In our first meeting of 2021 we discussed our forthcoming submission for the Athena Swan award. We are trying to access all the various data that we need, which will need to be sourced in some cases directly from staff, but mostly our Human Resources department will provide. Meanwhile, lots of equality and diversity activity is happening behind the scenes, both at the school and at the college level. At the college level, the university launched a call last summer 2020 for members to join the College Inclusion Committee. Now that the work of the college committee is under way, we, as equality and diversity committee at the school level, have a more direct and simpler route to escalate any actions that go beyond the school remit.
Key discussion topics centred around our forthcoming coaching scheme in the last phase before the official launch, the results from our latest staff culture survey, and the re-launch of the early career researchers committee. There’s lots more work that should come to fruition in the coming months.
At our committee meeting in December we started to look at the action plan we had set in our previous Athena Swan application. We used a traffic system to highlight the level of progress against each action point we had identified. We discussed a series of initiatives to move forward those action points for which we had achieved little progress.
A lot of discussion was around the support in place for early career researchers (loosely defined as up to the level of first lectureship). Support in a variety of ways: teaching opportunities and the achievement of a Higher Education Academy qualification, highlighting fellowship applications and tailored funding opportunities, but also a welcoming environment. All of this had already been the focus of our Joseph Banks Laboratories Early Career Researchers (ECR) committee, unfortunately the committee has become inactive over the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore we talked about reviving the committee initially through our newly established Teams channel for ECRs and also through our ‘socials’ Teams channel at the school level.
One of the first items that our committee discussed in this month’s meeting, was how to keep the social interaction of a school during the pandemic. Specifically we considered those groups that are not interacting as before, students, early career researchers and staff. We’ve therefore set up two new Teams channels: one for early career researchers to revive the ECR committee which has not met during the pandemic, and one for staff/student socialising, a sort of ‘coffee break’ online space to mimic the ‘corridor chat’ that is not happening with the move online.
In other items, Iain Stott and Sheena Cotter were elected as vice-chairs of the EDI committee and we discussed preparing the application for our Bronze application next spring 2021.
Today the committee met and we discussed a variety of points. One of those, was the Athena Swan application for a silver award of the School of Psychology and in particular which actions they have implemented at school level in that respect.
The committee then discussed our newly launched blog and how to add this to the main website presence of the School of Life Sciences so that it is easily accessible for all. We also worded an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion statement that is going to be added to the welcome statement of our Head of School.
Dr Iain Stott, senior lecturer at the School of Life Sciences and member of the EDI committee, has been awarded the prestigious Equality and Diversity Champion award by the British Ecological Society. This annual award (established in 2016) “honours and celebrates those who have made significant, innovative and cumulatively outstanding contributions to enhancing the practice of equality and diversity in the ecological community“. Now in its fourth year, the award aims to highlight the work done by those working tirelessly to make the ecological community more welcoming for everyone. Iain is the single recipient of the award this year.
On receiving his award Iain said: “I wouldn’t say anything I’ve done is extraordinary, and in many ways I was surprised to win this award. On reflection however, I certainly could have done with many of these things as an early career researcher and I’ve never really felt like I know a senior LGBT+ academic role model to look up to.”
We are very proud of the work that Iain has already done, and look forward to his insights and contributions to our committee.