I have been involved in two Aurora meetings recently. The first was the panel with the very difficult task of selecting the ten people to take part in the current round. As with last year, we had a really strong list of applicants, all of whom would have benefited from, and enjoyed, taking part. We had to choose but I hope that those not selected will consider applying again next year. It is great to see this level of interest in the programme. The second meeting included the women about to start the programme, the women who took part next year, the mentors and role models. It was a chance to meet each other and to talk about expectations and experiences.
Why is the University promoting Aurora?
I was asked, as I have been before - why is the University participating in the programme and what do we hope to get out of it for the institution as a whole? I think there are three main reasons. First this is a leadership programme. Universities are complex organisations that require not just day-to-day management but also creative leadership, in ways that respect our academic values. At all levels, we need people who can inspire trust and confidence, people who can come up with new ideas and directions, and who can make things happen. Second this is a programme targeted on women. At the moment the university does not have enough women in recognised leadership roles. We are missing out on a lot of talent as a consequence. Specifically, I would like to see a much more equal balance of women/men as heads of departments. Third this is a national programme. It involves working with people from other universities in a variety of different roles. This is excellent for networking and it is also encourages people to be more outward-looking, to reflect on how we compare with others and what we can learn from that.
What do the participants do afterwards?
I also believe the University would not realise the benefits if all we did was allocate women to the programme and let them get on with it. To get the most out of it, for both the individuals and the institution, we need to ensure that we follow up in various ways. We have an opportunity here to build up a community of people – participants, mentors, role models – with shared understanding and who can help to develop ideas and activities to enhance the basic programme and to put learning into practice. The first cohort has already started some of these meetings and discussions. As we do this, I expect to see the Aurora tentacles spreading out across the university!