What is CYGNA and how did it start?

Fourth of nine posts based on my webinar for Georgia State University's CIBER - Interview by Tamer Cavusgil

After the Young Academics Network, the LAWN women’s network, and the Academy of Management Membership Involvement Committee early on in my career (Why I offered resources from early on in my career), I took a step back on creating networks during the years I worked at the University of Melbourne. I did initiate and chair a cross-university cross-cultural interest group, but my external networking took a bit of a backseat, mainly because I had quite heavy academic leadership roles there as PhD director and Associate Dean Research.

However, I kept supporting ECRs and female academic in particular. With Isabel Metz, I also did some research on the lack of gender diversity in editorial boards, in particular in International Business (see: Trailblazers of diversity: editors and editorial board diversity). So, over the years my knowledge of and interest in the barriers for female academics only increased.

Therefore, after moving to the UK in 2014, I decided we needed to organise ourselves to provide systematic support for women in academia. Together with two junior colleagues - Ling Eleanor Zhang (left) and Argyro Avgoustaki (second from left), later joined by Shasha Zhao (right) we set up a support network for female academics in the London area that we called CYGNA. The name CYGNA comes from the female version of the Greek word for SWAN (Supporting Women in Academia Network).

By now CYGNA has grown to nearly 400 members in nearly 40 countries representing more than 100 universities. We have a mailing list on which we share resources as well as a membership spreadsheet with information about our research interests and career goals, the journals we would like to publish in, and the advice we can offer and would like to receive. We also have a Cygna history page.

We organise 2-3 hour meetings on career related topics 5 to 6 times a year, with at least one full day meeting every year and we are celebrating our 10-year anniversary with a 3-day event in June 2024, which will also be our sixtieth meeting. In our meetings, we have sessions dealing for instance with:

In 2023 we expanded our organising team to 17 members, providing us with a lot more womenpower to organise events. The whole team can be found here: Cygna videos: expanding the team. The new Lead team is below.

Clarice Santos, Ciara O'Higgins, Christa Sathish, and Anne-Wil (Regent's Park, Sept 2023)

We celebrated our 50th meeting in December 2022 with a Padlet, asking members to share a few words about what CYGNA meant to them on a Padlet. The word-cloud below is a perfect summary of what CYGNA aims to be: a friendly, kind, inclusive, and supportive community, providing a safe space/place to exchange ideas, share experiences, provide advice, inspire, and learn.

We think that's pretty amazing :-). This succinct, but wonderfully evocative, comment by the equally wonderful Luisa Pinto says it all.

Belonging, learning, camaraderie, friendship and sharing. My academic family: I'm an only child who suddenly has a community of sisters. Thanks!

Although the network as such is only open to female academics, I do write up a blogpost about every meeting, which includes any presentations and lots of other resources. These are accessible to everyone here.

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