We are going to give audio descriptions of ourselves today. If you’ve never done that, and I haven’t, it is a challenge, and feels awkward, but I think it is good part of practice when it comes to inclusion. So I’m Jess. My pronouns are she and her. I’m a white, middle-aged woman, wearing a colourful headband. I’m wearing black and teal on top and I have a very delightful, but fake, Zoom bookcase background. Marco?
So I’m Marco. My pronouns are he/him. I’m a white man wearing a black shirt, and a rainbow lanyard, and the blurred background is a university meeting room.
So today we’re really excited to present Thriving Together: Creating more inclusive research communities through the research management relationship. We do not anticipate going the full three hours today and I’m sure no one is sad about that. So we’ll try to keep it as close to three-and-a-half as best we can. We have a lot to cover today, and some of the content we’re going to cover probably unsurprisingly given we’re going to talk about inequalities, includes difficult subjects to talk about, including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, gender-based violence, bullying, harassment, those kinds of topics. So we’re going to cover that in-depth today. There will be opportunities for breaks. I think that’s really important. It’s also, we were discussing earlier, an important part of inclusive practice as well, because we all need breaks, but some people cannot function without them. So we will have opportunities for breaks today. We’re going to cover the workshop in four parts. So we’re going to talk about the systemic inequalities that are currently faced by doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, including findings from our own project, which is a four-year funded project by EPSRC. We’ll talk about the benefits and challenges of working to create more inclusive policies and practice. We’ll talk about your own best practices from your experiences as PIs, and line managers, and supervisors, and then we’ll discuss strategies for embedding inclusion.
Before doing all of that, let me just be briefly introduce the STEM Equals Project. So the STEM Equals Project is a four-year research and impact project focussed on women and LGBT+ people in STEM in both academia and industry. Through an intersectional lens the project focuses on working cultures, including better understanding the experiences of, and addressing systemic inequalities faced by women and LGBT+ staff in STEM disciplines. So what we aim to do is produce research-informed change especially around five key areas that we listed in this slide. So work culture, training, policy, representation and leadership. Beside that we also organise and facilitate a lot of different initiatives and events to discuss and address barriers to equality, diversity, and inclusion in STEM. For example, we organise events for the LGBT STEM Day, the International Women’s Day, and we collaborate with the local community, for example, through the See Yourself in STEM Project where we went to local schools in Glasgow to show to kids, especially those from underrepresented and marginalised backgrounds, what a career in STEM looks like.
So we’re going to do a whistle-stop tour of some of the systemic inequalities that are currently faced by doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. This is not an exhaustive tour. It will feel exhausting because it’s a lot, but we’re just going to talk about some of the existing data that we know related to doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. The first part will be generally doctoral and postdoctoral, and then we’ll talk a little bit about our data relating to STEM doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. So more than one in five PhD students indicated that they have experienced discrimination or harassment. One in four PhD students indicated that they’ve been bullied. Nearly two thirds of postdoctoral researchers, 61 per cent have witnessed bullying or harassment, and 43 per cent have experienced it themselves. I will put up again a link to our slides. We have a PDF of our slides, so if you would like to explore some of the research we quote in the data here, you’ll have a chance to look at that as well. Just one in three postdoctoral researchers feel comfortable speaking up about bullying and harassment, with many doubting appropriate action will be taken. More than one in three PhD students have sought help for anxiety or depression. More than half of postdoctoral researchers have sought or wanted to seek help for anxiety or depression. In fact, only 14 per cent of postgraduate research students reported having low anxiety. This compares with 41 per cent of the general population. Nearly one in four BIPoC or BAME students, that’s black, indigenous, and people of colour, or black, Asian, and minority ethnic students, reported experiencing racial harassment in UK universities. White applicants are more likely to be offered a PhD place in the UK. Concern’s been raised that the process for selecting UKRI-specifically funded PhD students discriminates against applicants from underrepresented backgrounds, including BAME applicants, disabled applicants, and applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Some studies show that women are more likely to withdraw from their doctoral studies and take longer to complete than men. The gender gap in completion rates is worse in programmes where women, or a woman is the only, or one of only a few women in her PhD cohort. In a survey of LGBTQ+ doctoral researchers in the UK, only 33 per cent of respondents indicated that they were out to their whole supervisory team. More than half of the respondents also reported experiencing aggression or microaggression because of their sexual or gender identity. Disabled researchers face discrimination and additional burdens in the workplace. Doctoral and postdoctoral researchers engaging in teaching are subjected to biased student evaluations. In fact, we all are, so everyone who is engaged in any teaching. There’s a really great article, a literature review of bias in student evaluations by Heffernan. Seventy-eight per cent of postdoctoral researchers think that high levels of competition have created unkind and aggressive working conditions, which obviously does not suit the kind of innovative, collaborative work we actually want to accomplish. More than three out of four PhD researchers indicated that they are working 41 or more hours a week on their PhD, and we know that overwork and burnout have become a commonplace for academia. Not everyone can engage in overwork. Not everyone physically can work evenings and weekends. So we give the example here of PhD students, and of course staff, with caring responsibilities, as well as disabled PhD students and staff. Importantly, no one actually should be working more hours than is healthy or conducive to good well-being. Nearly one in four PhD students indicated that they would change their supervisor if they could go back and start again. So the supervisor experience, that line-management experience is also an important part of creating the possibility of an inclusive and collaborative environment or not. When it comes to systemic inequalities and STEM, evidence suggests women face particular discriminations and exclusion in STEM disciplines in academia and in industry. Probably not a surprise, this is not unique to the UK. There’s also a significantly understudied area and that is the LGBT+ experience in STEM, but what is out there as far as data shows a pattern of discrimination and exclusion. Students and staff who are black, indigenous, and other people of colour, disabled, first generation, working-class also face inequalities and barriers to exclusion. I think one of the things that we’ve been talking about that one of their sister projects has talked about, DISC, is that when we look at the experience of disabled researchers, or disabled people in higher education, most data looks at disabled students, particularly undergraduate students. There’s not an expectation that a disabled staff member will be part of the team. In fact, with the DISC project, one of the other Inclusion Matters projects, when they interviewed staff and students about providing better, and more inclusive supports for people with disabilities, the assumption was made that the interviewer was talking about students, always. There wasn’t an assumption that the kind of support a university should offer should include staff, just the assumption that they would be undergrads only. You may be familiar with this quote, Professor Sara Ahmed. ‘I have suggested that diversity work can work as a branding exercise, a way of reimagining the organisation as being diverse through the inclusion of those who embody diversity, and inclusion can become a happy sign of the overcoming of exclusion. If your arrival is a sign of diversity, then your arrival can be incorporated as good practice. Bodies of colour provide organisations with tools, ways of turning action points into outcomes. We become the tools in their kit. We are ticks in their boxes; we tick their boxes.’ So she’s talking here about how often our institutions will claim to be doing diversity work, or say we value diversity and just point to the people who embody diversity as proof that they are doing diversity work, which is not the same thing as inclusion. Similarly, Professor Kalwant Bhopal’s work here talking about policies versus practices. ‘Universities have a commitment to equality of opportunity. However, the mere existence of equality and diversity policies does not suggest that good practice is taking place, and many universities may simply conform to a tick-box exercise which gives the illusion that they are tackling racial inequality. Simply asserting a commitment to equality is different from demonstrating how equality and inclusion are practiced.’ I think one of the things we talk about a lot when it comes to the work we do with some equals is what does it mean to say we value diversity? So is an institution able to be held accountable to the policies they have? So if an institution says we value diversity, show us how you are tackling your gender or race pay gap. Show us how you are tackling your disability employment gap. This is just an example also from Professor Bhopal saying in a tweet, ‘Call me cynical, but sometimes think I’m a token. Just asked because I’m a woman of colour so that the box can be safely ticked.’ Professor Vinita Sundaram says, ‘I worry about this too.’
