The Classical Association Annual Conference is a major event in the calendar for classicists, and it is here in April 2018 that the WCC held the first element of its mentoring scheme: ‘Take A Graduate Student To Lunch’. This event supports junior scholars, connecting them with more established academics to gain from their expertise and discuss their research and career aspirations.
Through mentoring, the committee can connect women with positive role models in a way that is meaningful and useful, as well as inspiring. The committee itself acts informally as a network, raising up women in classics and making them more visible and accessible, at least to other women.
This type of women-centred promotion is essential on a gendered playing field that is far from level. A ‘manference’ held in March 2018 at Stanford University featuring thirty white men demonstrates this imbalance. But issues of visibility and representation can be more opaque. In classics in the UK nearly twice as many men as women are employed as a professor. Nearly three times as many classics departments are led by a man rather than a woman. More than four times more men than women who are head of department are employed at professorial level.
Our learned societies are not led by women. Since its inception in 1903, the Classical Association has had as many presidents named John as women - eight.
The Hellenic Society has had 38 presidents since 1879, three of which have been women. Out of 93 Fellows of the British Academy for Classical Antiquity, 15 are women. This means that when we look up, we are not seeing women.
The WCC is dedicated to improving the visibility of our foremothers past and present, highlighting their struggles and successes for the benefit of successive women in higher education. We have achieved this through an initiative designed to reverse the gender bias on English-language Wikipedia, the largest and most influential source of information in the world.
Fewer than 15% of Wikipedia editors are women, and only one in six of its 1.5 million biographies are about women. That slant is even more apparent when it comes to classics: an estimate in 2016 found that only 7% of biographies of classicists featured women.