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Professor Ryan's TEDxExeter talk examines work-life balance – asking whether it is about balancing time or balancing identity.

Exeter Professor tops TEDx YouTube Channel playlist

A talk given by the University of Exeter’s Professor Michelle Ryan for the 2015 TEDxExeter talk series has been viewed nearly 70,000 times in the past six months, and tops a recent international compilation of TEDx talks on the way we work.

Michelle Ryan is Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology. Her TEDxExeter talk examines work-life balance – asking whether it is about balancing time or balancing identity. 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.

“It was incredible to participate in the TEDxExeter event and be able to speak to so many engaged people about my research,” says Professor Ryan. “To see the talk reach out to a global online audience through the TEDx website is very rewarding. We really need to rethink what we mean by work-life balance and understand how issues of identity and belonging might feed into how we can strike a balance between who we are at home and who we are at work.”

The lack of women at the top is often put down to a ticking biological clock or the time constraints of having a family. Professor Ryan’s research has found other reasons why women don’t make it. 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.

Professor Ryan argues that how people feel about their workplace is important. “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.”

The University of Exeter is one of a number of sponsors of TEDxExeter.

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.”

Date: 4 January 2016

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