to see ourselves as others see us

Lilinaz Rouhani
Lilinaz Rouhani

Does everyone at the University experience our services and the workplace in similar ways?

(guest post by Lilinaz Rouhani, Data and Equality Officer)

“When I first started in this role, this was my guiding question. I read reports and papers, joined staff networks, and started drafting my own surveys to find an answer to this question. I was hoping to find that the answer is yes. People more or less experience the University in similar ways, and where this is not the case, it will be clear why. So there will be a straightforward action point for me to report back. As with most other things in life and research, the picture was more complicated than this.

As I was settling into this more complex image, the pandemic started.

In an unexpected way, the complex structure I was trying to understand became more simplified when I looked at the pandemic. Of course people don’t experience things in a similar way. I saw how people experienced the pandemic differently: some had caring responsibilities, some had to learn new skills quickly, some had a support network close by, while others lived on their own. So why would we expect people to experience their workplace in similar ways? Surely these different experiences are still there outside of a pandemic.

In the last three years, in my role as the Data and Equality Officer, I have been studying these differences. I have looked at how staff members have experienced home and hybrid working differently, how student workers experience their summer and term-time jobs, if certain groups of staff are more likely to get nominated for contribution awards, as well as looking at the attendance of Digital Skills courses.

The road has been long, sometimes with beautiful views, and sometimes quite hilly and difficult to follow. It was encouraging to see evidence for a historic gender bias in contribution awards disappearing, and it was nice to see increased participation in Digital Skills courses in certain departments and areas of the University. In contrast, it is discouraging to conclude that the ethnic and disability pay gaps are probably wider than the official reports due to the large non-response rates, and that inequality still remains a factor in many aspects of our workplace.

So the answer? Of course people experience things in different ways. Sometimes, unfortunately, the difference is down to inequality. But the fear of facing inequality should not keep us from looking for answers. We should keep asking questions and try and address the problems. The only way to clear the road of the clutter so we can move on smoothly, is to first face that clutter.”

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