University of Edinburgh actually has a long history of widening participation initiatives, but our institutional memory does seem to get lost along the way. Luckily we have splendid university archives.
‘The WOW programme was aimed at women planning to return to work –most often after pregnancy and years of domestic ‘employment’–, and sought to provide training opportunities as well as guidance over how to approach the job market, what type of opportunities might be available, and what obstacles may be encountered.’
Joanna first attended this programme, after having been stuck at home with us lot for many years, and then she became the course leader. I used to visit her in her office in a basement in Buccleuch Place. She’s very pleased to know that in my role in ISG I’ve been able to find places for ‘women returners‘ in our organisation.
After ‘WOW ‘and ‘Second Chance to Learn’, and ‘Return to Work or Study’, she then led for many years the University of Edinburgh Access Programme for part-time adult learners who wished to return to education to study humanities, social sciences or art and design.
Nice to see these things coming around again.
*just a note to say lest you be concerned, that although I found my father in the archives after his death, my mother is still very much alive.
In some cities, such as Edinburgh, the university may be one of the largest tech employers in the city. At Edinburgh we have around 600 staff in IT roles. That makes us a big player in tech employment. We also get the benefit of having an even bigger sister standing right beside us. The University of Edinburgh as a whole is a huge employer and a huge part of the public sector workforce. The terms, conditions and perks which we as information services are able to offer to our potential employees are made possible by virtue of being a small part of a huge organisation.
As well as a range of flexible working options and attention paid to being family-friendly most universities offer generous maternity and parental leave and arrangements for sick-pay. Although many universities do not offer as much on-site childcare facilities as some would like, I suspect it is still way ahead of some tech employers.
University holiday allowances are pretty good. 40 days a year is about the average for most institutions (including national holidays and closure days). Equal pay schemes and university unions ensure that salaries and pensions are decent. Universities are also able to offer permanent or open-ended contracts for IT staff. Other industries might offer more in terms of up-front salary, but there are many extra benefits to working in a university . We have information about staff benefits and reward calculator which we use to show the real value of our arrangements.
Universities are learning organisations, if you need to grow and develop in your job training is usually offered for both the skills needed for your job and to assist career and personal development. There are mentoring schemes and career development and promotion tracks.
The climate for equality and diversity is also generally good, most universities have a very progressive stance on equality and diversity in terms of both recruitment and working environment. The very fact that there are high profile initiatives underway in higher education for students and academics contributes to the social environment or culture constructed in universities in which the professional staff work. That is to say, IT professionals working in universities benefit from large initiatives such as Athena SWAN which are given resource and investment by the university.
There is a range of less talked about perks which I think make universities great places to work.
1) Universities have sport facilities, theatres, staff clubs, art galleries, museums, music venues and shops which are there to be enjoyed by staff at discounted rates, often for free. There are very few employers who can boast such a range of amenities.
2) You get to working on a filmset. I worked for several years at Oxford and you couldn’t turn a corner without bumping into a film crew, catering vans and extras dressed in medieval outfits. Or inspector Morse. Or a boy wizard.
3) Culture and collegiality abound. Every evening all across campus there are research seminars, events, book launches, receptions, openings, exhibitions to go to which are open to all staff and anyone interested. Its a lovely way to meet people and network.
4) The festival city is on your doorstep. Literally. Your office may be requisitioned at short notice for a comedy show .
5) Your children and the children of all your friends will have access to the extensive cultural capital at your fingertips when they need to find work experience for school.
6) Eduroam wireless will be provided to you free of charge as you move around the world. You can sidle up to any university, library, hospital or museum building in any city and pick up free wifi.
7) We are fighting the good fight for truth, facts and against news. You get to be part of this.
When looking at equality and diversity drivers for change in organisations, there is some literature which suggests that external accountability , the impression the public have about your organisation, or investor or client pressure, may be a consideration for senior management. There may be concern for reputational damage with the wider business and society, and this risk could be mitigated for instance by the company’s success in winning a prize for gender equality .
We are finalists in the ‘Employer of the Year’ category in the Scotland Women in Technology Awards 2018 to be announced on Wednesday 24th October 2018 in Glasgow and for ‘Diversity Project of The Year’ in the Women in IT Excellence Awards taking place on27 November at Finsbury Square, London.
As our regular readers across the University will know, each issue of the Information Services Group BITS magazine has a theme. In this issue we have looked across all of our projects and services to highlight the ways in which we contribute to supporting the University values around equality, equity, inclusion and access.
As usual, our feature article showcases work across each of our groups and directorates which support learning, teaching, research and engagement.
