About Cygna

Information about the Cygna network

The name CYGNA derives from the female version of the Greek word for SWAN (Supporting Women in Academia Network). We promote interaction among female academics and provide a forum for learning, support, and networking. The network was founded in June 2014 by Argyro Avgoustaki, Ling Eleanor Zhang, and Anne-Wil Harzing, later joined by Shasha Zhao. The current network lead team is composed of Anne-Wil HarzingCiara O'HigginsChrista Sathish, and Clarice Santos.

For details of our upcoming meetings see here. A full description of our network is here: Celebrating CYGNA: Supporting women in academia, and an overview of blogposts on our meetings here. We have a readings and inspirations section for female academics, a LinkedIn group, and hashtags #cygna_london #cygnawomen. Interested in being on the mailing list and/or attending our events? Please contact Anne-Wil Harzing (anne@harzing.com).

Why are you called CYGNA?

Our name and logo (visible as a pin on our jackets in the pictures and video below) were chosen through a collaborative process involving all members, who now call themselves swans. The name CYGNA appealed to members for its Greek origins and its slight mysteriousness. The connotations and imagery elicited by the word swan were also seen as clear positives:

  • the traditional symbol of beauty and grace in ancient Greece, which, combined with the Greek name, provides us with strong academic roots
  • serene and calm on the outside, but madly paddling under the water, just like most academics these days
  • peaceful, faithful, and almost entirely herbivorous, but assertive when defending things that matter, such as gender equality and our research
  • at home in diverse environments (water, earth, air), reflecting the national and cultural diversity of our network, which counts more than 30 nationalities

What does CYGNA mean to its members?

At our 50th meeting we also asked 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!

Why we are different from other networks?

Our network differs from other academic women’s networks in at least five ways:

Single discipline across universities

Many other women’s networks are single-university networks and cover all disciplines from Archaeology to Zoology. Although this might build institutional coherence, single-discipline networks across universities like CYGNA offer different institutional perspectives, provide better opportunities for research collaborations, and present the opportunity to discuss sensitive issues with those outside one’s immediate circle of colleagues.

Close bonds for trustful relationships

Likewise, countrywide networks such as WHEN [Women in Higher Education Network] have an important role to play. However, the sheer size of this type of networks makes forming the close bonds that are needed for women to thrive in academia difficult. At CYGNA new members are only added to the mailing list if they are known to at least one active current member and they need to complete a membership survey. New members are also explicitly introduced and made to feel welcome at their first meeting.

Regular 2-3 hour events

Most university and countrywide networks only organize only a few events a year, often fairly short in duration. On average, CYGNA has met for half-day events five times a year since its inception. Since May 2020 we have had regular virtual meetings to accommodate our international members. With 53 meetings organized to date (July 2023) this means lots of opportunities for academic women to meet and a solid stock of accumulated resources on our website here.

Open to international members

CYGNA is open to international members. In fact, nearly one half of our active members do not live in the UK. This provides members with the opportunity to network outside their own country. Its London location means that we also regularly host international CYGNA members at our physical meetings. To date, we have had visitors from Australia, Austria, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, the Netherlands, and the USA. Given that, by coincidence rather than by design, 95% of our UK CYGNA members originate from outside the UK, this makes for a very international network.

Accessible for all without financial barriers

CYGNA is resolutely FREE for its members. Our speakers are usually CYGNA members who offer their time for free, whereas for physical meetings the host university sponsors our catering. We do not charge for membership or for attending our meetings. This ensures our network is open for academics at any stage of career and to those who work at less well-resourced institutions. 

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