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9 What Role (Positive and/or Negative) Did Being a Woman Played in Your Career?

9 What Role (Positive and/or Negative) Did Being a Woman Played in Your Career?

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S. Hollins

I found that my voice was not ‘heard’ in meetings where I was the only woman.

What I said was ignored, although the same idea voiced 5 minutes later by a male

colleague might be received with acclaim, without any acknowledgement of my

contribution! Many women report similar experiences.

I learned a few tricks in my early days as an academic. For example, if I needed

to leave a meeting before the end, I realised that everyone was sympathetic if I said

I was going to collect my car from the garage, but they were not at all impressed if I

said I was leaving to collect a child from school. As my confidence grew I simply

told the truth.


How Did You Deal With the Issue

of Work–Family Balance?

My family has always and will always be my absolute priority, but I would never

have been completely fulfilled by being a stay at home mother. I have always

needed the intellectual stimulation and the personal rewards that came from clinical

work, teaching and research. My personal analysis helped me to understand my

own needs and to be confident in my own potential. I know that my family might

consider my work to occupy too much of my time, especially since I retired from

paid employment. But retirement simply means that with the luxury of a pension, I

am free to choose which challenges I engage with and which I feel free to say no to.

Another way I have tried to deal with work/life balance is to involve my family,

especially my husband in opportunities that arise from my work. So we often travel

to conferences together and then have a holiday afterwards. My aim has been to

view my life as an integrated whole rather than to try to separate different roles and

activities. The Benedictine charism is one of balance and stability and I have

learned much from the monastic tradition, which encourages a rhythm of work, rest

and contemplation within a community. My primary community is my family.


What Would You Do Differently if You Were

to Start Your Career Now?

I wouldn’t want to do things very differently today from a career point of view,

although I might have to. For example, to gain a clinical academic position, I would

probably have to do a doctorate, rather than gratefully and graciously accept

honorary doctorates in all manner of disciplines, which seems to be my good

fortune now! Perhaps I would have studied something else before going to medical

school. More importantly, I would be able to take advantage of maternity and

paternity leave arrangements. When my first two children were born, there was no

such provision. I was unemployed for 4 months after my daughter was born, having

worked more than 100 hours a week up until two days before her birth so that I


Sheila Hollins


could finish my house jobs (residency), and had to go back to work to help pay for

the mortgage. Later as a GP when my son was born, the senior partners expected

me to go straight back to work—I only managed to negotiate 4 weeks completely

off after his birth. That was an exhausting time but fortunately, I was working



What Advice Would You Give to a Young Woman

Starting Her Career Now?

Be confident. Remind yourselves that since fifty-one percent of the population is

female, your ideas and interests are just as valid as any of those presented by your

male colleagues.

Ignore muttered predictions of the downfall of medicine because of its feminisation. Women may choose to do things differently and have a differently shaped

career than a man, or they may choose the traditional route, which was, frankly

speaking, designed by men for men. Women may indeed have different priorities in

terms of work/life balance but also in the way we see the world, the issues that we

think most important, the methods we choose to progress our ideas, and our

approach to collaboration. One of the principals of the medical school where I am

still an emeritus professor of psychiatry told me that he liked to appoint people who

had had zigzag careers. People who had obviously followed their own interests

rather than trying to copy someone else’s. My advice to young women is to do just



Hilleke Hulshoff Pol

Hilleke Hulshoff Pol


Dr. Hilleke Hulshoff Pol

H. Hulshoff Pol (&)

Division of Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht,

Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands

e-mail: H.E.Hulshoff@umcutrecht.nl

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

S. Frangou (ed.), Women in Academic Psychiatry,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-32177-6_5



H. Hulshoff Pol

Dr. Hilleke Hulshoff Pol is Professor of Neuroscience at the Brain Center Rudolf

Magnus at the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands. She leads a

research programme on structural and functional brain plasticity throughout life in

health and in psychiatric disease, in particular in relation to genetic and environmental influences. Much of her research has utilized the twin design based on the

Netherlands Twin Register. Dr. Hulshoff Pol chairs the Scientific Advisory Board

of the Dutch Brain Foundation (Hersenstichting Nederland) and has spearheaded

several international initiatives and consortia in psychiatric neuroimaging.


