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University of Leicester and Gender Equality – A good practice

08 March 2018

At the University of Leicester as in other UK Universities we are committed to the Athena SWAN charter. This charter, introduced in 2005 was established to facilitate, encourage and recognise progression of women’s careers in Science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM). More recently in 2015 it was expanded to recognise similar work in the Arts and Humanities and in professional and support roles, so now covers the entire university workforce.

University of Leicester International Women’s Day events 2018

As part of our charter work in academic departments and at institutional level, we scrutinise our data and activity across a range of key areas. This enables us to understand barriers to women’s progression, identify activities, policies and processes that will address these barriers and monitor impact of these initiatives over time through a targeted action plan. Our activity is then examined by a national assessment panel who award bronze, silver and sometimes gold awards, which allow prospective staff and students and the wider community to recognise commitment to gender equality. We currently hold a bronze University award, five silver and six bronze departmental awards.

In addition to our commitment to the Athena SWAN charter, in 2015 President and Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle accepted an invitation from the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign for the University of Leicester to participate in their IMPACT 10x10x10 framework alongside governments, leading universities, and global businesses. Joining HeForShe was an important step because it provided us with the opportunity to work with other university and corporate partners to share and replicate ideas so that we all could benefit from this joint focus on gender equality.

These charters and initiatives recognise our commitment to gender equality, but we are often asked, what are we actually doing, here are some of the ways we are taking action to promote gender equality in various aspects of our work, with the aim of creating a cultural transformation around gender. We are doing this by focussing on a range of key areas:

Recruitment Practices:

  • We have introduced a ‘gender decoder’ when developing our adverts to identify and avoid gendered language in our adverts.
  • All staff are required to complete a mandatory e-module on equality, diversity and inclusion with a key focus on gender equality
  • We have delivered comprehensive Unconscious Bias training to our senior leaders and we are rolling out an online module to all staff.
  • All our appointment panels comprise both women and men and receive mandatory interviewer training that includes the principles of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
  • We have developed an introductory letter for all interview panels that reminds interviewers that we are all susceptible to bias entitled: Inclusive Interviewing: Limiting Unconscious Bias in our Interview process, this acts as a prompt to interviewers to recognise their own biases.

Career Development Initiatives:

  • We offer a suite of development and leadership programmes, including coaching and mentoring, that have gender equality embedded throughout.
  • We offer a women-only leadership development programme, Aurora, run by a national provider, and we also develop our Aurora alumnae, mentors and role models.
  • We work with a national programme ‘Daphne Jackson’ to provide fellowships for career returners who have had a break from their career of over two years to facilitate their return to the workplace.
  • We are implementing a transparent Workload Allocation Model which will ensure consistent application of workload tariffs against specific academic activities.
  • We have adapted our promotions process to ensure career breaks and fractional working are systematically taken account of in the promotions process.
  • We have developed an academic career map that takes full account of contributions to leadership and citizenship in addition to research and teaching, to ensure reward for these contributions (often undertaken by women)
  • We have developed a range of Promotion Workshops, including a session for women only, to provide targeted support for potential promotion applicants.
  • We have an established Women’s Forum and a Senior Women’s Network which provides opportunities for networking, informal support for career progression, role modelling and sharing of good practise.

Speaking about our career development opportunities, Professor Paul Boyle, President and Vice Chancellor, University of Leicester and EUA Vice-President since 2017 said: ‘A key component of our strategic plan is to develop talent in our people. We think the investments we make in developing our female staff will result in a transformation in the make-up of our university leaders into the next decade’.

Working with our students:

  • We have an established student HeForShe society who lead events, debates, seminars and awareness raising activities around gender equality.
  • Our Presidents matriculation address refers to the stand that we take at the University of Leicester against any form of sexual harassment and violence.
  • We use innovative theatre productions, art work and writing workshops to raise awareness of harassment and violence, actively engaging with student sports teams and societies.
  • We conduct regular workshops for students and staff to raise awareness of sexual harassment and violence led by academics who teach and research gender-based violence
  • We have hosted two student HeForShe Ideathons which generate ideas for tackling gender-based violence on campuses, a series of ideas have been enacted and shared with our fellow HeForShe impact champion universities. These ideas focus on innovative ways to raise awareness and educate students and staff on the issue of gender-based violence on campuses.

Our gender equality activity is constant and ongoing but each year for International Women’s Day we host a range of events across the week in which IWD falls. The week of activities mixes professional development and cultural events for both staff and students. This year, we recognised that the history of women is not always represented on the walls of our University buildings. We commissioned three portraits of women, painted by women who have made a significant contribution to our University as part of a project to diversify our visual landscape. Unveiled on 5th March in front of an audience of staff, students and relatives of those being celebrated, it was an occasion to celebrate how far we have come but also how much further we need to go on our journey towards greater gender equality.

Kate Williams
Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Equality and Diversity
University of Leicester

European University Association (EUA)

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