In February 2018 an attempt was made from within UCISA to gather data about gender equality in university IT teams and to understand what focus there was on gender equality. An email survey of 20 questions gained 126 responses from 53 institutions.
The results are not formally published but have been presented at UCISA events in 2018 and influenced the decision to have a focus on gender equality at the UCISA leadership conference in 2019. While recognising the limitations and unscientific nature of the email survey study it serves to highlight the need for further research and practice to support equality and diversity in IT departments in higher education in the UK. Many of the respondents indicated that they did not think that their institution had in place policies to support gender equality and that in their workplace they could see that gender diversity was not widespread across teams, with project management and helpdesk teams having more women than other areas.
In the UCISA study the majority of respondents were concerned about gender equality and diversity in the IT profession – 80% indicated ‘definitely’ or ‘probably yes’ they were concerned, 11% were ‘not concerned’. 48% of respondents said their institution did not have any gender equality policies in place, and 57% reported that their IT departments did not have specific policies in place to support gender equality. (Fraser-Krauss & Priestley, 2018 unpublished?)
In their 2018 book ‘ Professional and Support Staff in Higher Education’ the authors note the absence of input from any digital, HR or IT professionals and suggest that there is more work to be done in integrating the contribution of these groups to leadership and scholarship:
“we (as contributors, colleagues, and more broadly as institutions) must take some deliberate steps to promote greater inclusion amongst authors contributing to research regarding professional and support staff, especially those who do not currently see themselves as part of the scholarly conversation. Professional and support staff within higher education are diverse, their roles multifaceted, and their contribution and experiences under-examined.”(Bossu et al., 2018b, p. 460)
The UCISA survey, however informal, further informed the need for further, ongoing work to understand the experiences and perceptions of staff in university IT departments in relation to equality and diversity practice.
I wanted to know how the lockdown and working from home was experienced by staff in the University of Edinburgh. And I wanted to know whether this was experienced differently by different demographic groups.
Luckily I have a Data and Equality Officer working with me.
We conducted a survey at university level during 26th June – 6th July to better understand the experiences of staff members while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 5069 staff members participated in the survey. We used ONS standard questions on Wellbeing measures so we could benchmark and compare with similar studies.
The key purposes of the survey were to:
Understand EDI and other impacts of the COVID period and home working.
Serve as data for immediate decisions on how to better support staff working from home.
Serve as data for next steps for academic schools and Professional service groups on decisions on their return to campus plans.
Serve as data for decisions/discussions on longer term home/hybrid working and other reshaping thinking both locally and at a University level.
A report was produced and a ‘power BI dashboard’ was created so that managers and other staff members can interrogate the data (including demographic differences where this was possible) independently.
The Power BI dashboard however, does not highlight where differences in responses are statistically significant, and the overall report highlights where statistical difference is associated with high percentage differences. So Lilinaz produced a further report to fill this gap by including all statistically significant findings for all demographic groups.
This report will be of interest to EDI officers and anyone who likes dis-aggregated data.
Professional staff were more likely to be interested in complete homeworking in the future. This was the case for more than a quarter (27%) of professional staff, compared to 12% of academic staff who were less likely to be interested in complete homeworking in the future.
You can read the whole thing, but here’s a taster:
Men were more likely to report a large negative impact of space, internet, working hours, and non-work responsibilities while working from home. They were more likely to report an overall large negative impact of home working on their work experience. Men were more likely to report low ratings for life satisfaction. They were more likely to not be interested in homeworking in the future.
Women were more likely to not have previous experience of home working, and were more likely to have their equipment wholly supplied by the University. They were more likely to report a large positive impact on working hours, non-work responsibilities, and other caring responsibilities while working from home. However, they were more likely to report a large negative impact on childcare while working from home. They were more likely to report a large negative impact on their research output. They were more likely to report an overall large positive impact of home working on their work experience. Women were more likely to report much more productivity than before. However, they were also more likely to report much more tiredness than before. Women were more likely to think that they are kept informed about matters affecting them, and be satisfied with the University resources in place to help them at this time. Women were more likely to report very high values on happiness, and high values for anxiety ONS measures.
Directors have now agreed that this work should continue. Which is full credit to many ISG colleagues who have been involved and given their time to supporting this work and organising events. I was very lucky to have a student intern (Dominique) working with me over several years and now to have an Equality and Data officer (Lilinaz) for the next two years. This has given us the resource and time to really engage with our research. We have carried out 2 E&D surveys in ISG. One in 2015 and one in 2019. Both surveys led directly to recommendations for action.
You can read a report of the 2019 survey findings:
Recommendations for EDI development in ISG for the next 2-5 years are drawn from staff feedback gathered from workshop participants, research literature and from interpretations of data gathered from ISG staff.