What Was Your Earliest Ambition?

This is an interesting exercise into my earlier memories. It feels like opening doors

that have long been closed. It also feels tough to be so honest, and sobering to

compare the early envisioned ambition with the outcome so far. Well, from an early

age on, I alternated between my wish to be a scientist and my dream of becoming

an artist. This early ambition seems a strong underlying driving force even today.

I remember listening to music as a young child and imagining myself as an

orchestra conductor, receiving the audience’s loud applause at the end of a great

concert. Indeed, when I was young, there was no lack of ambition or shyness.


What Attracted You to Psychiatry?

I have always been fascinated by the brain. At school my favourite subjects were

biology and mathematics and when lessons on neurons started I thought this was all

very fascinating. My attraction to psychiatry came later. My mother, Eef Hulshoff

Pol-Kars, was a child psychologist with her own clinical practice. I have very fond

memories of discussions about brain and behaviour at home. My father, Dirk

Hulshoff Pol, is a physicist who also enjoyed having lively dinner time discussions

with my two sisters, Annekee and Fenneke, and me. So, our skills in logical

argumentation were sharpened from an early age. I wanted to go to medical school

but was strongly advised against it in light of difficulties combining the heavy

working load with a future family life. Also, I, myself, was worried that I may not

have the stamina required for this. So, I went to study psychology instead. This had

the advantage of providing a short cut to studying the brain. Throughout my university education I was attracted to the biological basis of human behaviour.

I managed to join courses on brain anatomy at medical school outside of the

required curriculum. After specializing in neurophysiology and neuropsychology

and completing a PhD in neuroscience, I got a great job offer in psychiatry to set up

a brain imaging research programme. I said yes and have not regretted it since.


Hilleke Hulshoff Pol



What Do You Enjoy Most in Your Job Now?

I enjoy working with the highly motivated and highly talented young and senior

researchers in my research group, in the department, in our hospital at large and

beyond nationally and internationally. Since the advent of the Internet, science has

no borders. This allows me to reach colleagues around the world from behind my

desk and to join forces to improve (psychiatric) health. I consider this a gift to

cherish. I also enjoy the sheer beauty of the outcome of a study, when after years of

following an idea, empirical work from many researchers and loads of calculations, a

conclusion can be drawn into a few sentences. In research it is the freedom to express

and implement new ideas that I consider to be crucial for great science and for

groundbreaking the translation in new health solutions. However, the current climate

emphasizes rule making and rule following. Running science as a business improves

management and accountability, but runs the danger of stifling freedom and creativity. So we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.


Who Do You Consider Your Mentor(S) During Your


There has not been just one mentor in my career. Instead, I would consider several

to be mentors and examples during my career. I learned from my intern supervisor,

Professor Nelson Butters at the University of California San Diego, to think

independently, from my PhD supervisor Professor Jan van Ree to think out of the

box and from the head of our department, Professor René Kahn, to think big. All

males, but often males have no problem in promoting women. With women in

psychiatry being much better known in the United States than in Europe at the time,

it may not have been a coincidence that my first and most important female example

in psychiatry was Professor Nancy Andreasen. I had read her seminal book on

biological psychiatry when she came to visit our hospital in the very early days of

our studies in schizophrenia and commented on our first structural brain images.

Professor Judith Rapoport has also been a great example to me, with her wonderful

developmental imaging studies in children, reaching out towards new scientific

fields. Last but not least, I learn from and am grateful to my great female colleagues

today, such as Professor Dorret Boomsma, who inspires by her great work, and the

director of our Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, Professor Marian Joëls, who is not

only a great scientist but also paves the way for other women’s careers in science.