So against this background, our study looked in particular at the experiences of women and LGBT+ PhD student and staff in STEM. During phase one of the study we did interviews, and focus groups, and six themes emerged from the data we collected. Challenges, support, policy versus practice, identity, space, and career. As you can see from this graph that we included in the slide, challenges were the most coded of the themes and definitely much more coded and represented than support. Within this workshop we will highlight just some of the data from these two key themes, so challenges and so forth. So based on our data, and previous studies, we identified four sub-themes to articulate the experience of our participants around challenges. These are disadvantage that we define as policies or practices in which particular groups benefit from, or are hindered by, opportunities and expectations. Then we have stereotyping. So oversimplified generalisations about groups of people that may be positive or negative. Prejudice instead refers to negative feelings, attitudes, and behaviours someone might hold against female and/or LGBT+ individuals, because these were our target. Instead the last of the sub-theme, discrimination refers to unfair treatment someone receives because of being a woman and/or LGBT+, again because this was our focus, although we employ an intersectional lens. Discrimination might be direct when one is treated worse than another person, or indirect when discrimination is the result of biased, and unfair policies, and arrangements. So to visualise the relationship among these sub-themes, we create a visual model that we call the Slippery Slope to Discrimination. The model shows that disadvantage, stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination do not exist in isolation, but are a part of a toxic working culture in which marginalised, and underrepresented individuals in particular, feel dissatisfied, frustrated, and might end up quitting academia. To guide you through the slippery slope, in the next few slides we collected some quotes from our participants. So starting with disadvantage, a recurring theme that we found was the feeling of being the only one in departments or labs where women, LGBT+, and other identities are underrepresented historically. So for example, in the first quote there’s this PhD student saying, ‘You are the only woman in the midst of men. I’m used to that because I’ve been like that for a very long time.’ This feeling is echoed by this other quote from an LGBT+ member of staff. ‘We only had two female members of staff, academic staff, and there if you weren’t just a cis, cisgender, straight man, you kind of felt a bit, oh, okay, maybe I shouldn’t do anything or say anything because you are not even accepting of women by not employing any. Why would you accept of anyone being gay?’ So being the only one, of course might expose you to stereotypes, issues of tokenism, or stereotyped threat such as those represented in these two quotes. So in the first one we have a woman, part of the academic staff saying, ‘The one thing that makes me feel like, oh yes, I’m a young woman working in science, is that I often get approached for photoshoots by the university to advertise things. You definitely wouldn’t have approached my male colleagues for that.’ So this person in this case feels like the token woman in the department. Instead, in the second quote from an LGBT+ PhD student, we see an issue of stereotype threat. So this person is saying, ‘I’m a bit iffy with the idea that you are known for something just because you are gay, because when people see things like this, they get insights into your personal life, and they will judge you on all the stereotypes that surround a certain label. I suppose that’s a kind of double-edged sword.’ Yes, definitely visibility is a topic we are working on, and often participants related this feeling of visibility being a double-edged sword. So when stereotypes move into the more serious realm of prejudice we have collected, unfortunately, incidents like this that you might also recognise from your own experiences. So in the first one there is a woman, academic staff saying, ‘I’ve been asked to make the tea during a meeting. Then followed up by, I’m not asking you because you are the only girl in the room but because you are the most junior,’ as if that was a better excuse than asking because you are the only woman in the room. In this second quote instead from an LGBT+ member of staff, we have an incident that was perceived as homophobic by this person. So during a conversation with a line manager, the line manager told this person, ‘Just hide that you’re gay.’ This feeling of discomfort is echoed also in the last quote, again from an LGBT+ member of staff reflecting on their work environment and saying, ‘It’s a very male environment, very cave environment in reality, probably I would say primitive. You would see that people were surprised; oh, gay, oh my God.’ So people that were unprepared to discuss LGBT+ issues in general. Unfortunately, our data also have some very serious incidents of discrimination, like the first one where we have these PhD students recalling a series of incidents of bullying. So I’m quoting here, ‘I was the only woman for quite some time and from the get-go I didn’t integrate into the group fully. That was apparent in my first week. I got a red flag, and I got verbal abuse in my first week that nobody else got, and I got isolation, and I got full-on aggression then, and I got blamed, and set up for something, and made to look stupid.’ The second quote instead is from an LGBT+ PhD student recalling an incident of misgendering, because this student is non-binary. So I’m quoting here, ‘He knows that I don’t use binary pronouns, so to my face he will use no pronouns at all to refer to me, but I get misgendered when I’m out of earshot.’ So coming back to the slippery slope, we hope that these quotes illustrated that the challenges that are faced by women, LGBT+, but also other underrepresented and marginalised PhD students, postdocs, and academic staff, are manifold, complex, and interrelated. Of course, as a result, addressing these challenges require a holistic approach to remove the systemic barriers that still exist in academia.
One of the things that we talk about often is how the really serious issues perhaps, for example bullying, harassment, sexual violence, which still is happening, is obviously part of the large problem of inequalities in academia. Those issues are the ones focussed on, and not the issues of microaggressions, or lack of opportunities, or lack of support at what we would call the disadvantaged end of the slippery slope. What’s important is that all of this contributes to the pattern that allows for the kinds of abuse that happens at the sharp end when it comes to discrimination and violence. So I think it’s important that we talk about all of the slope when it comes to trying to address inequalities. We’re going to work in small groups. We’ve just covered a lot and a lot of really heavy stuff. So it’s an opportunity in small groups – I think we’re going to be in four small groups – to talk about what impact do you believe these inequalities have on the individuals who are experiencing them, but also perhaps on the research groups in which they are a part of, or leaving if they’re really unwelcome, and on the university. So it’s not just about how these inequalities impact the individual, which is often part of the narrative. It’s just how does this one person face these inequalities? How is the research group detrimentally impacted when these inequalities are not addressed, and how is the university also impacted when these inequalities are not addressed? It’s just going to be ten minutes in the breakout rooms, and then if you’re comfortable, when we come back we’ll ask to see what you discussed, what you shared, and go from there. So maybe Marco and I can share from the breakout rooms we were in first and then see who’s keen to tell us about their breakout room.
Sure. Shall I start, or do you want to start?
Yes, go ahead. Tell us about your breakout room.
So in mine, some very nice points were made. So we were discussing around what impact do you think these inequalities have on individuals, but on the system as a whole. So motivation was mentioned. So if you face challenges and inequalities your motivation falls, and you are not as good at doing your work as you might be. Also, if you face discrimination, you might feel you are not able to bring your whole self to work, and that’s also a big challenge that we often discuss at STEM Equals. Another very nice point was made, that we are going to discuss later during the workshop, having less diversity limits innovation and potential.
In ours we talked about the devastating impact of inequalities, for example bullying and harassment, on the individual, but also the ways that that can have a knock-on effect, and be detrimental to the research culture, and to the university. We talked a lot about policy versus practice. Again, most of our institutions are very good about writing policy, in fact take years to craft the perfect policy, but then fail to have any accountability mechanisms in place to make sure the policy is doing what it says on the tin. We do research-informed teaching, we are researchers ourselves, and so the idea of researching our policies to ensure that they’re actually doing what they say, seems to be a no-brainer, and it should just be built into policy writing. Is there a mechanism for ensuring this policy is still fit for purpose and being followed? We talked about what is it we can do as individuals when we can’t single-handedly fix the system, and that will be a whole topic of discussion a little bit later this afternoon about our limitations, because we cannot individually fix it all, but that there are some things we can do, and that we do have some power as line managers and supervisors. Then also the message. So how do we build more buy-in about the need to do inclusion work? For example, we talk a lot about reframing the narrative. It’s not about the individual who loses out only. It’s also about how the institution, how our research groups are disadvantaged by not having more diverse and included voices in the room. So whether those voices are not included from the start, they didn’t get to university at all, or they are not included because they’ve been bullied out of academia. How do we lose out? How does our innovation suffer? How does our research suffer by not having more diversity and inclusion in there, and reframing the narrative so that there’s more buy-in? Any other groups want to chat?
