcher, so now, I still do the same type of job but with a higher qualification – this helps with grant-winning and recognition.
How long have you been in this field?
I have been working in agricultural research for 20 years now.
How is your work / life balance?
I work part-time (4 days a week) – so I make sure my work/life balance stays this way. I try not to check emails whilst I am off. I am lucky that my husband is available and can hold the fort when I am away at conferences.
How do you relax when you are not working?
When I am not working, I relax by reading and I try to go swimming once a week with a friend. I enjoy being with my family.
Is there anything you bring to the job because you are a woman?
Not really – although sometimes I found that during meetings, agricultural shows, etc., I get more out of people being a woman. People will tell me things that they wouldn’t necessarily tell my male colleagues.
Have there been obstacles in your career because you are a woman? If yes, what measures could be taken to dismantle the obstacles?
I would hope not! I am lucky enough that the organisation I work for is quite open and good for family life – I was able to have maternity leave and come-back part-time. They also have a very good flexi-time policy. I suppose I am now at a level where it starts being harder to get promoted, and where the gender balance is skewed. However, there is a scheme in place to promote women in science (called Athena Swan Award) and equality. I am part of the team in my organisation that is trying to apply to this award. This is one way forward. Attitudes (both men & women) also need to be changed.
Is there something you wished you had done instead? If so, what stopped you?
I always wanted to be an history teacher but at the time of choosing a career, future prospects were better in science and agriculture