I’ve been on a fieldtrip where I have been the only female member of staff.

On this trip several of the female students had various issues and struggled with the strenuous activities, leading to some collapsing. My male colleagues asked me to deal with the situation because, you know, I’m a female and these are female issues. I am not sure my male colleagues knew what to do or how to deal with the situation. I had to look after a dozen students with varying needs. My male colleagues were probably right that being a woman it was most appropriate for me to support the female students and that the students probably felt more relaxed and could open up about things with me. However, I couldn’t physically be there for that many students and if we had more female members of staff, we could have shared the responsibilities much more.

At our institution we have a policy that all members of staff undertake mental health first aid training, which is fantastic. However, what we have found is that when we get into the field there are only certain members of staff who are willing to step forward and support the students who are having difficulties, despite everyone having had the same training. I think there can be an inequality among academic staff around willingness to step forward and support students despite us all having an equal level of physical and mental health first aid training. I have also been the only female member of staff on many field trips and by default I have ended up dealing with a disproportionate amount of the pastoral care simply because of my biology.