February 13, 2019, by Simon Langley-Evans

A new year of Biosciences EDI activity

2019 is well under way and I have been reflecting on where we are going as a School in relation to addressing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) issues in our community. A couple of people have said to me in the last couple of weeks that it is time that we stopped just talking about gender and considered other issues. My immediate reaction was that we havebeen considering other issues! Clearly not everyone has heard that so we need to make sure more is being communicated somehow. Answers on a post card (or perhaps email) please!

As I had to write a short report for the Faculty EDI group on what Biosciences have done over the last year I have been looking at what our activity was. Certainly, some of it has been about gender but there are a lot of other things too.

Here is a quick review of last year

  • We started our EDI blog in February and posted on average twice a month including a variety of subject areas including transgender issues, Athena Swan, and disability. We have had a number of ‘spotlight’ articles on staff (not all female!) to tell their stories including some of the challenges that they have faced on their journey. We are hoping to continue this and I have a number of people lined up. Anyone with a story to share please do get in touch.
  • Our Redressing the Balance seminar series continued with 4 female speakers over the year including a PhD student with children, a member of staff from Biosciences, the Vet School and the Vice Chancellor. Yes, this is predominantly about gender and supporting female staff but it has been great to see some men attending some of these. I know a number of male staff who feel that their female partners have a tough deal in developing their careers.
  • The Behavioural Charter was created based on feedback from the ‘Building a Better working relationship’ workshops which most people attended. Some points highlighted were related to protected characteristics such as gender and race. Posters should be in every building across the School. Several other Schools in the University are considering developing something similar. I will be looking closely at the responses about it in the School survey. If anyone has any stories to share about how it has been used I would really like to hear them.
  • Our Women in Biosciences posters have generally been well received although there have been some comments that we are being negative about men. That of course is not the intention at all but we do want to inspire the next generation of bioscientists to meet their potential whatever their gender. We are hoping to share our posters externally via social media to demonstrate our commitment to equality.

So where are we going now?

Having obtained Silver Athena Swan in 2018 the EDI group and Athena Swan Self Assessment Team (SAT) are working together on the implementation of the action plan with a view to retaining silver next time. This whole area is broadening out to consider equality more broadly which can only be a good thing.

We will continue to have our blog and Redressing the Balance seminars so if you think anyone would be good do let me know.

We continue to work closely with our neighbours in the Vet School to consider how to take a whole campus perspective on EDI issues when appropriate. We are hoping to start a ‘Be yourself at SB’ campaign which we hope will be attractive to all people. We want new people to feel welcome whatever their characteristics.


So what does the Chair of the EDI Committee do in all of this?

More than I was expecting when I agreed to take on the role! I do attend quite a few meetings, not just the School Committee which I chair but also the Vet School, Faculty group and the Athena Swan SAT. The University is working towards the Race Equality Charter Mark and there have been some workshops on that and other subjects too. I try to write blog posts on some of these to keep information flowing. In fact, I think one of my key roles is to act as a conduit of information between School and Faculty, learning from others and sharing what we have done.  Apparently, I am soon to have a ‘role profile form’ which will show me if I am on the right track or not.

I am trying to keep things moving forward, supporting the actions that we have agreed to take and chasing things up that have not materialised. Sometimes it is hard to keep pushing, and organising meetings can be painful, but we have to keep working at this if we are going to improve the sense of community that I have always felt at SB (I have been here over 17 years). Yes, we are in difficult times in many ways but some of the things we want to change could impact really positively not just on individuals but on our whole community.

I am really open to ideas so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think there is something we need to be tackling. This is our School and our community and each of us can have a positive impact. Let’s make 2019 another year of positive change.

Kirsten Whitehead
Chair Biosciences EDI Committee

Posted in EDI