As part of our activities to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day this year, and to mark the occasion of the completion of a major upgrade project in the James Clerk Maxwell Building data centre, we are going to name the data centre after Mary Somerville, so it’ll be the MSDC at the JCMB.
I’ve written about Mary before, on this blog and on Wikipedia. While it is exciting to think of Ada Lovelace as a pioneer, she was not actually a crusader, nor a feminist actor on any political stage. If you are looking for a a female scientist and activist to celebrate, Mary Somerville is your woman. Mary Somerville played a key role in defining and categorizing the physical sciences, was one of the best known scientists of the nineteenth century and a passionate reformer. She was the author of best-selling books on science and a highly respected mathematician and astronomer. She was a very clever woman and was for several years Ada’s tutor and mentor. A staunch supporter of women’s suffrage and a great advocate of women’s education in 1868 Mary was the first person to sign J.S Mill’s petition to Parliament in support of women’s suffrage. I’m very pleased that we are able to name our data centre after her.
Mary Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872), was a Scottish writer and polymath. She is the person for whom the word scientist was invented. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was admitted as one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society. She campaigned for votes and education for women.She wrote a number of influential and interdisciplinary science books and when she died in 1872 The Morning Post declared “Whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science.”[James Clerk Maxwell himself later commented: “The unity shadowed forth in Mrs Somerville’s book is therefore a unity of the method of science, not a unity of the process of nature”.
“Mathematics are the natural bent of my mind”
and at aged 90:
“Age has not abated my zeal for the emancipation of my sex from the unreasonable prejudice too prevalent in Great Britain against a literary and scientific education for women”
There’s a very good book called ‘Mary Somerville: Science , Illumination and the Female Mind‘ by Kathryn Neeley which describes some of the challenges in categorising Mary because her life and work crossed boundaries and assumed roles. She was a devoted wife and mother as well as eminent scientist. She was sociable with a wide network of connections which included eminent mathematicians and scientists of the day. While formal science education was already closed to women, science itself was not yet so formalised as it is today and many of the discoveries of the day were by ‘amateur’ scientists working privately and sharing their findings socially.
When we write the biographies of women scientist for their wikipedia entries, often we find ourselves telling their story as ‘translator’, ‘helpmate’, ‘illustrator’, ‘junior partner’ in scientific work of their father, husband or brother. This was not the case for Mary. Neither was she writing for female audiences to engage other women in science or for children or teachers. She had a privileged position in society and was at the heart of her scientific community. Amongst her community of friends were Caroline and William Herschel, Mary and Charles Lyell ( whose notebooks have just been bought by University of Edinburgh), Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace and Annabella Byron.
The Data Driven Innovation initiative programme led by the University of Edinburgh aims to expand on our existing expertise to grow data based projects, products, and services in the public, private, and third sectors. To do so in a way which is socially inclusive, we must tackle both implicit and explicit biases within the technology communities and industries, and data structures themselves. What can be done to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh?
Diversity programmes and women in STEM programmes are notoriously hard to implement and evaluate and there needs to be a strong management commitment to make a shift happen. The work we do in ISG to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh has been planned, sustained, reported and evaluated and is an example of best practice amongst the sector- the Scottish IT sector and in the Universities IT sector.
Information Services Group aims to be a best practice employer with regard to tackling the gender gap in technology, information science and data science. We are one of the largest employers in the city and we compete with the big banks and famous tech companies in the city to attract and retain female staff.
GENDER EQUALITY IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS
The more diversity we can find in our teams, the more we can be sure that our services and products meet the needs of the diverse student and staff in the university and the more creativity we can support the more innovation and transformation we can deliver. It is vital that we position ourselves in the market as an inclusive employer.
ENGAGING WITH OUR OWN DATA AND STRUCTURAL INEQUALITY
We have delivered on a number of workplace initiatives. Over the last 3 years we have:
Improved all our EDI reporting across the organisation.
Produced a SMART plan of strategic management actions for 1,3 and 5 years to get us to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Addressed gender bias in promotion, reward, review processes.
Demystified the experience, criteria and competencies for management roles.