What Was Your Best Career Move?

There have been two decisions that have been crucial in my career. My first great

move was my internship at the Veterans Administration Medical Center of the

University of California, San Diego, after having completing my master’s degree in


H. Hulshoff Pol

the Netherlands. It gave me the opportunity to learn new ways of thinking in a

booming neuroscience environment. It was inspiring and gave me a solid basis in

research and clinical practice in neuropsychology. On a personal note, it showed me

that I could handle life on my own and I hope other young women take the time for

such an experience. My second important career move was to seek a stable academic environment in which to develop. While building cohorts and developing

new methodology in my growing neuroimaging lab, stability of location has been

an asset.


What Were the Key Obstacles You Had to Overcome?

The key obstacle I have had to overcome was probably to trust myself that I was

good at what I do. Uncertainty requires a lot of energy that can be put into more

pressing matters. And you need to trust yourself in real time since the world outside

is not waiting for you to start. Also some things are not explicitly obvious, such as

that I wanted a career. For me this was so obvious but apparently to the outside

world it was not. It has also been challenging to get across that I like technique.

Being a woman, that was probably not considered natural. Once, a grant committee

asked me where I intended to have the imaging data in my project analysed, after

having explained for 20 minutes the new image analysis procedures I was going to

develop in my research lab. Since that day, I always make sure to show a slide with

impressively large computer systems.


What Kept You Going During Difficult Times?

I have been brought up with the view that women should be financially independent

and must therefore work. I have always been aware that this was easier for my

generation than for my mother’s generation, who worked full time but also did all

housekeeping chores. It was definitively easier for me than it had been for my

grandmother, who was not allowed to go to university. What kept me going was an

internal drive to do science, to make a difference by going forward and putting my

weight behind ambitious plans.


What Role (Positive and/or Negative) Did Being

a Woman Play in Your Career?

For the most part, I would say it did not play a major role, but that is probably a lie.

A new report came out this week (November 2015) on the number of females in

universities in the Netherlands. The numbers are quite sobering with only 17 % of


Hilleke Hulshoff Pol


all professors being female, despite years of campaigns to hire more. Overall, when

starting my career, I did not notice many issues in being a woman. However, when I

became more senior and the competition grew more fierce, it became clear that

being a female plays a role. There have been times when being the only woman in a

meeting of 20 made me wonder what was wrong with me. Next, I wondered what

on earth made me have that thought. You get used to it however, and today there

are fortunately more women around. To overcome the present bias against

beta-oriented capacities of women sometimes requires a bluntness that seems not

natural but that can be learned. Growing some elephant skin helps and this is what I

tell young female researchers today. These young female researchers, as talented as

they are, seem to struggle more than my generation has, despite seeing improvements in gender differences at work. As strange as it may seem, being underestimated because of my gender has also played a positive role since it allowed me to

grow in tranquillity. It can thus be applied positively.


How Did You Deal with the Issue of Work–Family


Having a family has kept both my feet on the ground. My husband, Pieter Vos, is a

neurologist who also has a very successful career. He has been very supportive and

we have raised our family and children, Belainesh and Ashebir, together.

Although I think that children benefit much from having input from many different

people along the way, it is important that parents serve as the primary caretakers

and teachers and should always be there for them. When our children were young, I

wrote grants during the night to make-up for time spent with them during the

daytime. It was fruitful but not healthy and I would advise against it. Also, having

young children meant skipping conferences and meetings, which was a problem

because it meant missing out on relevant information and passing up crucial

opportunities for visibility. It is good to be aware of this. Flexibility in your agenda

helps. Modern technology, such as the Internet, is a tremendous help. Talking to

other women helps. Someone once gave me the great advice to always have your

children at a primary school with other women with careers, since they know your

situation and help out, all so true. It is not wise to live two lives, it is better to

combine work and family in one. Yes, I have been in telephone conferences while

walking with my kids or while cooking. No, I do not find that women are good at

multitasking—I definitively am not—but it helps. Is it efficient? Yes, I think it can

be as long as you can think fast on your feet and shift between homemaking and

networking. Finally, when at times you wonder why you ever started a career, it

helps to think that if you have to be stressed about something, you better be stressed

out about something important.