Working within such a large institution, we are able to attract a wide range of staff to work with us in ISG. The richest source of new colleagues is our student community. Each year ISG hosts a large number of student workers and student interns. They bring fresh ideas and new thinking to our services. This issue of BITS magazine is designed by our Graphic Design Intern working alongside our established team.
When we did our gender survey staff told us that making equality real involved everyone. For this issue of BITS we asked staff to think about how their understanding of equality and diversity feeds into their day to day work. We got a lot of article submissions from across the organisation. It’s actually pretty impressive, and is a clear representation that equality and diversity, openness and accessibility are part of our values as an organisation. Many organisations are now choosing to recognise Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) expertise as a significant area of valuable knowledge which contributes to the business advantage and has a direct and significant positive impact on reputation.
Our back page features some of the many events that staff in ISG contribute to at the Edinburgh festivals over the summer. I hope you will be able to engage with and enjoy them.
If you would like to know more about any of the projects described in this magazine, or about the ways we aim to embed equality and diversity expertise which has a direct and significant positive impact on our organisation, please keep up to date with our celebrations and news via our websites, social media and events across the University.
If one were going to try to evaluate the success of a diversity programme at work ECU have published a handy guide to methods you might use to monitor and evaluate impact . We work in a space which is shaped by characteristics and drivers of overlapping sectors. The HE sector has its own diversity, nature and drivers; the sector of digital employers in Scotland has significant growth of its own and a different focus as regards ‘bottom line’.
The size of the digital sector is growing, the size of the university sector is growing, universities (indeed, all organisations) are becoming more digital. Competition for best employees is increasing. The IT sector is under some pressure to be more diverse, but that is difficult to link to a bottom line. Some employers have diversity programmes, and there are awards to celebrate that. Diversity programmes are notoriously hard to implement and evaluate and there needs to be a strong force to make a shift happen. Perhaps the rising competition for visible fairness and diversity will be that moment of overlap for the sectors.
Within the IT industry there is a significant gender split. According to BCS there were 1.18m IT specialists working in the UK in 2014, of which only 17% were women. This compares with a figure of 47% for the workforce as a whole (BCS, 2015) and that level has been fairly stable for ten years. Women represent 10 per cent of IT directors (Shankland, 2016).
Universites do collect gender information about staff working in IT roles, and we know what it is for University of Edinburgh, so presumably the other universities know their numbers too. I note that although BSC women produce some numbers for the national sector, ScotlandIS give no gender information in their reports. They refer only to categories of staff as graduates, contractors etc.
If you were wondering how big these sectors are and how much they are growing, here’s what I’ve found:
Significant amounts of public money are spent on higher education. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reports that there are 162 higher education institutions in the UK in 2017. In academic year 2016–17 there were circa 207,000 academic colleagues employed. There were also circa 212,000 non-academic staff (UniversitiesUK, 2018). Non-academic staff numbers include a variety of professional and technical staff who provide services, support and management to the institutions. The total operating expenditure for the sector in 2017 was £33 billion and Universities UK (UUK) report that of that £3 billion was spent on IT, museums and libraries (UniversitiesUK, 2018).
The ‘IT, Museums and Libraries’ sector within HE is in itself diverse in size, shape and investment. In some universities those services are combined or consolidated in one large group within the organisation, in others the libraries and museums are managed separately from IT, and from each other. In some institutions IT is largely centralised, in others any central services may be supplemented by locally based IT staff in academic departments and colleges. UCISA, an industry membership body for HE IT, report that UK universities currently invest some £1.3billion in their technology infrastructure every year.(UCISA, 2018) UUK report that in 2014 universities spent £630 million running 390 libraries (UniversitiesUK, 2016).
The Scottish higher education sector is part of the wider sector in the UK, with some distinct funding sources. There are 19 universities in Scotland and Scotland has 4 research intensive universities which achieve consistently high world rankings. The Scottish Government provided £1.1 billion to universities in 2014/15, and approximately £623 million for university student finance support. (AuditScotland, 2016)
Across the UK in 2015-16 the income for the sector was £34.7 billion and the universities generated £95 billion in gross output for the economy. The sector contributes 1.2 % of UK GDP and supported more than 940,000 UK jobs.(UniversitiesUK, 2018). In Scotland in 2014/15. Universities had an income of £3.5 billion, and was growing rapidly. The sector in Scotland generated a surplus of £146 million in 2014/15 and overall reserves stood at £2.5 billion. (AuditScotland, 2016) Universities Scotland calculated that the Scottish higher education sector supported 144,549 jobs and contributed an estimated £7.2 billion to the Scottish Economy in 2013/14, only the energy, financial and business services sectors made a larger contribution.(AuditScotland, 2016)
Scotland’s digital sector contributed £4.45 billion to gross value added in 2014. Employment in the digital sector was 64,100 in 2015.Total digital sector exports were £4.24 billion in 2015 (Scottish_Government, 2017). In 2018 the sector is growing and optimistic (BBC, 5 April 2018; BBCNews, 2018) and firms continue to plan to recruit more staff (ScotlandIS, 2018). Demand for graduate recruitment is growing with 72% of digital employers expecting to recruit graduates in 2017. As business grows demand for experienced staff also increases (ScotlandIS, 2017) Companies predict that they will recruit most of their new staff (73%) from the Scottish market.(ScotlandIS, 2017).