Based on decisions that generated by data, our senior managers chose to implement policies that support and benefit all staff. This allows us to have the most inclusive workplace we possibly can. In 3 years the profile of women across grades has changed significantly with significantly more women now in senior roles at Grades 9 ( up 30%) and 10 ( up 300%) and our recruitment efforts routinely attract a more diverse set of candidates than ever before.
We have worked with third sector organisations such as Fathers Network Scotland, Equate Scotland, Age Scotland, Girl Geek Scotland and Wikimedia Scotland to create new opportunities for staff to engage with practical actions and the celebration of role models and mentors.
PROMOTING VISIBLE ROLE MODELS
We have transformed our ‘working for ISG’ web pages to include information and case studies about the flexible working and family –friendly aspects of our workplace. We have also:
Created an employer profile on Linked in and keep it updated with a steady flow of stories about what it is like to work here.
Highlighted and showcased on Linkedin some of the women in ISG and their varied digital roles, backgrounds and careers.
Engaged with our own history, libraries and collections to discover, highlight and celebrate diversity from our past.
Tackled directly women’s lack of engagement and representation with major technology areas such as AV tech, flying drones, media production, creating open source software, and software development for edtech.
CREATING AN ATTRACTIVE WORK CULTURE
When talking about the lack of women in digital technology, the focus tends to be on engaging the interest of girls and supporting women to become qualified in relevant areas. Without change within the industry itself, however, the women who pursue digital technology qualifications will still not remain in or be attracted to the sector. So we think about ways in which the digital technology industry can create a more inclusive and attractive work culture where women aspire to work and remain across their careers. Our activities include:
Creating an inclusive environment with a highly visible equality and diversity training programme – Called the Playfair Steps designed to highlight all the ways in which our workplace is experienced.
We take an intersectional approach to recognise that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors.
We have developed a range of activities exploring how a person’s age, disability status, race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and parent status contribute towards their specific experiences.
Between October 2016 and February 2018, we surpassed our short-term goal and that 60% of staff have participated in some form of equality and diversity training.
High profile events and support for Ada Lovelace day, International Women’s day and naming our training rooms and systems after inspirational women.
ATTRACTING WOMEN TO THE SECTOR
We are a big recruiter, with a high turnover and a lot of innovation, so we need to attract and retain talent. It became clear that our recruitment effort and language needed to be overhauled. This is still ongoing, with some parts of ISG engaging more than others. We have run several training sessions for recruiting managers on Checking Language, Overcoming Recruitment Bias, and widening Recruitment Searches. We also directly support the female student pipeline by hosting 20-30 student interns every year and offering female-only placements (Scottish Witches Data intern) and women returner-ships ( Data skills training and development) – we do this by working with Equate Scotland
RETAINING WOMEN IN WORK
Because of course, we want to retain in our organisation, or in the sector as many women as we can, we invest in training and development including, personal development for women. We have a number of visible examples of Positive Action Measures which include:
Coaching and mentoring for women
Events and discussion on topics which raise awareness of gender issues in the workplace such as gendered communications, inclusive language, shared parental leave and menopause.
Continuing Professional Development opportunities (such as editathons and data skills training) targeted at women.
We are very aware that we have a large group pf women who have already chosen to work in Information services, who could develop skills more specifically in data science, so we have been running ‘Developing Your Data Skills’ Programme for staff and students at University of Edinburgh this year. The programme has been very successful and we have now had more than 100 learners complete.
We have designed the course to fit with participants’ busy working lives and thought specifically about how to attract mid-career learners to upskill in this area.
GAINING EXTERNAL RECOGNITION
This initiative at Edinburgh has already won a number of awards and recognition in the sector.
In 2018 we won Universities HR Excellence Award for Equality and Diversity and were finalists in the ‘Employer of the Year’ category in the Scotland Women in Technology Awards and ‘Diversity Project of The Year’ in the Women in IT Excellence Awards.
Our case study was highlighted in the Equality Challenge Unit’s briefing on ‘Intersectional Approaches to Equality and Diversity and
we were awarded the Scottish Union of Supported Employment (SUSE) Inclusive Workplace award in 2017.
Our student pipeline -women students into IT roles as summer interns providing paid work and industry experience winning the Student Employer of the Year (SEOTY) award in 2018.
The work we do in ISG to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh has been planned, sustained, reported and evaluated and is an example of best practice. This is what can be done to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh.
