Frequently asked questions

Provided an answer to frequently asked questions by (prospective) CYGNA members

Table of contents

Why are you called CYGNA?

Our name and logo 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


Why are you different from other women's 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.

Can I join the network?

At CYGNA we prefer cohesion and mutual support over a big, but inevitably impersonal network. Hence, CYGNA typically grows through personal connections with members recommending others to join. However, we are not an "exclusive" club.

If you are a female academic who - after reading the CYGNA pages - thinks you would be able to benefit from and contribute to the network, you would be very welcome to contact Anne-Wil Harzing ( Members from any country or discipline are welcome, but note that we have a focus on Business & Management and the wider Social Sciences.

What is the CYGNA ethos?

CYGNA is a friendly, kind, inclusive, and supportive community, providing a safe space / place to exchange ideas, share experiences, provide advice, inspire, and learn. To maintain our ethos, our members are expected to follow the following principles:

  1. Respect and nurture CYGNA's ethos by modeling the above behaviour, both within and outside meetings.
  2. Ensure meeting invites stay within the network only; an exception can be made for female colleagues of the local host.
  3. Keep discussions in CYGNA sessions and on the mailing list fully confidential. 

Can anyone send material to the mailing list?

Yes, everyone can send material to the CYGNA mailing list, just use the email address provided with your JICS confirmation email.

How to respond to list emails?

When responding to an email on the mailing list, consider whether your response needs to go to the entire mailing list. By default, your response goes to the sender only, but if you click "reply-all" it will go back to the mailing list too. That's perfectly fine if your response is a substantive contribution. But if you are just thanking the sender, it can easily overwhelm other members' mailboxes. 

How to share?

Please choose a descriptive subject line, preferably starting with CYGNA, so that members can decide whether the topic is relevant to them before reading the entire email. Sharing something by responding to someone else's email (without changing the subject line) might lead to members missing your contribution.

What to share?

We suggest you apply the rule of thumb that your email should be potentially relevant to at least a third of the (currently 350+) CYGNA members. A non-exhaustive list of material that might qualify includes:

  • Anything on gender in academia and/or EDI in academia, including your own articles and events on this topic.
  • Likewise for migration as 90+% of us are migrants.
  • Special issues in EDI/HR/OB/IB/Management/Marketing.
  • Resources on academic careers and skills development that come with your personal recommendation. This one requires some thought as some resources may only be relevant for 5-10% of CYGNA members.

What if you are not sure?

Feel free to contact any of the CYGNA Lead team to ask for advice.

Can anyone organise a conference meet-up?

Yes, anyone can organise a conference meet-up, and in fact, we encourage Swans to consider meeting up with other Swans at conferences they attend. You can find some write-ups here: Conference meet-ups.

How can you organise a meet-up?

We have prepared a cheat-sheet to help Swans organise this, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We suggest you start by sending out an email to the list, to collect the names and contacts of those attending the same conference and who are interested to meet up. And the checklist in the cheat-sheet should help you think about all the rest. Just reach out to the Lead Team and we will help you get started.

Why organise a meet-up?

There are many reasons why we encourage Swans to meet up at conferences, from the simplest which is to meet up with new and old friends (making conferences more fun), to more professional ones of supporting one another in developing and sustaining our professional networks.

Conferences can be quite daunting for those of us who are more introvert or those who are attending a conference for the first time. But even for those of us who are more senior, with a consolidated network of academic connections, it can be unnerving to face a full room of people alone. Knowing that there are friendly faces waiting for you at the cocktail or gala dinner, or that at any point during the conference other Swans are at your fingertips through a WhatsApp group, can feel like a helpful safety net for any of us.   

Can I organise a meet-up at any conference or does this only apply to IB or OB/HR conferences?

A meet-up can make sense as soon as there are two Swans or more.

As mentioned above, most of CYGNA’s members have a focus on Business & Management and the wider Social Sciences. The larger clusters of members include Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), International Business (IB), Human Resource Management (HRM), Organisational Behaviour (OB), Management and Marketing.

As such, in the past, CYGNA meet-ups have been organised at the Academy of Management (AOM), the Academy of International Business (AIB) and European International Business Academy (EIBA). 

But again, any Swan can suggest a meet-up at any conference they attend.

Can anyone organise an official CYGNA meeting?

Yes, absolutely!!! Most meetings are organised by the wider CYGNA organizing team who have committed to taking an active role in the CYGNA network (see: Cygna videos: expanding the team). However, we are always looking for CYGNA volunteers to either join one of the organizing team members, or organize a meeting on their own.

If you have an idea for a CYGNA meeting and are a relatively new member, we suggest you first do a quick check to see whether we have organised a meeting on a similar topic recently. If this is not the case, feel free to contact the CYGNA Lead Team for advice. One of us will work with you to help you plan the meeting. We have meeting "cheat-sheets" that we can share with you.

If we are uncertain whether a particular meeting topic would appeal to a larger audience, we might advise you to organise a CYGNA jam in the first place (see next section). This CYGNA jam could also help you find co-organisers who have a shared interest in the topic.

