June 12, 2018, by Simon Langley-Evans

The role of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the School of Biosciences

It was pointed out recently that the role of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee, might not be clear to everybody. What do we do? Why do we even exist?

We thought it might help to give you an overview of what was done over the last few years, what we are up to at the moment and what we potentially will be involved in the future.

It seems an age ago that Prof Joanne Hort set up the group and galvanised us into action with a wide variety of tasks and activities. Actually it was only 2015! Initially the group of people involved was quite large and included people from all job families. After a brainstorming session, the group agreed to focus on a variety of areas including visibility of women, career workshops for progression at all levels, better role modelling, unconscious bias training, improving the PDPR process, leadership structures for committees, improving work/life balance, and career development for teaching specialists. You don’t have to look far across the School to see that many of these areas are now routinely incorporated into the School of Biosciences activities and actually we achieved a massive amount during the first two years of having an EDI committee.

Last year I took over as chair when Jo left us for a new post in the southern hemisphere. Simultaneously, and along with most School committees, we cut down the number of people involved. Hopefully we have achieved our goal of still having a representative committee including people from all job families and Divisions. We have focused activities more and are in the process of refining the EDI Action Plan and making sure it links with the School Plan and the Athena Swan action plan. The Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team overlaps with the EDI committee but is not all same people. Athena Swan is also only really concerned with sex whereas EDI covers all of the legally binding protected characteristics in the Equality Act (2010). Just in case you are not aware, these include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.

Over the last year we have expanded on some of the previous activities and started some new ones, for example

  • More Women in Biosciences posters including some of our home grown talent (most recently Emma Allaway who is a science graduate but working in administrative role).
  • Gender neutral signage for some toilet facilities.
  • Unconscious bias training is now included in the induction programme and undertaken by new staff. It is also undertaken by PhD students who are demonstrating. Refresher sessions will be coming soon!
  • There are four Redressing the Balance forums planned for this year.
  • We launched this EDI blog in February and are using that as a means of sharing relevant information and helping us to get to know some of the staff in the School by the ’Spotlight’ articles.
  • We have developed more links with the Vet School and I attend their EDI meetings and Prof Gary England, Head of the Vet School, attends ours. This is facilitating shared ideas and a more cross campus approach.
  • We are revising our action plan and identifying the next steps
  • We have a focus group coming soon to try and understand the pressures on early-stage female academics. Hopefully this will guide us as to what we can do to try and support them.
  • We continue to keep raising the issue of the lack of child care facilities at SB.
  • We have created the Behavioural Charter which covers a wide set of behaviours including treating everyone equally.

Alongside all that there are Faculty EDI meetings which give some insight into what is happening in other Schools and report what is coming down from University level. For example the University will be aiming for a Race Charter bronze award by 2020. Racial inequality is going to be high on the agenda. There is also the Gender Equality in Nottingham group which covers all Faculties.

Being Chair of this group is a bigger role than I initially expected but it is a worthwhile one and I hope that our work will lead the School of Biosciences further towards the goal of being a place where people are valued and treated equally, whatever their characteristics.

Dr Kirsten Whitehead
Chair of Biosciences EDI Committee

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