Recruitment and retention of good IT staff for universities in Scotland is likely to get even more competitive in the next few years. Best get ready.
If you have other reports etc which might help me to find out how diverse the UK HE IT community is, please do let me know. Thank you.
AuditScotland. (2016). Audit of higher education in Scottish universities. from http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/uploads/docs/report/2016/nr_160707_higher_education.pdf
BBC. (5 April 2018). ‘Sharp rise’ in number of Scottish tech start-ups. from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-43647584
BBCNews. (20 March 2018). Scottish digital tech firms see ‘positive’ year ahead. BBCNews. from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-43457740
BCS. (2015). THE WOMEN IN IT SCORECARD : A definitive up-to-date evidence base for data and commentary on women in IT employment and education from https://www.bcs.org/upload/pdf/women-scorecard-2015.pdf
ECU. (2018). Monitoring and evaluating impact. from https://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/monitoring-evaluating-impact/
ScotlandIS. (2017). Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2017. from https://www.scotlandis.com/media/4933/scottish-tech-industry-survey-2017.pdf
ScotlandIS. (2018). Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2018. from https://www.scotlandis.com/resources/scottish-technology-industry-survey/
Scottish_Government. (2017). Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World: A Digital Strategy for Scotland: The Scottish Government, March 2017.
UCISA. (2018). UCISA Strategic Plan 2018-22: Connecting and Collaborating for Success.
UniversitiesUK. (2018). Higher education in numbers . Retrieved Higher education in numbers . (2018). Universitiesuk.ac.uk. Retrieved 16 June 2018, from https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/facts-and-stats/Pages/higher-education-data.aspx
Here’s the student testimonial which won us our Employer award:
Why have you nominated this person/company for Student Employer of the Year? Tell us why you think this employer is exceptional. Suggested areas of excellence: offers excellent experience and advice; opportunities to learn; understands study commitments; contributions to studies.
The Information Services Group (ISG) at the University of Edinburgh is a brilliantly dynamic place to work as a student. The company offers a large variety of part-time jobs which are designed for only one day a week so you can easily combine work with your studies. While you might assume that most of the jobs would be in IT, ISG actually offers a huge range of roles, providing exceptional means to develop digital skills even if you are studying something completely different for your university degree. For instance, there are jobs in copyrighting, media production, customer services, archives and libraries, communications, web development, event management and IT training. The jobs are designed to fit with the kind of skills students might already possess and you really get the impression that the organisation values the skills and insights that we bring to the table from our varied studies and experiences.
ISG has a specific scheme to increase the number of University of Edinburgh students they employ. They understand that having work experience during your studies is a big part of being employable and getting a job when you finish your degree. They employ undergraduates, taught postgraduates and research-based PhD students like myself in various roles, but I don’t think many students realise the sheer range of opportunities available at ISG. All jobs are advertised on the University Careers website, MyCareerHub, and there is a student employment officer in the HR team who works tirelessly to ensure that all student workers come away with a fantastic experience. The ISG team are continually thinking about digital ways to enhance the profile of student employment. All student workers are encouraged to think about developing their own profiles on LinkedIn and describing the skills they are learning. This has also greatly enhanced ISG’s brand presence on LinkedIn as an employer that focusses on the student work experience while creating a digital network for student employees as well. Some managers in ISG even write recommendations on LinkedIn for their student employees when they reach the end of their contracts and these references can then also be used as evidence of the work experience each student has undertaken.
Please provide a specific example of a time when this employer has provided exceptional support understanding or opportunities to development. Give evidence of the qualities and characteristics listed above.
I have been working in ISG as their digital recruitment and marketing intern for the past year and a half. My own PhD research, however, is in English Literature, so I am bringing my writing and analytical skills to benefit the organisation in improving the style and language used to communicate job adverts and digital marketing content. One of the unexpected opportunities I have found in this work is learning much more about equality and diversity issues than I ever thought I would in an IT-based role.