You’ll be aware that we have been running ‘Developing Your Data Skills’ Programme for staff and students at University of Edinburgh this year. The programme has been very successful and we have now had more than 100 learners complete. Since our staff live and work in Edinburgh and the region, I think this can be seen as part of the investment we are making in retraining and upskilling in data skills for the city. We have evaluated the programme and gathered feedback, so we will be able to report on the ISG KPIs.
We have designed the course to fit with participants’ busy working lives and thought specifically about how to attract mid-career learners to upskill in this area.
Participants have enjoyed the programme: ‘There are many data courses out there. Having a course which is specifically designed and at the correct level was time-saving and encouraged me to finish. I loved doing the course and I’m keen to get started on the next level. I would not have been able to do this without the course format, nor the tutor with her helpful, caring approach.’.
There have been many more comments from participants that echo these sentiments along with a real thirst from learners to go on to study all 3 levels of the Programme.
We will be having a ‘graduation ‘ celebration for all the staff and students who completed the programme on Monday 1st July. If you would like to come along to hear more about the successes and how they plan to apply their new and improved data science skills, please let me know by reply and I will send you a diary invitation.
Advice from HR was not to call this job ‘Witchfinder General’. So we didn’t. But we wanted to.
University of Edinburgh has a database of Scottish Witches. It has been published as open data and we are looking for a Data and Visualisation Intern to work with our Wikimedian in Residence to help us develop a linked open-data set by:
Re-using pre-existing data and creating new data which allows geographical mapping of parts of the data set.
Developing other visualisations of the data which allow new, previously unknown, patterns in the data to be extracted and new stories and hypotheses about the data to be developed.
Another excellent learning technology workshop from University of Edinburgh at ALT conference will be Data Skills for All
Most of our UK universities already have the Digimap Service, but I suspect few learning technologists have any idea how it can be used. The subscription often belongs to the Library, or to just one academic department so the power of the tools are not being utilised.
Co-created with academic and service users it enables students to use and understand data, to learn how to present it, and in doing so, to develop critical thinking through the use and interrogation of data.
Learning technologists who work closely in partnership with staff and students to deliver a technology enhanced curriculum can play a key role in ensuring that students learn appropriate data skills to apply in authentic learning task situations.
Participants will have the opportunity to understand how the platform and service is already being used, and to engage with census data to understand the range and versatility of the service.
This workshop will be of benefit to both FE and HE practitioners, who need to support students to gain critical data skills and spatial literacy that are already essential in the work place, as well as increase their ability to interrogate data and understand it.
With so many staff categorized as IT, the University of Edinburgh is one of the largest tech employers in the city. We aim to diversify our workforce but we are doing that in a very competitive labour market. Other tech employers in the city are also keen to recruit women into IT roles.
The University is preparing its silver Athena SWAN application. Input is being gathered and examples of good practice corralled. Action plans will be set.
The University has a bunch of professional support staff. Numerically far more women work in Administration than any other job segment, and outnumber men at a ratio of 4:1 in these roles. Women also predominate at a ratio of greater than 2:1 in Alumni & Development, Human Resources, Finance, Library, and Marketing &PR .
Men dominate at a ratio of greater than 2:1 in Agricultural Work, Health & Safety and IT. Agricultural work has 7 people. Health and Safety, 17. IT has more than 700!
This is a a large group of people, we should make transparent what we are doing to address the structural issues which lead to this inequality – these are STEM careers after all, and the staff who work in these STEM roles are visible role models. Strategic diversity staffing initiatives are needed. I have been reading up on the topic. This chapter in the Handbook of Diversity and Work provides a good literature review and suggestions as to what works. I have learned how organisations can tailor their recruitment and selections systems to identify those candidates who are best suited to help achieve strategic objectives. We have to be proactive about this. We can’t rely on the same sources any more. It is important to think about how and where we advertise, what messages we send and who is involved in the selection process.
Here are just some of the things we do to support recruitment and promotion in ISG:
We have completed our gender equality survey and we keep regularly updated HR dashboards of gender split by grade and by Directorate. This enables us to identify groups or areas of ISG where the gender ratio is significant.
When roles come up in those areas we take care to ensure that we attract a broader range of applications internally and externally. For senior roles we instruct our search partners to find us female candidates and 18 months this has resulted in 3 new Grade 10 directors being appointed from outside ( welcome Janet, Jen and Gosia) along with several new and newly-promoted grade 9s.
