Glass Ceilings, Glass Houses, Or Glass Parasols?

Posted on August 19, 2015


Another session from CIfA and one that needs to be shared more widely so please tweet, share, etc.:

Organiser(s): Paul Belford (CPAT) and Hilary Orange (UCL)

Women have always played a prominent role in archaeology (, and recent research shows that numbers of women in archaeology are increasing – some 46% in 2012-13 compared to 35% in 1998-99 (Aitchison and Rocks-Macqueen 2013, 93-94). However these figures mask an imbalance across the profession as a whole. For example more than 70% of archaeologists working for private-sector organisations are men; on the other hand 67% of those employed in museum and user/visitor services are women. Recent research has identified barriers to women in academic archaeology, which are part of wider issues around gender equality in academia. Some indicators suggest that the problem is a persistent one (Maliniak et al. 2013); Croucher and Cobb (2014) have argued that the notion of the ‘glass ceiling’ is alive and well in British academic archaeology. Looking at the situation in Australia, Smith and Burke (2006) developed a nuanced argument around ‘glass parasols’ – in effect portable glass ceilings carried around by individuals. Others would suggest that there are no such things and the solution is for men and women to get on with it. This session seeks to explore these issues in relation to the professional practice in the UK.

Drowning in a drip feed of molten glass

Sarah May, UCL

All of the glass metaphors in the title of the session imply an invisible barrier delimiting a place in which women can move, and develop careers, freely. The image is women, at some point in their career, bumping into this barrier. Surprise! All the power in archaeology rests with men” While the truth of this fact, demonstrated by the stats and research in session abstract, may be a surprise to men, it is not a surprise to women. If getting to the top is a race women are constantly burdened with new weights to carry throughout their careers. Stereotype threat, double standards, judged on different qualities, different social responsibilities, all these simply make it more difficult for women to achieve the same influence and power as men. It’s this drip feed that creates the imbalance, not a clear barrier that can be identified and removed. While this is a society wide problem, it has particular challenges in archaeology, not least because career progression is so complex and poorly defined. As with all other diversity issues, the effects of the imbalance also have different consequences. If men control the discipline that constructs and maintains our heritage, our heritage will work against any change to that imbalance. Heritage is too powerful to be left in the hands of the few. Strategies to resist the drip feed will be different to those aimed at breaking a ceiling. We need to be honest about the circumstance so that people who are struggling don’t blame themselves. We need to understand how societal issues translate into specific problems for archaeology. We need to be more supportive to people throughout their careers.

Are we a profession yet? Archaeology and equity

Rachel Pope, University of Liverpool

Building on the author’s work for British Women Archaeologists, this paper will begin by discussing the fight for equal access to Higher Education, before turning to employment conditions in the Heritage Sector. The paper will consider the issues of sexism in the workplace, maternity and paternity rights, as well as gendered networking, mentoring, and promotion – all factors contributing to a gender pay gap of £2,149 per year; with women often working below their skills level and leaving the sector in their 30s. The paper ends with a series of solutions for us to take forward, in the year that the Equality Challenge Unit introduces the new Gender Equality Charter Mark for the Humanities and Social Sciences (the equivalent of Athena SWAN). As a newly chartered profession, will we create a CIfA that is committed to working pro-actively to achieve employment equity.

Parents in archaeology: challenges facing parents working in archaeology in Wales

Fiona Grant (CADW) and Ian Grant (PCAT)

Juggling a career and raising children is difficult whatever your profession, and many challenges faced are common to all lines of work. However, this short paper explores whether parents working within the archaeological profession, particularly within commercial archaeology and particularly within Wales, face specific or more enhanced challenges.

The following elements may all contribute to the challenge of combining an archaeological career with parenting; rates of pay, short contracts and variable working hours; childcare provision; distance, infrastructure and technology limits such as public transport, road networks, broadband and mobile coverage. These will be discussed within the context of the profession within Wales. However, many aspects may also apply to those working within the industry in any region with similar geographic constraints.

We discuss what mechanisms have been applied by some employers to alleviate some of the issues, whether voluntarily or owing to employment legislation, and ask what more could be done, and why.

Gender equality and personal responsibility in the new CIfA: what being equal really means

Joe Flatman, Historic England

—This presentation was made in a personal capacity, and does not represent the formal position or views of Historic England, nor of their sponsor government department the DCMS—

This paper will focus on the wider corporate and also personal responsibilities to ensure gender equality that the author feels are necessary now that the IfA is the CIfA. Challenging the underlying culture of misogyny that pervades the heritage community, the paper will explore what being equal really means to us all, and how we can and should challenge the status quo through words, thoughts and deeds in 2015

Let’s DO something! The potential for a CIfA Equality and Diversity special interest group

Hannah Cobb, University of Manchester

We know that the state of affairs for both gender, and other areas of diversity, is problematic within our profession. As the session abstract identifies, there are glass ceilings and glass parasols aplenty. So how can we shatter these? What are the practical steps we can take to address our woeful record for disciplinary diversity? In this paper I will present a proposal for a CIfA Equality and Diversity special interest group, outlining what it might cover and crucially what it has the potential to do. However, this is also a paper that is open ended – it is just the beginning of the process of turning possibilities into practice. The group is not yet founded and needs a founding committee of corporate members. Could you be one of these? Or do you have any suggestions as to what an Equality and Diversity group could do? I hope that this paper will stimulate further debate and further action, and provide a forum to take the aspirations of this group forward.

Experience from the front line: watching briefs, builders and child care

Kate Pitt, Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust

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