I’ll happily go forward for room four if that’s okay. Very much echoing what you both said Marco and Jessica, you’ve covered a number of points that we’ve flagged there as well. We talked about having the freedom to feel valued and expressing oneself. People, as you say, not bringing their full self as well, hindering research, and how you go forward with that, and the drive. We talked about things that could be, for lack of a better phrase, old-school thinking in terms of that it’s the culture, it’s how we’ve done things, and how we actually change that up, and how we actually move forward in a really positive and inclusive light. From that we discussed things about training, and awareness, and how we go about that as well, to make sure that we’re reaching those that not only are involved directly in it, but also how do we approach those people who are not always engaging with the equality, diversity, and inclusion agenda as well. So they were some of the key themes that we came up with.
That’s great. Thanks so much. This is how we’ve always done it is, I feel like, the phrase you never want to hear at university. Change is so slow, even though we’re supposed to be beacons of innovation as universities. ‘Oh, this is how we’ve always done it.’ With our data, we had senior academics for example, say, ‘Oh, I had to endure catcalling. It’s just how it happens. You just have to grow a thick skin,’ as if it’s just okay that it continues. Yes. Thank you. That’s really great. I think there was four rooms. What about the last room, the final room? I don’t know what rooms were in numbers-wise.
I think that was us. So I’m going to hand over to room three.
Hiya. Yes, happy to take on for room three. So, a lot of ours echoed what you were saying Marco and Jessica, and again, what Holly’s group was saying, where our individuals are feeling, at an individual level sorry, the feelings of alienation. So that does impact that engagement that they have with their work, with the wider research team as well. Then with them also continuing into academia in the future, and progressing in their career, and wanting to progress in their career which, when we don’t have that diversity in the sector, we don’t have role models for future researchers or for future academics. So it kind of perpetuates that cycle where people don’t want to engage with it because they don’t see themselves in it. It also reinforces that perpetuation of privileges in progression to senior roles. So the old-boys’ club kind of stuff. Like we were saying about it’s always been done that way, that gets perpetuated because it’s the same people who are occupying those senior roles. On a wider level that also means, as I already said before, the innovation is then disrupted. So the way we contribute to a society is so deeply hindered because we don’t have a diverse range of people at the highest levels pushing innovation basically, in a way that is suitable for a diverse population, and in the research landscape itself. We talked a little bit about the political climate that we live in, and how that influences our work and vice versa as well. We said that we need to have a wider picture and perspective of inclusivity, where we look at the individuals that are coming in as people, and as whole people, and basically letting them bring their whole selves into work, to echo what other people have said, instead of just looking at the characteristics that we ascribe to them from a diversity perspective. So rather than just looking at them as the LGBT one, or the BAME one, or the woman, actually looking at them as people and helping them feel confident in actually contributing as a whole person rather than as that particular characteristic you want to look at them through. So I think that covers room three.
That’s great. Thank you.
So the next section we’re going to talk about the benefits and challenges of creating more inclusive policies and practices.
So starting with the benefits, after talking so extensively about challenges, studies have shown, as some of you mentioned already during the discussion, that increased diversity and inclusion in the workforce has a positive impact on innovation and economic growth. So it’s positive for our organisations. Studies have also found that inclusive working cultures can result in higher productivity of underrepresented staff. In engineering, for example, this is true among engineers who are LGBT+, women, and BAME research found. So what we always try to emphasise is that when we talk about inclusion, it’s good to reframe the narrative, because creating more inclusive working culture is not something nice our university do as some sort of favour for underrepresented or marginalised doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in this case. Inclusion is really essential for innovation as we wrote in a recent case study that we produced for Strathclyde. So our institution should be embedding inclusion into policies and practices also, because the consequences for not doing so can be detrimental, including the loss of innovative contribution that could have been made by underrepresented and/or marginalised researchers, reputational damage, or financial losses from legal settlements.
The two links that are there – I’ll put our slides up again in case you haven’t had a chance to look at them. The first link is a headline about a racist incident on campus. So talking about the ways that reputational damage should be something institutions are concerned about. The second is a $700,000 AUS settlement a PhD student was awarded after facing sexual harassment at the University of Melbourne. So we’ve talked a lot about the evidenced inequalities that doctoral/postdoctoral researchers experience, the quantitative data, the qualitative data. As supervisors, and as line managers, we take some responsibility for creating more inclusive working cultures, but of course our time is limited, and as we were talking about, we definitely cannot solve the institutional and systemic problems single-handedly. We are working within the same unequal system that we are trying to change, or we’re working against to create more inclusion. So overwork is the norm for our research staff and students as much as it is for us. Academia keeps changing the goalposts for careers. There’s some great research about what was expected for promotion in the ’90s versus what is expected for promotion today. As you might expect, it is different. There are also disproportionate burdens and unequal demands made on some supervisors and line managers’ time depending on identities. So for example – oops, one step too far – those disproportionate burdens and unequal demands are especially made for women, and BAME or BIPoC academics, including administrative tasks, pastoral care, hiring panels, service work, committee work, and diversity work for the university. One thing for example that came out within our own study so far is how, often, if there’s only one or very few senior women in a STEM department, for example, then she is on every single hiring panel, because there’s an expectation that there is a woman on the hiring panel and she’s it. So the disproportionate burden of her time is often not accounted for. There’s just the assumption that you are the woman in the department, so you will be on the hiring panel. With limited intersectional awareness also, most institutional diversity initiatives rarely account for multiple discriminations or intersecting discriminations, which can lead to creating competing hierarchies among marginalised and underrepresented groups where, for example, gender equity can be prioritised to the detriment of race, sexuality, and disability. But given all that, there are still things that we can do. This is an opportunity now to discuss what our limitations are and what challenges you have faced in trying to create inclusion. We’ll get to the, what can we do, but this is first a great opportunity to discuss what challenges have you already faced, and what limitations are you working within to create inclusion, because again, we definitely can’t create it single-handedly. So we’re going to go back into small groups again, just a chance to talk about what challenges you’re facing, and maybe also some ideas you have for how you’ve tackled some of those challenges. We had a great discussion in our group. So if we could go first to set the example, Eamon?
Yes. Hello, everyone. In our group we mainly talked about overworking, and how that’s embedded in the system, and what we can potentially do about it. There was a suggestion that you can try and restrict when you send emails and tell people that you’re only doing it at a certain time, because it seems to be like a bit of a race to the bottom where people are just working, working, working. Even systemically things are built-in when you write grants, and you have to say you’re going to achieve way more than you could possibly achieve. Already, right from the start you’re sort of embedding that, okay, I have to give myself 150 per cent, but not just 150 per cent, 250 per cent maybe, because on top of that, you’ve got to look out for your development yourself, you’ve got to write your papers, you’ve got to prepare for your next step. That’s very embedded in the system and is difficult to change unless we have some kind of accountability. So later on in our discussion we talked about the researcher concordat as well, and what could be done there to make sure it’s not just a document, that people aren’t actually practising the change. We suggested that funders need to look at whether, is this really very important to them and the community, and if it is then they should judge institutes potentially on that. Are they actually taking into account these problems, systemic problems for researchers in the community. More about this accountability as well, about institutes being accountable for what they do, but also individuals being accountable. We didn’t discuss this, but I wanted to talk about it, individuals who are seen to get away with certain things because they’re senior and they bring in a lot of money. A lot of people, whether it gets hyped up because you only hear about it and people are just like, yes, well, of course nothing happened there. In my experience of being a postdoc is you do hear these things, and people know that they’re happening, but nothing’s ever done about it. Until the institutes get a hold on that and go, actually you might be bringing in millions a year, but you’re actually causing real-life problems for lots of people, and how we monitor that in some way. So, yes, I don’t know whether anyone else has anything to add to that, from our group?