I am not convinced that we are well served by the university advertising IT jobs on Jobs.ac.uk as a recruitment source That maybe good for learning technologists, and roles which need experience of HE ( do they, really?) but it’s not a place the best developers and IT professionals are looking.
In an attempt to try to attract a more diverse workforce we* have established a Company page on LinkedIn, and we use the powerful data tools, targeted adverts and social media sharing to get more reach for our recruitment and to attract passive talent. We review job descriptions from other employers to compare with our own, and we have engaged with external groups such as Equate Scotland to give us advice on writing job adverts and role descriptors. We encourage our existing staff to share the job adverts on their own networks. We have become partners with GirlGeek Scotland to raise our profile as a tech employer which welcomes women and invests in their ongoing careers. We have established ‘Women returners’ projects with Equate Scotland. Research suggests that effective diversity management is the key to unlocking the benefits. It also suggests that university campuses are a great place to find diversity. In ISG we have established dozens of internships for university students but no graduate recruitment scheme, as yet.
When our jobs are advertised on Jobs.ac.uk we are able to use the data (along with the data from linkedIn) to understand more about who is looking at our adverts and make decisions . We were apparently the first people in the University of Edinburgh to ask Jobs.ac.uk for data. We need to pay much more attention to the wording of our job titles and adverts and think abut the messages they send. The aim of an advert is to get people to click to find out more. It is important that the messages presented make all applicants feel welcome. We use social media ( twitter) to promote our job adverts using combinations of hashtags such as #womenintech #womeninstem #girlgeekscot to encourage retweets and sharing.
Would we, could we be so bold as to say: ‘If we can’t shortlist diverse candidates, we will review the role and how we advertise it. We won’t proceed with an all-white, all-male shortlist.’ or is that a step too far?
We try to have diverse panels involved in selection and everyone involved in recruitment has done their equality and unconscious bias training. To support internal recruitment and promotion of women into more senior roles we participate in all the university initiatives such as Aurora and Connections and we activity celebrate Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day. We also have internal workshops and seminars to explore the various issues such as age ( ‘baby boomers’ and ‘millennials’) , gender, sexuality, disability, race, parenthood (part time-working, fathers network) which combine and intersect to have an impact on our workplace experiences.
We ensure that all jobs are advertised internally and that secondments, flexible and part time working are available as options. We encourage staff to gain professional qualifications where appropriate and have offered support for preparing CPD portfolios for membership of those professional bodies such as CILIP and CMALT. We pay special attention to areas of technology where there are few women, such as drone pilots, and encourage colleagues to gain their qualification. On top of all this we try to highlight and celebrate success through social media, IS News and BITS magazine.
We are aware that the external perception of us as an employer is key to attracting staff. Research suggests that the images and and stories during recruitment convey messages to applicants and specific diversity-focused statement bring positive outcomes. Our Linkedin site showcases the innovation and range of IT and media projects that we do, the benefits of working for a university and particularly highlights stories from within our organisation which reflect diversity and equality themes. We showcase women in STEM roles and highlight career paths. Maybe once we have a head of communications we can think about impression management.
*when I say we, I mean me and my trusty LTWadmin and intern side-kicks.
Ada Lovelace Day at University of Edinburgh was a great success this year. The LTW, USD and L&UC teams outdid themselves. We had a lifesize Lego Ada in the Main Library, and the complete Ada and Baggage Lego set in Hugh Robson Building. We taught students and colleagues how to code music, edit wikipedia, build lego rasperry-pi cases, add metadata, colour-in and celebrate women in tech, all in the name of Lovelace.
Votes for Lego Women Stewart Cromar’s on going campaign to get his Ada lego set on to the shelves of stores worldwide was embraced by #adalovelaceday enthusiasts. LEGO Ada has now passed the 4.5K vote mark and is currently the #1 project on the Ideas homepage.
Social Media Reaction
Our Ada Lovelace Day website took over a 1K page views in the week, with the OER content being particularly popular. In addition to the many tweets from participants using the #ALD15eduni hashtag we had several official Tweets and RTs from both Raspberry Pi and Sonic Pi and messages of support from similar events at other universities.