Legendary Janet Beer talks LMSS and sexism on International Women’s Day
“What is so scary about an educated woman?”
Yesterday Feminist Society held a Q&A event with Janet Beer, Vice Chancellor at the Uni of Liverpool.
Janet Beer began her position as Vice Chancellor on the 1st of February last year. This role includes working nationally on the issues of equality and diversity for students and staff, so the talk mainly consisted of questioning about gender problems at the university and in the workplace once graduating. Janet told the audience that one of the things regularly called to talk about is senior women in leadership.
During the talk Janet addressed many issues, such as the gender pay gap amongst professors at the university and how she is addressing this with a new tiered system. The four levels will have set salaries and specifications that will ensure salaries are in line with abilities and women shall be paid equally when in the same professions as men. She also discussed the gender imbalances across different subjects, amongst both the students and the staff.
Janet expressed that: “Quotas are now illegal in the UK, but they are necessary to actually effect change.”
Appropriately on International Women’s Day, Beer stood up for women telling witty stories that ridicule sexist notions.
She told the audience of her female friend who worked in a medical school who asked a male colleague why there were no senior women leaders in medical schools, who responded by saying:
“Oooh ermm well… I like women!”
Janet then joked that he probably would have also said that “He was married to one and one was even his mother!”
One male engineer graduate questioned Janet on the “resentment” of male engineers to see, what he saw as, women being prioritised in this field because of the lack of them. Janet responded humorously saying:
“It seems a bit rich for engineers to be grumpy about one and a half women being appointed… angry white male syndrome.”
Sass queen Janet advised the audience that when in a difficult situation where, for example, someone is clearly being sexist and expecting you to accept it, to use the line “I don’t want you to think I’m a humourless bitch but…”
The talk also touched on the issue of LMSS, with one FemSoc member asking about the potential of a new society forming and how this could be concerning.
Janet responded by saying:
“They haven’t been axed, it was a joint committee of The Guild and The University Council. Initiated before I was imposed, the inquiry was into reprehensible conduct and horrible misogyny. I don’t want anyone to be sat across from a consultant, GP or anyone else from the medical field who thinks rape is funny, I’m sorry its not funny.
“When the medics pay their membership fee it becomes public money, they have to have their account scrutinised according to charity law, and that is what they refused.
“Allowing gender segregated events would be rank hypocrisy, to say to the Islamic society you can’t have gender segregated events but allowing the medic society isn’t consistent.
“I hope the medical students new medic society has a good representation of women in it and that it breaks the old misogynist discourses.
“This is 2016 not 1916.
“We haven’t got quotas in terms of women studying medicine and nor do we have any obligation as a uni to tolerate this behaviour so I hope that the new society won’t reproduce old behaviours.
“I’m getting a lot of push-back from graduates of the medic school and from members of the council, but we have to live by our set of values and principles and they need to apply to every area of our activity.”
Janet, you go girl.