In theory your gender should make little difference to a career in research. The UK has a developed framework of equal opportunities and equal pay legislation and institutions will usually build on this with their own policies. However, in practice many disciplines have a gender imbalance and this typically becomes more pronounced the further you move up the career ladder.
Being female in a male dominated environment can sometimes work in your favour and help you to stand out from the crowd. However it can also make you feel isolated, highly visible and mean that you are excluded from certain types of networking activities such as male only sports activities. Make the time and effort to build up networks of your own, either with people in a similar situation to you or those more generally supportive. A good way to do this is to make use of any mentoring schemes which are available or join a women’s network (see related links on the right for examples and let us know of any others).
There are several initiatives to encourage good practice in employment in SET. Any university or research institution which is committed to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) can apply for an Athena SWAN award. The Athena SWAN Charter is a scheme which recognises excellence in employment for SET women in higher education and research. There are also a number of disciplinary focused schemes such as the Royal Society of Chemistry’s guide Planning for Success - Good Practice in University Science Departments and the Institute of Physics's Juno Programme