Carol Williams: career and confidence

Carol Williams reflects on her tendency not to seek promotion in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, University of Cambridge.

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Why when you returned to Madingley Rise, I think in 1978, you’d published a lot of papers, you’d made original discoveries in geophysics, why you were not and then applying for lectureships or senior research positions? 

I think … I think because, in a way because there wasn’t a personnel department in Cambridge, I didn’t even know what the different ranks were and what was available. There was one occasion, though, when I did contemplate applying for promotion. And – but somehow I didn’t apply. I think I had the naive notion that if the department thought me good enough, they would invite me to apply. And of course they didn’t invite me to apply. So I remained a research assistant. 

Could you talk more generally about why you think it is that your, I suppose what we might call, self-confidence or intellectual self-confidence, seems to have been lower than people around you?

Erm … it may be that I felt my … my education was insufficient. But I was very pleased with the education I got from the grammar school; I didn’t feel that that was inferior in any way. Had I gone to public school I’m not sure if I would have had more confidence or not. I suspect that in many ways my parents hadn’t given me a lot of confidence. As a child I didn’t have any say in anything for – until I was in my mid-teens at least. And I knew I had to – I knew I had to behave in a particular way when my father was around, otherwise he’d get quite irritated. I don’t know.

  • Interviewee Carol Williams
  • Duration 00:02:32
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 4/26/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/67

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