If you would like to organise a meeting, but are a bit nervous about it, please don't worry. Everyone is there to support you if things don't go according to plan. Even if you do mess up, it really doesn't matter, CYGNA meeting are not performative events. In fact, messing up only makes you more human and it encourages other CYGNA members to have a go at organising a meeting :-). You might want to read Huong Nguyen's lovely post about her experiences: Chairing a CYGNA meeting.

What is CYGNA jam session and how do I organise one?

A CYGNA jam session is a short (30-40 minutes, ad-hoc, informal CYGNA meeting around a narrowly-defined topic, such as for instance publishing in a specific journal, or a practical academic problem that one or more CYGNA members are facing. They can also serve to elicit interest for a more permanent CYG, i.e. a CYGNA SIG (= special interest group), that might go on to have more regular meetings.

Everyone can call a CYGNA jam. You don't need to be an expert on the topic that you are calling a meeting for. In fact, you are typically calling the meeting because you want advice! You are free to decide how to run the meeting. However, based on our experiences of earlier CYGNA jams, we would like to suggest the following:

  • 1. The person calling the meeting decides on the date/time, circulates an invite to the mailing list and chairs the meeting. 
  • 2. At the start of the meeting, please ask if there is anyone who has never attended a CYGNA meeting before and allow them to introduce themselves. Anyone can of course introduce themselves in the chat. If the CYGNA jam audience is small, you might decide to ask everyone to introduce themselves. But remember these sessions are meant to be short (30 minutes) unless participants want to stay longer. Introductions can easily take up half of a 30-min session or more.
  • 3. CYGNA jams are about sharing experiences and tips. If you attend a CYGNA jam, you are not simply there to listen like you would in a webinar. If you are a new member or very junior and feel a bit shy to talk, try to ask questions or contribute ideas in the chat.
  • 4. CYGNA jams are "safe places" where people can ask difficult questions and share experiences. This is really hard to do if we don't know who we are talking to. So in principle the ground-rule is that everyone switches on their video.
  • 5. Everyone is expected to have a picture uploaded in their Zoom account, so that if you really have to switch off your video we can remember who you are by looking at your picture. To help networking, please consider adding your university affiliation to your Zoom name.
  • 6. To keep discussion fully confidential, the sessions are not recorded and the chat is not saved.

How do I use the membership spreadsheet?

We can see at least a dozen different ways to use our membership spreadsheet:
  • 1. Research collaborations and/or funding applications based on the research interests fields.
  • 2. Teaching collaborations based on shared teaching interests.
  • 3. Informal sharing of information about working at a particular university or in a particular country.
  • 4. Connecting with other CYGNA members in the same country, region, or university.
  • 5. Forging connections for data collection in particular countries; two thirds of our members volunteered to collect data in more than 50 different countries in total.
  • 6. Providing advice on almost any topic related to academic careers; nearly two thirds of our members are offering advice.
  • 7. Receiving advice on all of these topics.  
  • 8. Engaging in (in)formal mentorship relationships, about half of our CYGNA members are willing to act as mentor.
  • 9. Helping someone to connect with their academic hero if you know this person.
  • 10. Connect with another CYGNA member on a more personal level to talk about work/family balance or challenges on the professional/personal interface. The fields on kids and career priorities might be useful for this.
  • 11. Connect with another CYGNA member to organize a session.
  • 12. Find candidates for positions such as: external examiners, PhD examiners, reviewers, or even a new colleague.
If you have found a novel way to use the list feel free to write to the CYGNA lead team, we would love to hear about it.

What if I can't attend a meeting after all?

We are aware of and sensitive to the multiple demands on your time, and so we of course understand if you register but then cannot attend.

But please remember that event organisers are volunteers who put considerable time and commitment into preparing an engaging CYGNA event for participants and they often need to estimate attendance to plan activities.

So if you know it is unlikely you will attend, please register when you are more likely to attend than not; and if you are registered but cannot attend, please let organisers know in advance. 

Are CYGNA meetings recorded?

We do not generally record CYGNA meetings for two reasons:

  • 1. Recording changes the dynamics of the meeting, especially in meetings dealing with sensitive topics. Presenters become more guarded in their presentations. In addition, it implicitly discourages questions during the presentation as participants don't want to disturb the video, or don't want to be visible in the recording. This makes for a more stilted experience, which we do not like.
  • 2. Recording makes CYGNA more similar to more generic webinar series, where you don't really have to "be there", but can just skip through the recording afterwards on fast-forward. We feel that this is likely to lead to lower attendance in the meetings and less engagement, the very thing that makes CYGNA special.

However, we do understand that members are unable to attend every meeting they would like. Therefore, we always write up a blogpost for each meeting. This generally includes download links for the slides of any presentation, as well as lots of other resources. You can find an overview of these blogposts here: .

We do sometimes record presentations that are timeless and on "neutral" topics. These presentations can be watched in the CYGNA playlist linked below.

Related pages