I think it’s a really great point and part of what we were talking about when it comes to institutional reputation and financial losses, because when someone’s allowed unchallenged to be an abuser, because they bring in lots of money, that’s when the headlines become reputational damage, and that’s when the court settlements become $700,000, or pounds. It shouldn’t get to that point, obviously. Marco and I are working at the University of Strathclyde, and Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt, both institutions are famously part of a headline-making case of sexual abuse by a supervisor against his supervisees, and it shouldn’t get to that point. If anybody’s familiar with the work of the 1752 Group to challenge NDAs, the use of non-disclosure agreements in academia, particularly around issues of bullying, harassment, and violence, I think that’s really important work that they’re doing to address that. Yes, so the ways that bullies and abusers are continually rewarded if they bring money in. Funders are starting to require applications, grant applications to include the ways that contract researchers will be supported in their development, which coincides with the newly relaunched concordat. I think all of our institutions are signed up to the concordat, but as we know from our own data at Strathclyde, just because the institution has committed to the concordat, which includes commitments to the development of contract researchers, doesn’t mean that PIs are doing it in practice. It’s also about if you’re lucky to have a great PI who understands that your development is just as important as the research outcomes of the project. It should be universal, not luck. What about another group? We were room four. What about room one?
Hiya. Happy to feedback from group one. The point about the lack of accountability for staff who pull in huge amounts of funding was one that came up in our group as well. So we definitely talked about how these colleagues do commit actions, or they pass comments which are unacceptable, but because of the funding, or their status, or just the fact that they’ve been there for a very long time, that kind of supersedes the drive to actually address it. So often there is actually space for the person who’s experienced it to discuss it, but then nothing actually comes out of it. We linked that back to the points from the first breakout room with individuals feeling that they can’t bring their whole selves, and they can’t progress, and how there’s that kind of disconnect at the moment between the perpetrators at the highest levels, and this issue of people feeling that they can’t come in, or contribute, or continue their academic career. At the moment that’s quite disjointed. So until there is a willingness from institutions to actually step up and say, just like you said before, yes, we know you bring in a lot of funding, but that was unacceptable, you can’t really challenge. I mean, you can but there’s a limit how much you can challenge it. We talked a little bit as well about how when these issues do occur, the responsibility seems to be placed on the person who experiences it to actually address it, and to take some form of responsibility for either actioning it or rectifying it, when actually the responsibility should be on the person who makes the comment or commits the actions. That’s not necessarily from a perspective of self-development. That’s not a bad thing to take personal accountability, and to take responsibility, and want to be better. So we talked about how can we actually promote that message and say that it’s okay to admit you were wrong, and to try and learn from it, because automatically if you are challenged to say that something you said was offensive for example, the automatic reaction is, ‘Well, I didn’t mean it that way, it was just a joke,’ and there’s that defensiveness rather than stopping and saying, ‘Oh, I am responsible for the way that person felt because of what I said.’ So if we can get across that actually it’s okay to take responsibility, and it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the best thing to do. Then we just talked about a little bit about what we can do. We walked a bit about how to mainstream EDI work to initiate lasting culture change, because at the moment in the university sector in particular, it’s not so much a university culture, it’s lots of mini cultures in different departments and areas of one institution. So there needs to be targeted work that tackles those different cultures rather than one institution-wide blanket approach, which was really interesting to hear from the contributor there. So yes, we had a really good discussion there.
That’s great. We will talk also shortly about those ideas of pockets of good practice, the ways that some departments or research groups are engaging in good practices that are above and beyond what the institution is engaging in, but aren’t replicated, and could be if only we had more opportunities to share our good practice, which we will be doing after we have this chat, because I know all of us are already engaging in some good practices that might be worth sharing, and maybe there are some that we haven’t heard about, that we could engage in as well. What about room two?
Room two, I believe was us, and we neglected to assign someone to report back. I will pause for a second to see if anyone else wants to jump in.
Happy for you to do it, David.
Okay for me. Well, I took some notes on the conversation which, in addition to topics that have already come up, we discussed a bit about the burden for creating inclusion often falling disproportionately on representatives, or potentially tokens, of the underrepresented groups that are trying to be encouraged to come in, and ways in which it can be difficult to counteract that as straight white men like myself, who don’t have the authentic experience to speak authentically on behalf of those groups, have to find ways to be allies without again shifting the burden back on to the people suffering from discrimination or negative cultures. So there were some good points made that in some of these commitments that are now going into grants about research or development, and also aspects of diversity, and inclusion, and outreach, as part of the grant work, that the buck really needs to stop with the PI, and not be delegated to someone tokenistic, as well as some frustration about the challenge of trying to build a more inclusive group or workspace in a research field that itself is not yet sufficiently diverse, or very diverse to provide fertile ground for that to grow. If you are trying to hire someone and don’t have any diverse field of applicants to select from, it can feel like all the efforts are not finding a place to grow. So I will leave it open from there to see if anyone else from group two has notes that I forgot about or glossed over.
I think those are really important points as well. Who’s doing the work is something we talk about a lot in our project because no surprise that often the people who are doing the EDI work, are people who themselves are marginalised or underrepresented in one way or another. We also talk about the fact that that work is often in addition to any other work that you’re meant to be doing. So whatever your full-time role is, it may be separate from the EDI work you’re called to do. Then again that work, while on top of your full-time work, is not part of the ways that you are recognised in the promotion process. So it’s not part of the ways that you are rewarded or recognised, when it comes to advancing your career. It’s an extra burden and it’s an extra burden without anything that comes with it. Just thinking about the tie between that and the point that was made earlier as well, about being comfortable with being called out. The whole idea of when we’re trying to do work, for those of us for example, who are white trying to do anti-racist work, becoming comfortable with saying not just, I really didn’t mean that, because that’s not enough, but I will endeavour to do better. I think that’s the hard part, is suddenly feeling defensive rather than grateful for the opportunity to grow and do better. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s awkward, but it’s important, and I think that’s part of it as well. Being ready to step up, knowing that it might still be challenging in those ways. What about group three?
Again, we didn’t assign anyone, but I don’t mind feeding back. We definitely touched on most of what everybody else has said. There was a bit about there being a pushback on the fact that these problems even exist, was one of the things that was talked about, and that all stakeholders need to be involved, and therefore it’s, well, unless the big funding bodies make some sort of change, then nothing will change. Not allowing ourselves to have that as an excuse I suppose, and that we can be proactively involved in making change. That might be with regards to perhaps the language that is used in job applications and understanding that some words that some of us might not think could be biased, or putting people off that type of job, that that can be the case. Then a bit of touching on what you just said there as well Jessica really, perhaps being aware of our own privilege, and that awkward, and difficult conversations, uncomfortable conversations may well need to happen that involve all of us for there to be a change, really. I think if anybody else from group three wants to pull in, please do.
That’s really great.
I think that was a great summary, Angela. Thank you for doing that.
I think one thing is when we talk about higher education, if we talk about our students for example, or our researchers, we want them to push against their comfort levels, to grow, and learn, and become better scholars, better researchers, better people. We also need to be willing to do the same. So this idea of modelling and being that example that they might follow in our practices, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, because we’re not going to fix the system if we’re not ready to take that on, I think that’s a big part of it. These were really great discussions and I think the big limitations are time. Our work, we can’t shut our laptops at 5:00 and forget about it. It’s not the kind of work – maybe it should be, but it isn’t. So how do we set our boundaries in a way that still allows us to do all of our work, including our work that we are doing to create inclusion? It’s a lot. I think what we’ll talk about next is some of the ways that we could start putting into practice, or continue to put into practice, because some of these are work we’re already doing, that would create inclusion, through our limitations. So recognising that we can’t do it all. There are some things that we are able to do. I think we go immediately into another group chat and that is the sharing of best practices. What we’re going to do, this will be a longer chat. So I think 15 minutes, and hopefully that will be enough time. There’s two things to discuss. So there’s a vignette to share which I’ll put in the chat. There’s four vignettes, so if you are in breakout room one, your vignette is one, and so on and so forth. So there’s four vignettes, and as we had said earlier, these cover some difficult topics. So one covers racism, one covers sexism, one covers lack of visibility for LGBT staff, and one covers bullying and abuse. So if you could read the vignette for your group, and then discuss if you were supervising or line managing this particular researcher, or these researchers in the vignette, how would you best support them? What would you do to support them? Then if you could also discuss what are you already doing in your everyday practices to create more inclusive working cultures for your researchers or for your colleagues in general? So there’s a lot to discuss, and hopefully 15 minutes will be long enough to discuss that, and we’ll come back and chat as well. What about group one? Shall we start with group one?
