July 2, 2021, by sbzaj1
50 at 50: Introducing the new Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the School of Medicine
Having worked as an academic member of staff since 2005, I have personally witnessed a significant transformation in the culture of the University as well as increased attention, prominence and commitment to EDI. I welcomed the publication of the new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Delivery Plan (2019). This plan is important as it sets out in a methodical and comprehensive way how EDI will be embedded throughout the entire University. Whilst this plan describes a range of values, actions and goals it makes two observations which I would like to draw attention to: I) The University has an ambitious plan for EDI (and rightly so!) but in order to achieve this everybody must play a part. Regardless of what it is that you do, everybody has a part to play in creating the EDI culture that we all collectively wish for; ii) The University is a large, complex and distributed organisation and therefore to embed EDI successfully in all that we do we must collaborate widely but deliver locally. These two observations resonate as I take over as the new Director for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the School of Medicine for the next three years. In order to embed EDI across the School of Medicine successfully we must encourage everyone to contribute, draw upon the EDI experiences and good practice across both the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and wider University but also be mindful that we need to consider local context, culture and barriers/enablers.
Our new People Committee in the School of Medicine
As Director for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the School of Medicine I have the great pleasure in chairing its new People Committee and look forward to its first meeting in late June 2021. This committee will be an important one and I wanted to take the opportunity to briefly outline its four key pillars of activity.
1. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (including Athena Swan)
2. Communication, Engagement, Value and Recognition
3. Staff Wellbeing and Environment
4. Training, Education and Staff Development
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (including Athena Swan)
Ove the next few weeks we shall be working hard to develop our new School of Medicine EDI Strategy. Much work has already been done in this area, but we have real opportunity to engage with our staff and students to help identify whether we are moving in the right direction, identifying the right issues to address as well as identifying issues which have been overlooked but which are important. In addition, we shall be continuing our work to build on the previous Athena Swan Silver Award renewal (awarded October 2019). Whilst Athena Swan remains an important initiative, we hope over time that our EDI work is not driven by Athena Swan but rather we showcase our excellent EDI work which exists and include it in our Athena Swan applications.
Communication, Engagement, Value and Recognition
The School of Medicine is a large, complex and geographically dispersed organisational structure and this poses challenges around communication, collaboration and engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to rethink how we communicate with both our students and our colleagues and so online interaction is likely to remain for quite some time. However, we have also undergone considerable change through our forward-looking Academic Restructure Transformation. This has created new academic units and platforms and will provide a means through which we can realise our ambitions around excellence in education and research. The People Committee will be helping navigate these challenges as we aim to support the development of new identities and collaborative, supportive communities. Beyond this, we will focus on how we can give thanks to our colleagues and recognise their considerable efforts. One newly launched initiative which I am delighted to share with you is the ‘Celebrating our People’ staff awards (launched June 2021), and we hope this annual awards scheme will be part of a suite of activities which demonstrate our commitment to valuing and giving thanks to our colleagues.
Staff Wellbeing and Environment
If the last 15 months has taught us anything, it is we need to look after our staff and students. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the challenges around mental health, caregiving, family life, work/life balance etc. Moreover, the environment we work in has changed with many working remotely now for well over one year. As a People Committee, we will seek to understand and respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation and what this means for staff and student wellbeing.
Training, Education and Staff Development
Supporting staff in developing new knowledge, skills and ways of working remains an ongoing challenge. The new People Committee will be carefully considering what the priorities are for staff training, how to make training both effective and attractive to staff as well as developing mechanisms for recording staff training.
Looking to the future
It is a great honour to be appointed the new School of Medicine Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. I am looking forward to supporting colleagues and students across our wonderful School of Medicine. Whilst the challenges we face are considerable, we have a strong culture and appetite for success and together with my colleagues in the new School of Medicine People Committee we look forward to working collaboratively and supporting our collective aspirations.
Written by Professor Neil Coulson
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