H. Hulshoff Pol

What Would You Do Differently if You Were to Start

Your Career Now?

To my surprise and joy, I have found out that I have no regrets and would not do

things differently. Maybe, if I were to start my career now, I would follow my gut

feeling even more strongly whenever possible. Also, I would try to keep even more

focused, and to avoid letting myself get dragged away by details that take up time

that could be better spent. Following your heart, also in your career, is a wise thing

to do.


What Advice Would You Give to a Young Woman

Starting Her Career Now?

This is a tough one since each generation has its own setting. Be sure of yourself

and keep that in mind when times are tough. Also, have a clear goal and keep that in

focus along the way. Be aware that there is competition and that this will get

stronger. Be proactive: High quality of work is a prerequisite for your career but

other skills are also needed. You have to take opportunities when they arise. Be

realistic: While you may be capable of many things, all of these require time and

practice. Sometimes it is better to skip a few and to do what you can do at a high

level. When you are a homemaker, just putting in the hours required of a full time

job may not be enough, and it is hard to find the extra time to keep in the forefront

of the field. Be aware that other women have the same issues as you. Work together

with them to pursue changes in the workplace that can empower all of us. I have

also found other women to be a source of inspiration when it comes to the work–life

balance. My two sisters have great careers and I really admire them. I also admire

my dear friend and colleague, Professor Chantal Kemner. She recently started a

female network where business meets academia and it works! This book, initiated

by Professor Sophia Frangou, is a wonderful effort to support other women. My last

piece of advice to younger women is to lead rather than follow, so you can change

your environment and set new standards. You can make a difference!


Eve C. Johnstone

Eve C. Johnstone


Dr. Eve C. Johnstone

E.C. Johnstone (&)

Royal Edinburgh Hospital, University Department of Psychiatry,

Morningside Park Edinburgh, Scotland EH10 5HF, UK

e-mail: E.Johnstone@Ed.Ac.Uk

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

S. Frangou (ed.), Women in Academic Psychiatry,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-32177-6_6



E.C. Johnstone

Dr. Eve C. Johnstone, CBE, is a professor of Psychiatry and an honorary Assistant

Principal of Mental Health Research at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

She is a pioneer in schizophrenia and psychosis research and revolutionised the

field of psychiatry by using neuroimaging to understand the neurobiology of

schizophrenia. In 1994, Dr. Johnstone initiated the Edinburgh High-risk Study, one

of the most successful longitudinal high-risk cohorts in the world. Dr. Johnstone is

an inspirational mentor and has trained many heads of departments and professors

of psychiatry across the UK.


What Was Your Earliest Ambition?

I remember when I changed schools at the age of nine being asked what I wanted to do

when I grew up and I said that I wanted to be a doctor and subsequently I rarely

deviated from that idea. People tended to think when I said that I wanted to be a doctor

I wanted to be a General Practitioner but I didn’t—I wanted to be a hospital doctor and

I wanted to be a success and make an impact. I liked hospitals, in particular the

hospital where my father worked. He worked as a dentist, his practice being in our

house, but he also worked at Killearn Hospital, a neurological hospital which had

been established to treat head-injured soldiers in the Second World War but later also

treated other neurological cases, in particular polio victims. My father made inlays to

repair skull and facial defects in people with head injuries. At Christmas, I went to see

patients and hand out presents to them (this was a normal practice for the children of

hospital staff at the time). I thought it was wonderful. I was fascinated by people on

machines and with tubes coming out of their heads and especially by the polio victims

in iron lungs. I remember two girls in their late teens with their beautiful hair brushed

out over the pillows and with mirrors suspended over their heads so that they could see

behind them as they could not move at all. A year or two later the “sugar lump” polio

vaccine was introduced and I realised that never again would anyone I knew have to

suffer polio. This was important to me as every summer there had been epidemics.