Hello, me again. So we had this scenario of a researcher who wanted to speak to an external speaker, and instead the external speaker just asked quite offensive questions that were obscene, quite racially charged, quite sexually charged as well. So we said in terms of how we would respond to it. We talked about giving an open and supportive space for the person to actually talk through what they were feeling, and what had happened, and giving them the room to fully process what had happened. That led back to when we spoke earlier about people being their full and authentic selves, giving them the space to do so, including their emotional responses. We talked about taking guidance from the person, on how they wanted it handled. So what did they actually want to happen out of it? What kind of approach did they want to take? We talked about offering full support, and tackling the issue, and making it really, really clear that as a manager, or as a supervisor… So if for example, I was, I would say, ‘I will do what I can to support you with this. It’s my responsibility to take this further.’ So really, really stressing that the burden isn’t on the person, but it’s on me as the manager to take the next steps basically. We talked about different ways of doing that. So for example, if there was a code of conduct for speakers, we could use the policy as a way to challenge the behaviour. If the researcher was uncomfortable about having the spotlight on them in the conversation, then we could use different ways to discuss the behaviour depending on how the researcher was feeling about it. If there wasn’t a policy, then of course that would then instigate conversation about creating one and making sure that was really clearly communicated with future external speakers, so that there is that basis to go back and challenge, if that kind of thing happens again. Then in terms of things that we’re doing already at the moment in our day-to-day roles, we talked about how this kind of support is the responsibility of supervisors and managers. So it’s their responsibility to take the problem away from the researcher. So the main contributor to this discussion in our group, talked about how that’s how they approach these kinds of issues. They stepped into their responsibility, especially now that they’re at a more senior level. So they talked about using their seniority and their influence to challenge these issues as they arise. Discrimination is a big deal, but actually tackling the instances don’t have to be. If there’s a situation with members of a group, then you can discuss a bit more generally with the whole group to instigate a group discussion and talk about the culture that you want in your group, and what is and isn’t acceptable. That could be a really powerful and positive experience for the whole group while giving that individual space to see why their behaviour wasn’t acceptable, without necessarily calling them out in front of everyone. So there’s different ways to actually address instances of discrimination and just flexing to each one to see which way is most appropriate. The main takeaway was that it is the responsibility of researchers and managers. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It does take a little bit of bravery and determination to go in and make sure you do that, but ultimately it doesn’t have to be a massive confrontation. It can be quite a day-to-day conversation that has a positive outcome. I think that was it. I think that’s what we got from our group.
That’s great. I think the everyday conversations is what’s missing. In our data we know at least one lab group that every year has an expectation-setting discussion, that’s just an open discussion with the returning and new members of the lab, and that there is a code of conduct for that lab group that’s posted, that’s shared, that is something that they all know is part of what they must adhere to. I think those everyday discussions are part of what’s missing. We often aren’t discussing issues until it becomes an incident or a situation that needs to be addressed, rather than discussing in advance what do we do if this happens? What is not acceptable in this community? What is not acceptable in this lab group or this research team? Absolutely. Thank you so much. Group two. Group two was the vignette talking about putting up a poster of a woman.
Yes, I can speak if nobody else feels the need. I’m happy to do it. I’ll just wait a second, if someone else wants to volunteer. Okay. We took the two vignettes slightly separately. So the first one seemed to be a remarkable situation where there were 32 posters with pictures of people, and none of them were women, and it was raised by a female researcher. So we acknowledged that there clearly was a problem worth investigating. Thanked them for raising it. Undertake to investigate with the owners of the space, whoever that was, and in doing so advocate for change, because it seemed like there would need to be some pretty substantial change there, and keep the person involved all the way through. So keep them updated as to how the issue that they’d raised was progressing. The second one, if you haven’t read it, was about a poster of a woman being defaced. I have to say we all found it completely shocking, and we were just interested in the recency of the example. We were really shocked by it. We felt that it indicated an urgent problem that the response would really divide into two. So first of all, dealing with the individual concerned, ensuring that how they were feeling was understood, and what action they would feel comfortable with being taken, and then ensuring that any harm to them was minimised. Secondly, immediately flagging to senior management that there seemed to be a strong and urgent need for change of culture within that environment. So the scale and breadth of that investigation, it seemed to me – the example was so shocking, it’s hard to make specific recommendation, but again, escalation, keeping the person involved, and understanding their perspective, we felt would be important characteristics of any solution. As I say, we were pretty shocked by the example.
I think it’s interesting. I think we made the incorrect assumption that you would realise that they’re related. So the two quotes are from two different PhD students, but they’re the same incident.
Unfortunately, it’s quite recent.
Yes, autumn 2019.
What was also fascinating in this incident is that there were senior staff members, including senior women, who thought it was inappropriate to put up the posters because the student group hadn’t asked if they could. We’re talking about a couple of copies of an A4 poster in a building where there weren’t pictures of women at all. So this was a really fascinating example of how bad it… From our perspective, Marco and I, we knew that there are issues of inequalities in STEM because our jobs wouldn’t exist if there weren’t, but I didn’t think that pictures of women was something that was contentious, and something that was going to be a challenge. I thought we were starting at a different level. I thought the bar was much higher as a starting point than I don’t want to see a picture of women. It was just a fellow staff member, a woman staff member in the department, celebrating her contributions in a space where there were pictures of 32 men and none of women.
Wow. All right. Anyway, it certainly was a very wide-ranging discussion because of the scope of the surprise that was provoked by the example. So that was the vignette. We had a brief discussion about best practice. Is that helpful as well?
Yes. What are you already engaging in as examples of best practice?
We had some examples. So we talked in the last breakout about sometimes it’s difficult if you’re not part of an underrepresented group to feel empowered to advocate for change. So engaging with networks, representing underrepresented groups, even if you’re not part of that group, was felt to be a positive step. Connected to that, taking ownership of a problem, even if you’re not affected by the problem, was felt to be something that you could do. Raising awareness, if you’re in a position of responsibility at any time, so for example during shortlisting, or hiring, where these issues become acute… I mean, you’re quite right to say that it’s every day, and it should become just part of everyday change, but there are instances where it is particularly acute. So for example, during hiring, just drawing attention to best practice around unconscious bias, the need to slow down decision-making, and things of that sort. So I think those were three of the things that we covered. My colleagues probably can add things that I’ve omitted on all these topics.
Those are great examples anyway, so thank you so much. Were there other examples from group two?
I was thinking about the vignette as well there, Jessica. I might have missed some key things out too there.
We are equally outraged by that particular example. It’s why we use it, because I think we don’t expect it now. We think we’re at least at the point where faces of women are okay, and perhaps not depending on where you are. What about group three?
I’m speaking on behalf of group three. So hi everyone, I’m Kelly. Our group, the quotes, one of them was around LGBTQ staff having a role model to aspire to, and also having visibility of the LGBT+ community within the university because there’s things like Athena Swan, but the engagement across university in the LGBTQIA+ groups might be less obvious. So we talked about having nationwide showcases of role models in the space, such as people like Alan Turing. Talked about trying to get maybe external role models if possible, but then that puts the burden on underrepresented groups as well. Also mentioned about taking responsibility for your own learning to find these networks for your researchers. So if there’s LGBTQIA+ networks for PhD students, or just generally across the university that you can point out to researchers. Someone mentioned the Stonewall agreement, which I hadn’t heard of, which is really awesome. So getting your institutions more involved in these specific underrepresented groups’ issues through Stonewall, in alignment with Athena Swan and the Race Equality Charter. In terms of best practices, we talked about sharing your pronouns, so that other people might feel more open to sharing those, but only requesting people to share them if they feel comfortable, because they might not be ready to share their pronouns, and then that’s totally fine. Also an example that we talked about, it was an LGBTQIA+ event where people were able to post questions anonymously so that you can ask for best practice, or for advice, without exposing your own underrepresented group, and making you put in a position you might not want to be in. So yes, these are the best practice, so that’s a good summary, but our group feel free to jump in if I’ve missed something.
