International Women’s Day: Breaking the Bias – The STEM Trendsetter

kathy kotiadis doing the x factor arm signal for International Women's Day 2022

To Mark International Women’s Day, we celebrate students and staff at Kent Business School whose work is #breakingthebias and impacting society in a positive way.

Dr Kathy Kotiadis is Reader in Operational Research at Kent Business School.  She is cofounder of PartiSim and has been commended officially for her work in STEM.  An advocate for women in her industry, she is pushing for equality in the classically male dominated field.

“Many years ago, when sharing my pregnancy news to a colleague she said: ‘I can’t believe you’d be so stupid; your career is over.’  What she said is indeed outrageous, but it held elements of truth. In the world of STEM and academia surrounding it, your career trajectory was and still is negatively affected by being a mother. “

Dr Kotiadis is a celebrated expert in simulation modelling, something she has built while raising her two sons. She was recently commended by Taylor and Francis for her work, the accolade follows years of research and project work in the field which led to the development of a new modelling approach, PartiSim. The concept has been utilised by a number of organisations including the NHS.

She says: “Unlike traditional modelling, which usually involves a single stakeholder, the service offers direct input from several stakeholders at almost every stage of the decision-making process.”

Perhaps even more importantly, Dr Kotiadis is pioneering careers for women in her area after years of firefighting to succeed.

“The truth is women, particularly mothers, are not respected in this field,” continues Dr Kotiadis. “It is not equal. if I hadn’t had children my career path would be completely different. I was competing against colleagues that had stay at home wives who would iron their shirts and cook their dinners and it was a completely different situation for me juggling childcare and the pressures of motherhood.”

‘Supporting one another’

The picture is changing, says Dr Kotiadis, albeit more swiftly in some countries than others. The driver here, she says, is women coming together collaboratively and championing one another.

“I’ve been to conferences in the US where there are just two women in amongst hundreds of men. In the UK we’re moving towards more equality, but it is by no means completely fair and some of the old narratives remain about motherhood.

“As women, we are now better at supporting one another and we have networks to encourage women. I helped set up the WORAN network for this purpose. We are now more collaborative; we ensure we work together so that we get things done quickly and we can multitask our work with family life.”

Dr Kotiadis now makes it her mission to promote the work of women, including her own work, to its full potential.

She says: “Historically, we are also not good at promoting ourselves. These days I shout my successes from the rooftops. I’ve got a medal that I’ve had for more than 10 years, and I never celebrated it at the time, I wondered: ‘do I deserve it?’ As women, our collective confidence can be so low. I am a mentor to many KBS women and women in the wider field. I teach them that you have to be prepared to have a few fights with men or with the systems that hold you back – I tell them do not back down even if it makes you unpopular.”

So what needs to change, in her view, nationally, to break the bias in STEM careers and academia?

“No one can be passive in this revolution. If you see a woman at work, in her studies, anywhere in life and she is not progressing then something needs to be done to change that. We all need to be proactive in women’s equality and promotion, it’s everybody’s work.”

Dr Kathy Kotiadis is a Reader in Management Science/Operational Research at Kent Business School and is an expert in developing quantitative and qualitative modelling approaches to support stakeholder engagement, primarily in Health Care.

Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

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