Clinical Lecturer, working full time in the group of Professor Robert Stockley in the School of Clinical & Experimental Science.
Liz completed her PhD part-time after having a career break of 20 months in total following the birth of her children.
Her PhD was well received, attracting 6 national and international prizes, and gaining a number of publications in the highest-ranking Respiratory Journal (AJRCCM), but undoubtly the best award in the UK was the Young Researcher Award for the BTS. Sadly, the exclusion criteria for this award was anyone over the age of 35. Liz was 37, but would have been under the age limit if she had not had children or taken maternity leave. This was frustrating but she didn’t know what to do about it.
She attended the first “Women in Academic Medicine” (WAM) group meeting and brought this up at the Q and As session with Baroness Greenfield. She was inspiring and encouraging, suggesting she tackle this form of discrimination head on. The senior academics within the group (Dr Martin etc.) suggested writing a letter in the first instance.
She wrote quite a gentle letter to the BTS pointing out the potential unfairness of this age-based exclusion criteria but heard nothing. She then discussed matters with Prof Stewart, saying that she wanted to robustly challenge the BTS but didn’t want to do this without the support of the university.
Prof Stewart was very supportive, and so she sent another letter to the BTS, more challenging in nature and suggested the cut-off was a form of discrimination. she also (enthused by the concept of many voices which was discussed at the WAM meeting) wrote to all the female lecturers she knew in Respiratory Medicine who would fall foul of this rule now or in a few years time due to family plans. Some other people offered to write in as well. She heard back within 72 hours from the BTS, saying this award cut-off was being studied and would be changed on the basis of the concerns she (and others) had raised.
She was told to submit my abstract for the award and it would be considered despite her age, as would 2 peers who had also raised this issue with the BTS (but were also above the age cut-off). The BTS said the definition of the award exclusion criteria would change on the website and this would be publicised, but this didn’t happen. She challenged the BTS again, saying that it was good that she was now being considered for the award, but without publically changing its entry criteria, there would be many other people who would consider themselves ineligible through no fault of their own, and who would not know the award system had changed. She wanted to improve things for everyone – not just herself.
She said that she had the support of the Medical School Dean (PS) and this was an active issue at the WAM. By this time it was too late to change things for the annual meeting that year, but she has been assured that next year the now called “Early career investigator award” will have no upper age limit.