Those are great, and actually some of those examples we’re going to talk about. They’re already examples we’ll talk about next so it’s good to hear they’re already in practice. I love the idea of an anonymous way of asking questions related to, for example, issues of bullying. We were group four, so we’ll talk next about the last vignette, but one of the challenges a lot of universities have… Our institution has report and support. I think most institutions have some form of report and support as a website where you can report things, and in our case it was us asking whether report and support is a formal complaint. It’s not, and it wasn’t clear on the site if you are someone reporting into the site that it’s not formal. So that’s good and bad. If you don’t want to make it formally but you want support, making clear that this is a way to start conversation where it doesn’t have to go further, if you just want to ask questions about this behaviour without worrying about retaliation of a formal complaint. It also wasn’t great because if people thought it was a formal complaint, it wasn’t, and they had no idea that the work they were putting into the report and support wasn’t formal. I think having the opportunity to ask questions, particularly if you’re worried about retaliation, in a way that’s anonymous or at least confidential, would really be great. I’d love to see more of that. So thank you so much. So we were group four, Marco, and I, with Fiona, and Eamon. The fourth vignette it just so happens is on bullying, abuse, and harassment. Everyone has access to all four vignettes, so you may have already read through more than just the vignette for your group. In this case it was a PhD student who was experiencing a campaign of abuse, and bullying, and harassment by one postdoc in the same lab group. It got to the point where there were even witnesses to his threatening and abusive behaviour, including senior staff witnessing his behaviour. At that point she asked if she could make a formal complaint and she was actually dissuaded by her supervisor from doing so. He indicated that it might put too much pressure and strain on her mental health rather than the bullying itself being painful and stressful. One thing that’s not great to report is that she was taken off a particular project. So she was punished for coming forward in some ways because her abuser, the bully who was abusing her, was kept on that project. What we talked about was the challenge here is that her actual direct supervisor discouraged her. So I think instead of saying what we would do as supervisors or as line managers, I think it’s what would we do if there was somebody else’s researcher who came to us and said, ‘I had wanted to put in the complaint, my supervisor said no?’ We talked about asking them what they did want to do and if they wanted our support to bring that complaint forward, even if they weren’t supported by their direct line manager or supervisor. We also talked about the challenge for those of us who are on contract roles. Even in my last role where I was line managing researchers, it was still a contract role. So the same retaliation that folks are afraid of if they do come to the point where they want to report, it could be a fear that we might have as supervisors, but as was discussed earlier, this is our job. It’s how do we do the work of best supporting the people who trust us to care for them in the moment where they’re facing this kind of abuse. Who else from group four wants to chat?
I’m happy to briefly come in. So I think one of the things we were also highlighting was that if somebody was bringing issues of bullying to you, not to minimise it, not to try and sweep it under the carpet, because obviously we were discussing that it can be a build-up of very small things that are not massively overt. So instead of trying to just go, ‘Oh, it’s only a little thing,’ almost making it can’t you put up with that, it’s more taking that seriously, because the person who’s coming to you might not even recognise it, or label it as bullying. That was one of the things that we were talking about, especially when it can be the build-up of small things that have really aggregated. Also saying about the things that you can do, and we currently are doing, is making sure that we know where to signpost people to, so that we’ve got those places on hand. So if we know within our own institutions where people can go to perhaps report anonymously or start to make those formal complaints. Then we were also discussing that some institutions also have the ability to perhaps go through mediation processes, if that’s appropriate, as something that’s a little below those formal complaint procedures, if that would be appropriate for that situation. Again, if there’s anything in code of conduct around bullying, and making the people that you’re working with, and that you have that sphere of influence over, having those everyday discussions around what’s acceptable behaviour, and what would be beyond acceptable behaviour, so that people are a bit more aware of recognising themselves as well what is bullying, and what is unacceptable, and what they shouldn’t have to put up with. I think that’s the other things that we were covering.
This is the challenge in our data is, we’re not the only ones but a lot of research on serial bullies, and bullying in general, bullies are very adept at selecting and isolating a particular person, or target group, and it making it seem like they are overreacting, they’re making it up. The vignette we give is an overt case of bullying. It’s very clear because there were witnesses to threatening and abusive behaviour. Actually we also have stories of campaigns of abuse that start small. We have one woman who was the first woman in her lab group, that had always been all men, and on her first day one of her new colleagues brandished a piece of equipment at her as if it was a weapon, but that was seen to be oh, just kidding, it’s just a joke. Then that got worse from there. So it was slowly picking at her, and abusing her, and bullying her, but in isolated incidents. If she talked about each incident in isolation, it might sound like no big deal, but in the whole of her experience, there’s no question it’s bullying. That’s the challenge, is believing someone when they have that experience, and also recognising that they’re not going to come to you the first time it happens because they themselves might not be able to name it as bullying or harassment. Someone might go, ‘It’s just a joke, can’t you take a joke,’ and then it gets worse from there. Over to you, Marco.
So yes, we are coming toward the final section of the workshop, and we will discuss with you some of the strategies for embedding inclusion, and present again some evidence from STEM Equals that informs our approach to inclusion and support. So as we did with challenges, also in the case of support, we identified four sub-themes within our data. They are individual support that we define as individual, subtle, and often unconscious behaviour enacted by supervisors, colleagues, and peers that create support. We have compliance that represents a form of support across the university that are basic, such as raising a rainbow flag on a campus during LGBT+ history month, and action in fulfilment of requirements set out by EDI legislation. Practice instead is a form of support that albeit not fully embedded at the institutional level, it’s systemic enough to produce a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive work environment in certain departments and/or laboratories. Finally, we have inclusion that we define as evidence of fully embedded, consistent equity, where good practice is the standard, and systemic support is in place. So again, to visualise how these different actions lead to inclusion, we have created another visual model that we call in this case the path to inclusion. This is to highlight that when all these measures are in place, somehow the well-being, satisfaction, and happiness of PhD students, postdocs, academic staff in general increase. So we have also in this case some quotes, some examples from our data to guide you along the path to inclusion. Starting with individual support, in this code there is an LGBT+ PhD student explaining to us why he chose Strathclyde instead of a more prestigious university. I’m quoting here, ‘I chose Strathclyde because probably the conversation with the potential PhD supervisor, because in the conversation they reaffirmed without me having to ask. Just changing slightly the language like using partner instead of girlfriend or boyfriend. I think that makes a huge difference.’ So here we see, somebody mentioned that before during the discussion, the power of inclusive gender-neutral language, especially in this case of LGBT+ participant that might be put off by certain questions like do you have a girlfriend, for example? So they might feel, oh, it’s the time that I have to choose whether I come out or not, etc.
I think what’s great about this example is it is really everyday practice for those individuals. So the two people that he’s talking about, his two supervisors, they don’t have any idea that just using that language was part of his decision to choose Strathclyde over an offer at a Russell Group, because he didn’t have the same inclusive experience in meeting folks there. So it’s just everyday practice that they’re not even aware was that influential.
Yes, and that’s exactly why we call it micro-support, because often we practice this form of support without even thinking about that. Instead, compliance, here we present an example that might be very familiar to you. I’m sure also your universities are doing the same thing. So this other LGBT+ member of staff saying, ‘Oh, there was a pride flag flying in the gardens of the university. I thought, wow, that’s really quite amazing. I did my undergraduate here. So I think when I saw that, I was thinking back to the late ’80s, just thinking, gosh, that would have never happened before.’ Yes, for this member of staff, this seems like an amazing achievement, and truly many things improved for the condition of, in this case, LGBT+ individuals in universities and in the society. Actually, this raising the rainbow flag is just compliance, it’s nothing more than that.
So finally we included also an example of good practice. Again, this was mentioned I think in a discussion we were having before. In this case we have a PhD student talking about the code of conduct they have in their own lab. So I think one of the good things that we have done is having a code of conduct. It’s not even just relevant to work-life balance, but other things like the way that people interact with each other in the group. We discussed before why that is very important to have this difficult conversation about what’s acceptable, what is not acceptable in our workplace.
