Professor Ryan’s work-life balance talk tops TEDx playlist

Published on: 28 January 2016

The TEDx talk given by Professor Michelle Ryan at the 2015 TEDxExeter talk series has topped a recent YouTube playlist of TEDx talks on the way we work, after being viewed nearly 70,000 times.

The talk by Professor Ryan, Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology in the College of Life and Environmental Science, looked at our ambition for work-life balance and questioned whether it is about balancing time or balancing identity; she goes on to explain how her research demonstrates that in male-dominated professions, such as surgery, science and the police force, men and women start out with the same ambition to succeed, but women’s ambition erodes over time.

The ticking biological clock or the time constraints of having a family are often given as reasons for the lack of women at the top; however Professor Ryan’s research has found other reasons why women don’t make it. She noted that fewer than 10 per cent of surgical consultants are women – and yet their hours and demands on time are no less than those on nurses or midwives, both careers with many women in senior roles.

If family constraints are not behind the lack of woman in these senior positions, what could be the reason behind the lack of gender balance? Professor Ryan’s talk explained that irrespective of how much time you spend at work, a good work-life balance occurs if people similar to you have become successful in your field; this reinforces your belief that you are capable of being successful in your chosen career: “You feel you have a good work-life balance if people like you have made it [to the top. Where people can’t see anyone like them in senior roles they are more likely to stop aspiring to achieve them, and are less likely to make the sacrifices needed to succeed.”

Licensee and curator Claire Kennedy said: “We are delighted that Michelle’s talk has got this recognition from TEDx. It brings a new angle to why women are not as successful in the workplace as we know they can be, and that knowledge will help more people to break down barriers.”

The University of Exeter is one of a number of sponsors of TEDxExeter. Since the playlist was published the video’s viewing figure has increased to over 80,000 visits.

Related links

» YouTube playlist
» TEDx
» 2015 TEDxExeter

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