A boy in my brother’s class at school died from it and a girl at school with me went off

for the summer break, running about like the rest of us, and came back with her legs in

iron calipers and the same thing happened to the mother of one of my close friends.

The importance of this preventative treatment was thus extremely obvious to me and

at around the same time I became aware that successful treatments for tuberculosis,

widespread and greatly feared in the west of Scotland at the time, were being introduced. It therefore seemed to me that fantastic developments were taking place in

medicine and that maybe, just maybe, I could be part of this. I continued to think like

this as a teenager except for a brief blip when I learned that Rose Heilbron, who had

been the first lady Queen’s Council in England, had become the first female Judge.

She was a glamorous figure, good looking and always very well turned out and I

wondered if this might be a good idea for me. My father asked his cousin, a lawyer, to

have a word with me and he explained that while I could certainly study law I would

have no future as an Advocate (the Scottish equivalent of a Barrister) as the solicitors


Eve C. Johnstone


would be reluctant to engage a woman. I would be able to come into the family firm as

a solicitor. The idea of sitting in an office drawing up wills had no appeal for me and so

I returned to my first idea of medicine but it had of course been made very clear to me

that there was no point in thinking about being a neurosurgeon.


What Attracted You to Psychiatry?

In 1961 at the age of sixteen I left school and went to the University of Glasgow to

study medicine. I liked it from the beginning. I enjoyed the pre-clinical studies and

fit into hospital life just as I had hoped I would, but I did have concerns. Polio had

been eradicated, TB was less of a problem than it had been, antibiotics meant that

people survived pneumonia and that rheumatic fever was becoming less common,

but, for many of the patients I saw, things were not so sunny. For people with

coronary artery disease and heart failure, strokes and in particular cancers, treatments were not successful. The mustine drips and newer cytotoxic agents used for

lymphomas and leukaemias put people into remission, but there was always going

to be recurrence, which would ultimately be fatal, and this of course was also often

true of the life-changing surgery used to treat other cancers. Sometimes at least, we

were extending the lives of people that had pretty serious and unpleasant ill health

by months to a year or two. I wondered whether this was really what the patients

would have wanted had they known what was in store for them. I often asked

myself whether it would have been better, at least for some of them, if they had

never met us at all and had instead died without prolonged suffering? But then, no

one can foretell the future, and of course some patients did do well even against

expectations. It was during this time, when I was struggling with these thoughts,

that I was introduced to Psychiatry. I had not expected to like it—my idea of the

subject (probably influenced by the cinema) was of a doctor talking to an individual

troubled by fears and relieving their anxieties. I had never seen anyone psychotic

and when I did I was fascinated. The first patient I ever saw with schizophrenia was

a girl called Eileen and she was twenty one just like me. Three weeks before she

had been working, evidently effectively, in an accountancy office in the city and

when I met her she was agitated, deluded and continuously hallucinated and no one

could give me any sort of explanation that was remotely reasonable as to how this

transformation had occurred. She improved greatly on antipsychotic drugs and I

learned that while they had been introduced on an empirical basis and the mechanism of action was not understood, there was evidence that they worked and this

was not just due to sedation. I learned that similarly, anti-depressant drugs had also

recently been introduced. Patients I saw in psychiatry, gravely and indeed spectacularly ill as they were, did not, in general, have the option of death without our

intervention and I felt that here I would perhaps be able to clarify some important

questions and make a real difference, as I had always wanted to do, without having

to worry that in trying to make things better I was actually making them worse.

Female role models were few in psychiatry, as in the rest of medicine, at that time

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