The challenge here is we don’t have an example of embedded practice because that would require the entire institution to have embedded good practice. So this also represents a pocket of good practice that could be replicated elsewhere. It’s obviously having an impact on the members of that particular lab. So it’s a positive thing for that lab group. Why not have that be something that is standard or becomes normalised? Again, the everyday practices that we do to try to create inclusion.
Yes, basically it’s showing you again the path to inclusion. That’s exactly the point we like to emphasise all the time, that basically individual support and compliance are not enough to change the system, because to do that we need good practice as standard systemic support and embedded equity. Only that will bring forward the full inclusion that we would like to see in our institutions.
We talk a lot about what’s missing is that accountability mechanism. So write a good policy, we’re here for a great policy. I’m not against good policy, but there should be some way to keep us accountable, keep our institutions accountable, for making sure that policy is doing what it says on the tin. So creating inclusion, when we’re working with new researchers to set expectations, as we’ve discussed before, it should be a conversation that’s more than just where can they get good training and good skill development, but also should be part of those initial conversations, perhaps not the first day, but part of the conversations we have with new researchers, whether they’re doctoral, or postdoctoral, is giving them the information about where they can seek help when they need it. For example, where they can go if they do experience bullying and harassment. It’d be great if they know that before it becomes a problem, not after. So that proactive approach to signposting where support is available before something happens, so that in the aftermath of it happening, they already know, and it’s already clear to them where support is available. As we’ve talked about, these are difficult conversations. It’s all difficult but important conversations that if we had as everyday conversations, speaking more openly and directly about let’s say mental health is one example and that we as line managers, and supervisors were to advocate for researchers, to understand that seeking support in any way is a normal part of their research experience, their working experience, or their studying experience, then it’s more likely that there could be some change to the statistics and data we discussed earlier. Just normalising, discussing/seeking support, because it’s something that they should do, and feel comfortable doing, and that there’s no failure in them if they need to seek support. Support isn’t bad. I think on some things, like the whole conversation around mental health, the fact that such high numbers of PhD students, and postdocs, are having high anxiety and depression, but don’t necessarily know where they can seek help, or might be afraid to seek help if they think it’s going to look weak. So just normalising those kinds of conversations. One thing that we also talk about is that no matter how much work we put into building a trusting relationship with the researchers that we line manage or supervise, they do not owe us, or our institutions, declarations, outness, or visibility for their identities. In other words, they do not need to agree to speak on a panel, or be in a marketing campaign for the university, or sit on committees. They can if they want to, but it’s their choice, and that we still need to be doing the work. I think the big challenge here is how often people who are underrepresented are asked to be the face of a campaign or a committee. I think committee work’s really important, but as long as we know what’s the outcome going to be, what’s my time worth? Is my time on that committee valued, let’s say when it comes to promotion, or when it comes to the work that I do. I think importantly, while it is not our researchers, or our responsibility to give our institution outness for any of our identities, it is crucial, and it is our institution’s responsibility to make those declarations risk-free. So if I choose to be out at work as a bisexual woman, that is my choice to make, and I should be able to make that risk-free, without fear of retaliation, without fear of prejudice, or discrimination. That’s not what’s happening. We know by the data that’s not what’s happening. So if someone wants to choose to come out and talk about their identities, it should be something they are able to do risk-free. These are questions for us to consider: if there were no risks associated with disclosure of anything, hidden disability, your sexual identity, no fear of consequences, or retaliation for asking for support or adjustments, no fear of discrimination or bullying for any of our identities, then how many more people might be able to thrive in academia and how might the world benefit from an academia where everyone is welcome and included? How much better would our innovation be? We’re going to give a few examples that you might put into practice, but some of these were already discussed. So in the discussion about what you’re already doing in your everyday practice, you’re already doing some of these already. So we’re just going to give a few examples, but feel free to continue to add on to these, or even put in the chat if you’ve got ideas that we haven’t listed. So we talked first about leading by example. That can include joining and engaging in support networks relevant for you. So that might be, if you’re a woman engaging in, for example Women In Academia Support Network. If you’re a black academic engaging in Black British Academics network. If you’re LGBT in STEM, not to plug us, but we are co-hosting the LGBT in STEM conference next year. It’s the seventh annual LGBT STEMinar, and it’s the longest running and largest gathering of LGBT folks in STEM. So do send that over to any LGBT person you know in STEM. Take breaks, and time off, and say no when you’re overcommitted. This is really hard to do, but if we are modelling that behaviour, knowing that our researchers, if they have care responsibilities or disabilities, cannot say no to breaks, or cannot take time off, or cannot work evenings and weekends. I think taking breaks, and time off, and saying no, should become again part of our everyday practice when we can. Learning the significant dates for cultural and religious celebrations that are not given priority in the university calendar. Adding our pronouns to our email signatures, social media bios, meeting name displays. Using gender-inclusive language, as the earlier example, if asking about someone’s partner not using particular pronouns about that partner. Saying, ‘Welcome colleagues,’ instead of ladies and gentlemen. It’s an easy quick change to how we engage with each other. Setting up perhaps a reading group, or a discussion group around inclusion. That could be easily something that includes both supervisors, line managers, and doctoral, and postdoctoral researchers, to just even once a year talk about the issues of inclusion in research, and how we could be better, and innovate more if it was more inclusive. So those are examples of leading by example. Feel free to add some in to the chat as well. We also have questions to consider. These are also not an exhaustive list of questions you might consider, but something we’ve already talked about, when we are talking with new supervisees or line managers, we often might say where they can get training on campus. Where is the research and development group or where can they maybe sign up for our mentoring programme? We might not know, for example, do you know where your doctoral and postdoctoral researchers can find peer support? So are there networks for doctoral researchers who are BAME, or disabled, who are LGBT+, or first generation, or working class? Are there student representatives for your doctoral students in your department? Those kinds of questions. Do you know the complaints procedure if someone wants to submit a formal or informal complaint? Are there different processes for those two forms of complaint? How would you best support someone who wanted to submit a complaint? Do you know the procedure if a researcher needs to declare their disability and arrange for accommodations? While not all disabilities are physical disabilities, do you know where the accessible toilets are in your building? Are you aware of how accessible or not the classrooms, labs, and offices are, where your researchers will be working? Do you know the procedures if a researcher wants to change their gender in the university system? One thing we found in our data was that, at least in our university, but I think this is quite common, there’s multiple systems that don’t talk to each other, because it’s 2021 and we can’t have IT that works together. So changing gender in the system is a multistep process, and multisystem process. Do we know how to do that if a researcher asks how it works? What is the procedure if a researcher needs to take family leave? So maternity or paternity leave. What is the procedure if a researcher needs to take bereavement leave or long-term sick leave? For example, I think a lot of folks who are not international staff or students don’t know that if you are on a work or study visa, you may have to leave the country even if you need to take bereavement or sick leave. I was an international student and international staff member, so I can attest that’s a challenge that most people don’t think about. Also, where can your researchers access mental health support, and is there a long wait time for that support? These are just a few questions, it’s not an exhaustive list. You may have more that you’ve thought of. As we’ve talked about throughout today, if there are not clear or transparent procedures, and robust supports available, what does it take to change that? We can’t do it ourselves, but who does have some sort of power to raise that as an issue at the institution? So it’s thinking about those questions in order to fully support inclusive working culture for our researchers. This is our last thing. So it’s a quick discussion. We’ve talked a lot about what we can do as individuals, but now we’d love to hear what do you think our institutions should be doing more of? So what more do we need our institutions to be doing, because we cannot do it alone? So it’s just a quick ten-minutes chat, and then we’ll come back, and then we will be done. All right. I think we’re all back in. We can start with our group, what we discussed, what our institutions need to be doing more of. So one thing is, the big issue we’ve talked about most of this afternoon is superstar people who get away with bad behaviour, so because they bring in lots of money, because they’re a big-name professor. I think one of the things is the movement to stop the use of NDAs when it comes to issues of abuse, and bullying, and harassment. There’s some great work being done by the 1752 Group to encourage no longer using these to protect abusers. If you’re not familiar with the 1752 Group, I’ll put them in the chat as well. What I think is interesting is that at least I know of one, maybe two universities that have proclaimed that they will not use them anymore for cases like this. So at a basic level, if our institutions made clear to abusers, we will no longer protect you through the use of NDAs when someone reports your bullying, abuse, harassment, or violence. It seems like such a small step forward to say our institution could put out a statement as UCL have done to say, ‘We won’t use those anymore to protect abusers,’ as a big signpost that abuse will no longer be allowed and supported within the institution. I think when we talk again about the commitments our institutions make, we value diversity, we’re committed to equality. That commitment should include things like saying we will not protect abusers through the use of NDAs. It seems like such a small commitment to make. The other thing we were talking about is the size of EDI team. So most universities have a central equality, diversity, inclusion team, and those are wildly different. Marco and I met one team, Imperial’s team I think is nine full-time people. Durham’s team I think is seven full-time people. Up until recently Strathclyde’s team was two part-time people, and I cannot imagine truly being able to effect change and address inequalities with a team that small. I would say nine is a minimum to do that. If we aren’t fully resourcing EDI teams through staffing and funding, when we say we’re committed to diversity, our institutions aren’t really putting their money where their mouth is. Did I miss anything from our group discussion? What did everybody else discuss as far as what our institutions should be doing? I think we were group four. What about group one?
