Is Imperial College London a sexist place?

Deputy President (Welfare)

Let me start by giving you some background, I am Becky Lane and I am this years Deputy President (Welfare) and I have just finished my Physics degree at Imperial College. Although my experiences here as an undergraduate here at Imperial have generally been fine (aside from the OH-MY-GOD-EXAMS-ARE-SO-RUBBISH) there are times that I have felt marginalised because of my gender. I seemed to blunder through the years of my undergraduate course in blissful ignorance of this undercurrent of sexism, which I feel is often part of the Imperial culture. In my little bubble of friends I remained on the whole oblivious, until I stepped into the spotlight cast by union politics and elections. I was generally an outsider to the union fold before I ran for my Sabbatical position. I won’t dredge up the past, but during campaigning I was subjected to derogatory comments based upon my gender. I was incredible angry, taking the point of view that I am happy for people to criticise me based upon my views, but not my looks.

This year the Physics society has already been mentioned in the Independent regarding an email sent out which caused offence to some female first year students and rightly so. The attitudes towards this email that I have come across have been at times quite frankly horrifying. Such as ‘the person who sent this email was a female so therefore it can’t be sexist’. Comments of this nature are not down to the gender of the person that made them or indeed the intent of how they were made; the only concern should be that individuals found them offensive. I am proud to say that this year things are being highlighted to me passed on from the Gender Equality officer; it worries me that in the past incidents may have gone unreported.

So, what are we going to do? I can’t help but feel that there might be a cultural issue here at Imperial. Is it because we are an institution with the percentage of females fluctuating between 34-36%? Honestly I don’t know but I want to find out. The answer I feel is not to hold a Sexism survey, but to adopt the approach that the government takes when gathering information about Higher Education. So this article is here to introduce my call for evidence. The email account is now active. I am happy to receive anonymous or named responses from any student or staff member who would like to get down their attitudes towards sexism and experiences of gender discrimination and Imperial College.

I might be completely off the mark here but I hope to gain answers to some of these questions. Is Imperial College a sexist environment? At times do both male and female students feel discriminated against because of their gender? Have you ever felt during your studies you have been treated differently because of your gender? These are just some of the questions that I hope to get the answers to.

Making a call for evidence is all very well and good, but what am I going to do with this information? Well I plan to display the submissions in a public place in college in an artistic way; I also plan to produce the Sexism @ Imperial report to present to college. An institutional problem needs an institutional shift in attitude to make a change. This is also creating an anonymous way for students to report issues of sexism even after the report is made. To make an anonymous submission you can just create a hotmail account merely for the purpose of making the submission, or if you send it from your personal account your name will never be mentioned. The only people with access will be the Deputy President (Welfare) and the Gender Equality officer. Help us answer some of these questions and make a difference.





Becky Lane


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