Professor Bethan Davies

Dear friends, colleagues,

Bethan Davies

I’m delighted to write that I have just been informed that as of 1st August 2024 I will be awarded a Personal Chair and will become Professor Bethan Davies.

I’m truly delighted to have been awarded this and will seek to use my new position to continue to support and work with my colleagues and students. I’m looking forward to continuing those collaborations and partnerships that have sustained my career to date, and remain inspired and encouraged by the passionate early career researchers that I have the privilege to work with.

Thank you to my colleagues

Good science takes team work. Good science also requires in-depth and prolonged training. There are a number people who generously gave me their time over the years, and who still support me and provide mentorship and encouragement – encouraging colleagues such as my Durham PhD supervisors Dave Roberts, David Bridgeland and Colm Ó Cofaigh, alongside colleagues and friends from Durham days like Dave Evans, Natasha Barlow, Clare Boston, Pippa Whitehouse, Anne Le Brocq, Sarah Woodroffe, Stephen Livingstone, Alison Auld. And I wouldn’t be where I am today without the team at Aberystwyth University with whom I spent 4 instructive and illuminating years as a NERC-funded post-doc (Neil Glasser, Mike Hambrey, John Smellie, Jonathan Carrivick).

Thanks to my esteemed Geography Department colleagues at Royal Holloway University of London – of whom there are many, but especial thanks to members of the Centre of Quaternary Research; and the brilliant Physical Geography gang at Newcastle University. All the team members of Deplete and Retreat – the award of this NERC grant certainly helped secure the promotion. Thanks to Jeremy Ely who remains one of the most insightful people with whom I’ve ever worked.

Thanks to Nick Golledge and colleagues at the Antarctic Research Centre, for working with me in New Zealand and teaching me about modelling, and Dan Le Heron at University of Vienna for teaching about the importance of deep time, and heavy metal. To John Woodward and Martin Siegert, for showing me what leadership could be. To Tamsin Edwards, for always lifting others up and sharing her wisdom on uncertainty and communication. To JIRP, for teaching me about inclusive fieldwork practices. To all my Masters and PhD students, past and present, and who are going off to do exciting things of their own. And to my undergraduate students every year, who always make me think and who tolerate my waffling in lectures.

And finally, definitely, thank you to all the inspiring colleagues with whom I’ve had the privilege to publish papers, undertake fieldwork, write grants, attend conferences, go to the pub, and do all the things and have all the interesting conversations that make an academic career so interesting and worthwhile. This includes the ‘Quaternary Gang’ who I see regularly at those ever-so important QRA, BSG, EGU and IGSBB conferences and field courses, and whose Whatsapp group makes me laugh daily.

Science is always, at the end of the day, about relationships – and I’m so lucky to have established friendships and relationships with colleagues across the country and internationally, who make the science exciting, interesting and who challenge me every day.

My own privilege

It would also be right to highlight here my own privilege – that I come from a comfortable middle-class background; that I have good health, a supportive, wonderful, tolerant husband in Stefan Senk and a happy, healthy daughter; that I had two loving parents who remain happily together to this day and who always supported my education, career and life. My parents have always been, and remain to this day, my biggest cheerleaders and supporters, and as medical doctors and MSc/PhD graduates themselves, understood my career choice.

My brilliant parents, Norma Speirs and Alan Davies

I should also mention that I was lucky enough to go to university before the introduction of financially crippling tuition fees and student rents, and secured a half-funded Masters – things that have entirely disappeared from the HE landscape now. All of this has supported and sustained me to progress through my career. This supportive background made me able to take risks, and undoubtedly aided my career to date.

Diversity in Glaciology

I also wanted to take a moment to reflect on the subject of diversity within glaciology/glacial geology. Looking around at my colleagues and those esteemed colleagues who have reached the ranks of full professor, I think I can count about 6 other women who would likely define themselves as a Professor of Glaciology or Professor of Glacial Geology, or who define themselves that way on their website. That number has been fairly static for a long time. Some of these women have reached or are nearing retirement, or have largely now moved abroad, meaning numbers are stable, rather than growing.

On a positive note, there are a number of women who will undoubtedly reach that rank in the very near future and maintain and slowly build the female glaciology professoriate. There are again more female Professors of Climate Change, Quaternary Science or Environmental Change – some of whom are mentioned above.

Despite these encouraging changes, we are very far from reaching parity at a senior level in glaciology/glacial geology. A quick Google search of ‘Professor of Glaciology’ and ‘Professor of Glacial Geology’ enabled me to count over 45 working male professors of glaciology/glacial geology at UK institutions. That suggests about 10-15% of all working professors of glaciology/glacial geology in the UK are women, and very few professors of any gender are people of colour, or are openly gay or LGBTQ+. In comparison, at a recent IGS BB meeting, 44% of presenters identified as female. This has been stable for some time – indeed, since my own PhD days.

There clearly remains much to be done to build equity and diversity in glaciology within the UK. I hope that the wave of powerful, inspiring senior female scientists now coming through the ranks will help to start to balance things out from a gender perspective, but I call on my colleagues to think about how they too can promote diversity in their groups, their papers and their grants. If you’re building a team and it lacks diversity, or women are only included in junior roles, consider why that may be, and do better.

Going forward, I want to reflect on how I personally can support diversity in glaciology and polar science, and if you have suggestions, let’s talk. And if you’re applying for promotion and want advice, get in touch.

Thank you once again to all my colleagues and I am thrilled to continue working with you all.

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