An Update from the Equality & Diversity Committee

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It's been a while, right?

Blogging is one of those tasks that sits optimistically at the bottom of your to-do list. Working to ensure that diversity and inclusivity is supported and celebrated in day to day business within the Department for Health is, however, much further towards the top - especially when it comes to responding to the Equality Challenge Unit's Athena SWAN Charter (our current focus).

Here's a roundup of some of the latest initiatives the E&D committee have been implementing within our Department and why they are needed:

What?: Raising Awareness of E&D Issues within the Department

Why?: Data from our previous Athena SWAN departmental survey, demonstrated limited awareness of our values around gender equity.

Where have we focused our activities?:

This year, we ensured that our values regarding E&D were communicated to all new and returning students by incorporating dedicated slides into their Welcome/Welcome Back talks.

'Equality & Diversity' is now a standing agenda item on all of our influential committees (i.e. Executive Committee, Research Committee, Learning & Teaching) along with the all staff meeting. We're still learning our way with how to make sure this item isn't met with uncertain glances around the table, followed by a "nothing to report". But we're getting better at this. Having this dedicated time and space for discussion across all of these committees will, we hope, help to ensure that E&D values become embedded into the culture and decision making within the Dept... and not just the concern of E&D committee members.

The notion of 'core hours' was been implemented when drawing up the departmental meeting schedule for 2017-18. What this means in that wherever possible, meetings and events will take place between 10am - 3pm to facilitate the involvement of those staff who, for whatever reason, work flexi-hours.

Our recent 'training with tea' initiative, where we aimed to increase the number of staff who had completed their mandatory training (including training in Equality & Diversity in the Workplace and Unconscious Bias) was really well received by staff. So well received, in fact, that the "computers said no" and went into meltdown! This was a real frustration, but is being rectified by IT... and we'll 'reboot' in the new year for a 2nd attempt - maybe even with some leftover Christmas biscuits!


What?: Putting Maternity & Paternity Leave in the Spotlight

Why? This speaks to a wider interest we have in supporting staff who take career breaks.

Our confidential staff consultation (using padlet) drew attention to a whole range of questions that staff had on this topic.

Where have we focused our activities?: We are working closely with HR, the Research Manager (Lisa Austin) and our PGR office (via Emma Rich) (recent trends are indicating that more people are starting a family during their PhD studies as they perceive it to impact less on their career than during post-doc / early career phase) to collate current policies in relation to mat & pat leave.

Within the department, we have also implemented some new practices with immediate effect. We are recommending that within 3 months of returning from leave, staff arrange individual meetings with:

  • Director of Research (currently Dylan Thompson),
  • Research Manager (currently Lisa Austin),
  • Director of Studies on the programmes they contribute to
  • Their mentor (if they have one ... more of this in the next post!)

These informal meetings will provide opportunities for any procedural changes (e.g. the new 'pre-proposal feedback' sessions for those applying for grants, curricular transformations), updates regarding strategic plans of funding bodies etc. to be shared. It is hoped that this will prevent returning staff feeling that they invest much of their time and energy within the first few months of their return simply trying to get back up to date or missing relevant opportunities.

Changes have also been made to how returning staff might use their Annual Personal Research Fund to help meet their needs and they are encouraged to discuss this with the Head of Department.

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