Since IT is a competitive and heavily male-dominated sector, however, ISG are particularly keen to attract more diverse applicants for their workforce. They are keenly interested in attracting women and young people into STEM careers, for example, and work very hard to ensure an open atmosphere with equal opportunities for all. There is an extensive programme of equality and diversity activity within the organisation, and a particular focus on making female role models visible. A series of workshops called the PlayFair Steps have been especially crucial in highlighting the equality and diversity issues that still exist within our organisation and the steps we must take in order to mitigate these issues. Through these workshops, I have learned much about implicit bias, especially in terms of gendered recruitment language, and am now much more mindful of the ways in which I formulate my own writing here in my role at ISG, as well as in my PhD research and daily life.
This year, I have been working with staff across the organisation, alongside another student who works in the equality and diversity project, to source and write profiles of women working in STEM roles in ISG and to promote these profiles online, where a wide range of people can then learn about the diversity of the careers and the people in the organisation. I’ve been given the opportunity to plan and lead my own work on these case studies and it has been extremely eye-opening to learn about the many issues that shape women’s careers in STEM and beyond. These are invaluable insights which have given me an opportunity to think extensively about careers and employment beyond university.
I am delighted to say that the PlayFair Steps equality and diversity initiatives in Information Services Group at University of Edinburgh have been recognised as excellent by the judges at the recent Universities Human Resources awards.
Many organisations are now choosing to recognise Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) expertise as a significant area of valuable knowledge which contributes to the business advantage and has a direct and significant positive impact on reputation. After two years this work is now able to show positive impact and report on metrics for improvement and use data driven decision-making for management practice. The work brings us ‘diversity advantage’. Diversity advantage can be seen as the positive consequences which accrue to a business through diversity and inclusivity practices in the workplace.
Increasingly EDI work in organisations can be seen as having a focus on:
improve the use of data in driving future developments
a greater priority on communications
more effective evaluation of policies and interventions
a focus on ‘what works’ underpinned by a robust and systematic use of the evidence.
My work in ISG EDI is seen through leadership in innovative practice to recruit staff, develop colleagues’ understanding of intersectionality and embed EDI into student employability programmes. I proactively recognise and reward staff with EDI expertise in my own teams. As well as identifying key people within the organisation to lead events in specific areas there are now 3 university of Edinburgh PhD students working as interns in ISG with specific remit to bring their academic expertise in gender studies and inclusion to contribute to our work. We have a Gender Equality Intern ( Dominique) and Digital Marketing and Recruitment intern ( Vicki) and an Equality Images Intern ( Francesca) These interns join my growing team (including our Wikimedian in Residence) to ensure that EDI in ISG is visible and celebrated. The three interns work on EDI plans and programmes, innovative digital marketing for recruitment and within the University archives and collections to find quality equality images which can be digitised and used to promote stories from our University history and to be used in presentations and publications. I have also agreed to sponsor a year’s sabbatical for another of our team ( Jo) to pursue a Masters by Research to properly surface the real story of The Edinburgh Seven.
The PlayFair Steps has been successful in that it allows staff to look at diversity and equality in various ways and from various points of view, all of which contribute to improving ISG. The work began as an initiative around gender equality and has expanded to recognise that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. I 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 in and perspectives of our workplace. Using the local expertise of our academic colleagues and students, I seek to move beyond anecdote and create a more inclusive workplace with support from senior management for both top-down and bottom-up change.
Our IT practice now benefits from a more nuanced understanding of the structural issues which lead to workplace improvement. It is not enough to just ‘add women and stir’. The PlayFair Steps programme (which draws its name for the idea of ‘fair play’ at work) focusses on ensuring that barriers and bias are addressed and a more inclusive workplace is experienced by all. The PlayFair Steps is an initiative which improves our reputation and is of interest to central IT departments at other universities. The work is also being disseminated at relevant sector-wide conferences and recognised through being shortlisted by various national awards. Fingers crossed for more success and recognition of the value of this work in the future.
As I’m sure you are aware, we have been telegraphing high profile STEM career case studies of women who work in ISG on our LinkedIn site.
In posting these case studies our goal is clear: We want to provide our current workforce with an inclusive, fair environment in which they feel valued, creative and empowered, and we hope that others will be attracted to work with us in continuing to thrive, learn and research.
There are now so many interesting, creative, rewarding and glamourous jobs available to women who chose a technology career. By not realising this our young ( and grown) women in Scotland are missing a trick. The sector is booming and there’s no good reason why all these benefits should go to men. Tech employers are keen to attract more women and greater diversity to their teams.
My advice to women looking to start a career in IT would be to look for job adverts which highlight the opportunities to be creative and to learn. Choose an employer who will value and train you in the workplace and empower you to develop further in your career.
The 2018 STEM careers case studies are: Kirsty, Gina, Sonia, Janet, Marissa, Dominique and me.