Yes, I can report back from group one. So we talked a bit about active bystander training for staff so that they’re all comfortably equipped with tools to challenge behaviour as they see it, and in that embedding information on the policies and the processes in terms of bullying and harassment, and the reporting, and what to do if it’s reported to you. I think in our group we were sort of like, oh, we don’t know the answers to those. So just making sure that that baseline knowledge is instilled in staff as a matter of course, is a really important step forward. We also talked about providing real-life scenarios to help build skills in enacting policy, so that gap between policy and practice basically. So those vignettes for example, were really, really helpful because they gave you a really tangible situation to actually look at and apply policy to in a sense. So, we discussed, if we can find a way of circulating real-life scenarios so that people can build those tools in a way that works for them, in a way that fits with their style of challenging, and the way of speaking, and the way of writing emails, and that kind of thing, that could really help confidence in enacting policy and applying it. We said that training needs to start from the top, so SLT need to be taking this on as well, so that we have confidence that at our very senior levels, this is being taken seriously basically. We also discussed a bit about how we can encourage the correct mindset going into training. So if for example you’re going to anti-racism training, and you’re not really prepared to think critically about yourself in that perspective, that can possibly almost backfire in the impact it’s meant to have. So we talked about the importance of that, but we didn’t really find a solution for it. We just discussed how that’s really important to make sure that happens. We ended with talking about proactively looking for EDI considerations, and work, when recruiting and promoting. So, actively acquiring your – I’ve forgotten the word sorry – people who are basically applying for jobs or for promotion in your department, and proactively looking for EDI work that they have done and considerations that they have made to support EDI in that area, whether that’s training or whether that’s actual work that they’ve spearheaded or taken part in. Even if that means people going to EDI training for the sake of ticking that box for application. We’ve got them through the door and then we can build on that from there. At the very least that baseline of, the training being a tool to achieve a promotion or to get a job, once we’ve got them in the room we can get our hooks in them and perform EDI magic with that. So that was what we discussed in our group.
That’s great. That reminds me, sorry, we also chatted about hiring as well. One of the other Inclusion Matters projects, the STEM Change project, one of the things they were looking at was the language of job adverts. They built a dashboard for tracking whether changing the language in an advert increases the number of applicants from underrepresented groups, and how that might impact then the pool of candidates from which you’re selecting, which I think is great. I think being able to account for the work that we are doing to create inclusive communities in our promotion process seems like a no-brainer. A lot of us are already doing that work and for those who are not, it would be good to get them in the room if they knew it was part of the criteria against which they’d be judged for promotion. Yes, EDI magic. Marco points out it was a really great way to put it as well. Yes, absolutely. What about group two?
So we took a starting point, the questions to consider that we’d been even discussing before we went to the breakout rooms, and thinking about how many of us would be able to actually answer all of those, and realising that we could probably all, with some decent digging through our respective university websites, probably find the answers to them somehow. We knew that we’d either know who to speak to or know how to try and find if we didn’t know it directly ourselves. We also thought that Matt, for instance, who has been at Liverpool for over 20 years, knew all the answers, or very close to all the answers just because through pure experience he’d actually had to deal with a lot of things before. Whereas people who just joined or recently joined institutions wouldn’t necessarily know that. So that led us to talk about the types of training and development that institutions offer new arrivals, and existing staff, and how quite often they’re almost more of a box-ticking exercise than actually all that relevant. They feel more time-consuming than useful. We thought about the amount of signposting that institutions provide on their website, and how permanent that signposting is, and how relevant the links that they point you to actually are when you come back to them a year or two down the line when you actually need to use them. Are the pages still there like they say they are? That led us to talking about how much provision of training and development universities should be able to provide. Should they be able to ring-fence time in a lecturer’s – a day or calendar where they are able to then do more useful training? Then that brought us on to the discussion about how practical it actually is when researchers often, you can ideally say, yes, we’re going to set aside this time, but that still just means they’re going to do the work that they were going to be doing instead, just later on in the day, or at the weekend, catching it up, do the work until it’s done, and how the issue is really the university’s need to provide more resources, and potentially be better resourced, in order to provide those sorts of opportunities for training and development.
I think that’s a really great point. It comes back to the other point about it should be a top-down approach. The leaders of our institutions should be the ones leading the charge rather than it falling only on the shoulders of the already overworked. Yes, I think that’s a really good point. It’s hard because obviously that adding more training in, you’re right, no one’s going to take, ‘Oh, we would like you to go to this three-hour training.’ We’ll take three hours out of your time; you don’t have to do this other thing. That never happens. So yes, those are really good points, absolutely.
Can I just get in there, because that kind of top-down approach you’re talking about, when I left my previous institute, the week I left, they had an interaction where they allowed researchers to talk to senior managers. I think the senior managers were quite shocked at what they were hearing from people, precarious employment and all that stuff. All this feeds into that. They need to be listening from the top to what’s happening on the ground day-to-day. They often maybe are not even aware of some of the issues that are happening because they’re just happening within those siloed groups, and it doesn’t come out. So I feel like that’s something they could do better is have regular invites of senior leadership teams, individuals with groups of researchers so they know actually what’s happening.
I think that’s a really great point. We are launching shortly, or starting to launch, a reciprocal mentoring programme. We’re not the first to do it, and it’s a pilot programme to see if it works. The idea behind it is to have more junior staff, particularly those who are underrepresented amongst university leaders – it’s very clear who’s underrepresented, Advance HE keeps that data – become the mentors for the senior leaders who were the mentees in this case. I think that is the challenge. If you’re long removed from your junior experience, and if you do not have one or more identity that is underrepresented, how do you know what the experience is like? Absolutely. I know that it’s been a long 2-hours-and-45-minutes, so I think it’s okay if we end there because I think there’s been some really great things shared as well. Overall, the big challenge is that there’s only so much we can do as individuals, and that our institutions should be resourcing this work more fully, and recognising, and rewarding that work more. I think it’s been really good to hear some of the ideas of what you’re putting in everyday practice already, and hopefully this has given you some ideas of other ways you can introduce everyday practices that may not be… I think the challenge is thinking I can’t solve it all, so how do you start if you feel stuck, if you can’t solve it all? So hopefully some of the questions we’ve asked, and some of the ideas we’ve put out there as some examples, might give you a sense of where you could go to add more everyday practice that would create more inclusion. So thank you so much for coming today. Marco and I will stick around if anybody wants to ask more questions, but we really appreciate your time today, because we know your time is very, very precious, and limited. So thank you for coming.[END OF TRANSCRIPT]