Here are some of the things we aim to do:
Quick top ten:
Continue PlayFair Steps EDI initiatives which address the interpersonal aspects of intergroup relations, tacking issues of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination.
Combine data informed decision-making with qualitative and social science informed research to ensure that we make the best decisions for ISG.
Seek and listen to the opinions and experiences of the minority groups in our organisation such as black and ethnic minority colleagues to better understand their experiences which may be hidden by statistical analysis grouping of data.
Collect and analyse the data relating to EDI practices in ISG so we can track differences in career progression, pay, and promotions.
Understand and address the gender and race pay gaps in ISG where they exist.
Address the inequality that women and ethnic minority colleagues in ISG are more likely to be in low-paid, part-time and fixed-term roles.
Proactively attempt to attract and retain a staff to reflect the diversity of the university. If that is not possible, we should at least aim to reflect the demographics of the region in which we live.
Identify, support and reward the c40 staff who are developing as leaders in EDI, reflecting the value of this area of leadership in the organisation.
Continue to engage directly with communities to show commitment to improving the lot of historically disadvantaged groups. Whether that be ‘women in tech’, disabled people or other minority groups.
Monitor EDI impact of all our post-COVID19 recovery work with the knowledge that economic recovery is unlikely to be evenly spread.
Market and promote sessions to encourage those who would not normally attend. Each session should clearly explain why it is taking place and what the benefits of attending are.
Provide context for EDI practices in addition to providing a snapshot of ISG as a workplace that can be presented to staff members. It serves to fill in a knowledge gap for staff members in why attending EDI sessions are recommended.
Help staff to connect the importance of having a good understanding of EDI to their roles and success as leaders and team managers.
Help staff to connect the importance of having a good understanding of EDI to their roles and success as service providers.
Develop case studies of teams, projects or services where ISG seems to benefit from ‘diversity advantage’.
Do further research into the value of identity group networks and ‘allies’ in ISG.
Make time to attend
Managers should ensure that they make it possible for colleagues to attend EDI sessions.
Attend to Recruitment
Collect data on student employees, as anecdotal evidence suggests a more diverse group of students take up these positions, increasing the diversity within ISG. Knowing more about this demographic could inform hiring practices and the future of student employment within ISG (e.g. designing permanent roles that would follow internships).
Develop teams and leadership
Ensure that the growing group of ISG staff in the 16-24 age group are supported to develop, and that all managers are aware of the EDI issues inherent in cross-generational team working.
Encourage sharing of practice between directorates to address how staff participation in EDI activities can be supported and encouraged by managers.
We began the PlayFair Steps four years ago in ISG to bring a culture change and raise awareness of E&D issues. We’ve been lucky to have an impressive selection of academic colleagues and researchers come to give talks and seminars about age, race, disability, sexuality, religion, class and policy issues in the workplace.
Diversity efforts which are systemic and structural in organisations take time. Long-term culture change requires a significant commitment of resources and leadership. We need to conduct regular employee attitude surveys about E&D to understand how our culture is changing. Or not.
Organisational-level change take time to materialize, given the risks of setbacks and variable commitment over time. Very few organisations actually publish cultural audit survey data, most keep the data internal for fear of negative publicity or other adverse outcomes.
We surveyed in 2015 and have just done so again in 2019.
This year 76.1% of you agree that our workplace is inclusive, compared to 40.1% in 2015. Those of you who have worked here 3 – 5 years are most likely to remember the launch of PlayFair Steps and the E&D change theme; 83% of you now agree that ISG inclusive.
This is a really positive change. Please continue to get involved and give us feedback.
‘ It’s a great way of meeting new people, or simply feeling like you are part of a workplace where there are like-minded people.’
‘The events are consistently thoughtfully organised and insightful.They cover a range of topics, most of which I have limited experience withbut interest me a great deal”,
‘it is really important as a colleague and a manager to take time out to listen to others’ perspectives in the workplace’.
We are going to do more with our data too. This week we are interviewing for a new post: Data and Equality Officer.
Data and Equality Officer
“At University of Edinburgh we want to use our data in inclusive ways. We are looking for a Data and Equality Officer to join our IT central teams.
You will help us to ensure that we have the data we need to understand the experience of our diverse staff and students in the University. You will have a passion for data, good data handling skills and knowledge of gender equality, diversity and inclusion issues.
This a new role, created as part of our digital transformation and our commitment to ensuring that our IT services and projects challenge the structural biases and assumptions of the past. ”
It’s a strong field, so I hope we will get someone to fill Dominique’s fabulous shoes.
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.