We look back at the career of former Business School Dean Professor Dorothy Griffiths and the legacy she leaves to her fellow female academics.
It is hard to imagine that just 50 years ago only one woman had ever been made a Professor at Imperial. While the drive to increase equality is ongoing, important progress has been made, with 86 of Imperial’s professors now women and several female Pro-Rectors and Faculty Deans having served at the College.
A key force behind this turnaround has been Dorothy ‘Dot’ Griffiths, Professor of Human Resource Management at the Business School. Dot has worked alongside others at the College to spearhead initiatives designed to address issues such as access to promotions, working conditions and pay equality among female academics.
After 44 years of service Dot will now be passing on the mantle as she leaves Imperial in January to Chair the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.
Dot joined Imperial in 1969 as a research assistant in the Industrial Sociology Unit, going on to become Dean of the Business School. However, she admits to finding her first few years at the College a challenge.
“Back then there were very few women in academic posts; I think for many of us across the College, it was quite isolating,” she says.
Undeterred, Dot resolved to find ways to give women more of a voice. Inspired by the ‘second-wave feminism’ of the 1970s, which sought to abolish sexism in the workplace, she set up the UK’s first ever Women in Science Group.
“I was a founding member and the only woman from Imperial in the group. I felt very strongly that I needed to bring this into the College if I could,” Dot explains.
In 1998, Imperial established the Academic Opportunities Committee (AOC), which Dot went on to chair. Among the goals of the AOC are to support a level playing field for women academics by removing barriers to appointment or career advancement, and to ensure that the numbers of suitably qualified women in the College are as high as possible.
At the helm of the AOC, Dot helped establish a number of new initiatives such as the Female Faculty Ambassadors scheme, where senior women at the College are enlisted to support fellow female academics in their professional development and recommend tutoring or mentoring opportunities.
Dame Julia Higgins (Chemical Engineering), Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator, has worked closely with Dot in the AOC and believes that these projects wouldn’t have happened without Dot’s sheer determination.
“She became the main driver for getting these initiatives implemented. There were plenty of good people with lots of ideas but you need a real leader to get things done and Dot was just that,” she says.
One example of this leadership was when she was setting up road shows around Imperial’s campuses to provide advice to both women and men about applying and interviewing for promotions.
“A lot of women didn’t know how the College promotions system worked and Dot was instrumental in getting the support from all the Faculty Deans and senior staff to go along and give advice and information,” Julia says.
Another project that Dot has been heavily involved with is the Athena SWAN Charter awards. Launched in 2005 these recognise and celebrate good employment practice for women working in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics (STEMM).
Currently 11 departments across the College hold Athena SWAN awards ranging from bronze to gold and Imperial holds a coveted institutional silver award – one of only four universities to ever be recognised in this way.
Dot has been a guiding light in encouraging departments at the College to apply and showcase the ways in which they support their women academics.
“I am naturally very bossy so that probably helps!” Dot says of her management style. “I‘ve always believed in leading from the front, I like to get things done; if you’re a leader, lead,” she says.
This influence is quite evident from her time as Dean of the Business School – according to Professor G. ‘Anand’ Anandalingam, the School’s new Dean.
“Dot really helped the Business School reach new heights in terms of student enrolment,” he says, noting the recent news that women now make up almost half of the students enrolled on the full-time MBA programme at the Business School.
“Though I was perhaps most impressed by Dot when I was interviewing to be Dean. We had made plans to meet for lunch on a Saturday, but she called on Friday to say that she had tickets for a Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park and so couldn’t make it – a suitably cool excuse!”
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