Women of History

Last week for International Women’s Day we celebrated the extraordinary women that make up our team.

We asked five of our colleagues to share their stories of working in archaeology and to include the good, the bad, and the muddy!

Jo Caruth

I have been working in archaeology for nearly 40 years now and it is really interesting to see how the role of women has changed. I have never felt particularly disadvantaged as a women amongst archaeologists, I think we may naturally be of a liberal disposition – but the early days on building sites were another matter. The memory of being addressed as ‘fruit-cup’ by a site manager in the early 1990s when I turned up as a professional to undertake a monitoring on a building site will live with me – and the self-consciousness of young constructions worker about their language when I was present (anyone who knows me will know that such consideration was misplaced)…oh and of course being patronized because I was so good at shovelling…..! PPE used not to come in women’s sizes – even boots were almost impossible to get in the mid 1980s.

It was noticeable as I developed my career that the natural progression for women seemed to be into post-excavation and although I have only left fieldwork management and taken up a dedicated post-excavation role as I approach the start of my seventh decade, I think that the challenge we still face in the 2020s is to obtain a gender balance in fieldwork management. Excellent young women fill roles as archaeologists, supervisors and project leaders, but we have clung to the belief that fieldwork management needs to be full time and unsociable hours and therefore unattractive (or often not even offered) to the many women who need a more flexible lifestyle.

Jo Caruth sharing results from excavations at Court Knoll
Jo Caruth sharing results about excavations at Court Knoll

I have loved pretty much every minute of my job and feel hugely privileged to have been able to do something I love and to spend my time with my clever, dedicated and funny colleagues. My time with Cotswold Archaeology has opened all sorts of new opportunities for me and I would recommend a career in archaeology to anyone.

Indie Jago

Indie and fellow Outreach Officer Caz at Reading University Careers Fair
Indie and fellow Outreach Officer Caz at Reading
University Careers Fair

I’m Indie an Assistant Outreach and Community Engagement Officer at Cotswold Archaeology. My role allows to me to deliver a very varied range of activities from archaeology fairs, to community excavations, to public talks, to running work experience, to working with schools and so much more. I love learning about archaeology and I love getting to share that passion with others even more. My role allows me to travel and meet people from all walks of life connected through a passion of learning about the past.

For me the draw of the role is that I get to travel to awesome archaeological sites and get hands on with the archaeology while shouting from the rooftops about it. I think more women should consider careers in the heritage sector because it opens the industry to a wider audience, it enables a more diverse range of views on interpreting the past and it is a brilliantly fun job that gets you out from behind a desk.

Eva Heimpel

Hi, my name is Eva and I am a Heritage Consultant at Cotswold Archaeology. One of the many reasons I love this job is because it is so diverse – one day I might be analysising historic maps and aerial photographs to identify prehistoric ring ditches, the next I may be taking photos and recording a medieval village settlement. The crux of the role is to provide clients with advice and assess impacts of development on the historic environment which is a crucial part of heritage management. The wide-ranging nature of this job makes it easy to follow a number of different avenues depending on your interests. A career in archaeology is not only exciting and engaging but rewarding and can offer flexibility in work/life balance.

Eva taking photos and recording a medieval village settlement
Eva taking photos and recording a medieval village settlement

Rhiannon Gardiner

I work as a Fieldwork Project Manager for Cotswold Archaeology, and my current role sees me specifically as the Project Delivery Lead for the archaeological mitigation work taking place ahead of the construction of the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk. In my experience, it is still very much the case that females are outnumbered by males within the construction industry, particularly at a contractor construction manager level. However, this is something that I have seen a marked change in from when I first started working within the industry.

Rhiannon Gardiner
Rhiannon Gardiner and her dog, Marshall

A typical day will involve talking with my archaeological team leaders for the project and monitoring what work is taking place each day, feeding information back to our consultants and clients and engaging with different teams on the project, from security to ecology, utilities to site ops and environment to UXO. I prefer to work on large infrastructure schemes for this exact reason, as I find that there is more of a chance to get involved in varied aspects of the project. No one day is ever the same as the last; you become very adept at problem solving and reacting quickly to rapidly evolving situations.

Archaeology is a fantastic career for women to get into, not only because it is fascinating, but the opportunities afforded beyond the field are endless. That said, we still have a long way to go, with particular hurdles surrounding maternity pay and childcare, a noticeable gender pay gap and persistent biases against women still present within the wider construction industry. It can be done, and changes are often considered, but frequently disregarded. To progress, we need to work together to allow women to enjoy what could, and should, be a very rewarding career. We have come this far, we cannot get complacent, and must continue to push for equality and ensure women have better opportunities in the future…

Grace Jones

As one of Cotswold Archaeology’s Finds Managers I have the privilege of analysing a range of archaeological artefacts and also contributing to resource management and team development. Like so many other archaeologists, one of the reasons I enjoy my job is the sheer variety of it. For example, in February I worked with Early Neolithic bowls from Suffolk and Devon, Beaker pottery from Suffolk and Early Bronze Age cremation urns from Basingstoke, to name a few. There is always something new, something different; I am always researching and learning.

Grace analysing prehistoric pottery
Grace analysing prehistoric pottery

Another reason is the people I work with. I am supported by a fantastic team, just last week my colleague and renowned authority on early prehistoric pottery, Alistair Barclay, popped in to see me whilst working on this group of Early Neolithic pottery from Suffolk, to discuss the assemblage and provide reference material. We work collaboratively across the finds team to share knowledge and skills and support each other.

It is widely accepted that there are limited opportunities for those wishing to train to become finds specialists, I’m therefore proud to be part of an initiative to provide training positions at Cotswold Archaeology, with three people now on their journey to becoming specialists. I was fortunate to receive excellent training from Elaine Morris at the University of Southampton, training that can now be passed on to the next generation of specialists.

I work for Cotswold Archaeology because their ethos and values are aligned with my own. This is a company that cares about the archaeology they are entrusted to record, and ensure the results of this work are disseminated. They want Cotswold Archaeology to be a great place to work, with our CEO, Neil, actively encouraging all colleagues to provide feedback, to improve working practices and conditions for all staff.

So why do I love my job? Because I handle wonderful objects every day and get to think about who made they and why, who used them and reused them and how, and how they entered the archaeological record. I work with a fantastic team across four offices, who share their knowledge and enthusiasm, I am supported in my role by my line manager Jo Caruth (herself a very experienced field and post-excavation archaeologist) and colleagues across the company, and I have a voice.

The team at the Suffolk office
The team at the Suffolk office
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