UEA is committed to offering an inclusive, welcoming environment for its staff and students. Our aim is that everyone at UEA should feel supported to progress in their studies and career, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or background.
Biases in higher education, and in workplaces generally, often arise unconsciously or indirectly and can be hard to spot. For example:
- Mothers currently still account for more childcare hours than working fathers. Therefore, to avoid disadvantaging working parents, it’s important to provide flexible working opportunities and effective return-to-work support.
- Research shows that the same job application may be received more favourably if the applicant has a man’s rather than a woman’s name – so procedures to tackle unconscious bias during recruitment are key.
- Women may be less likely to get pay rises than men, even if they apply just as often. Therefore, positive measures to increase support for women and the overall transparency of the promotion process are vital.
- Role models can play an important role in increasing diversity in the workforce. Increasing the visibility of groups currently under-represented in senior positions can make it easier for others to visualise themselves in these roles.
Tackling these issues is vital: otherwise, they can create obstacles to career progression, and reduce the quality and effectiveness of the work and study environment. Some of these issues can be tackled fairly easily – e.g. by introducing effective and transparent flexible working – while others require more a more gradual cultural shift.
In the School of Biological Sciences (BIO), we have formalised our commitment to equality and diversity through our involvement with the Athena SWAN Charter. Run by the Equality Challenge Unit, Athena SWAN began in 2005 by focusing on improving gender equality in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), but in 2015 expanded to include a range of other subjects, and also to support trans students and staff.
UEA has held an Athena Swan award since 2012, and BIO achieved Silver status in 2017. We are currently working on a bid for Silver status, and this blog will explore some of the key areas in which we are improving support for our staff and students. We hope you enjoy it!