Dominique and Ewan will be there showcasing their work.
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.
Racial and ethnic diversity is a challenge for the Scottish HE IT sector. I
Jackie Kay thinks Scotland is ‘decades behind in attitudes to race’.
Skills Development Scotland highlight the business drivers:
In ISG we take an intersectional approach to addressing the multiple factors, gender, race, religion, class, sexuality, and disabilities which shape the experience of our staff. Ethnicity is also a complex category. I had to google ‘do Jews count as minority ethnic?’ and there’s a whole discipline around collecting data.
Here are some of the things we have done:
We have employed an intern (Dominique ) who is an expert in gender and race issues and how those combine to reinforce inequality. She has advised us on how to ensure that our gender equality initiatives also include race, age and class considerations.
In our recruitment, we have changed the language and images we use to communicate what it is like to work in ISG. We have also changed where we advertise, making more use of LinkedIn and the new Equate Scotland jobs board and the university careers service. As a result our new workers, and particularly our student interns appear to be a much more diverse group than the longer standing staff. Our interns are a pipeline to bringing new diversity into digital jobs.
We make sure that the images we use in BITs magazine and in other ISG promotional materials reflect the diversity of our staff and discourage the use of ‘stock’ images to do so. We have also changed the images we use to promote use of technology and online learning, ensuring that the images on our websites reflect the demographics we know we have in our community. We are exploring how we can make more use of positive action images collections such as JopWell
A report from the Scottish Government’s independent adviser on race equality in Scotland in 2017 recommended actions for those with the aim of working towards achieving the goal of parity in employment for minority ethnic communities in the workplace.
‘It is generally accepted that for public services to be effective and relevant for all communities in Scotland, the public sector workforce should reflect the community it serves. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that by 2025 its own workforce will reflect at every level the minority ethnic share of the population. According to the 2017 staff diversity data published in the Scottish Government’s Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report, BME staff currently comprise 1.6 % of the civil service in Scotland, an increase of 0.2 % since 2013.
The position set out in the CRER report of March 2014 is that just 0.8% of staff in all Scotland’s Local Authorities are from BME backgrounds despite making up 4% of the general population in Scotland. In Glasgow City Council the proportion of the workforce from a BME background is less than 2% although the BME population is 12%.
Given that the Public Sector employs 20.7% of the workforce in Scotland, accelerating action to tackle the diversity deficit in the Scottish Public Sector and meet the Scottish Government’s equality outcomes is, I suggest, a matter of some urgency.’
People of colour make up 9.7 per cent of the total staff numbers at University of Edinburgh and suffer structural disadvantage in pay as we can see by looking at the gender pay gap.
BME staff are more likely to report a culture of bullying, racial stereotyping and microaggression (Advance HE/Fook et al, 2019; Rollock 2019). We have held staff development sessions on:
- Race Matters in the Workplace (Prof Rowena Arshad)
- Coding for Diversity ( Stewart Cromar and Jacqui Aim)
- Changing Recruitment Language (Equate Scotland)
- Disability and Employment – The Challenges of Finding and Keeping a Job (Prof Sheila Riddell)
- Religion at the University (Harriet Harris)
- Intersectional approaches to Equality and Inclusion at Work ( Dominique Green)
- What is LGBT+ and why does it matter at work? ( LGBT+ Staff network)
- Don’t Cross the Line: Bullying and Harassment training
We have also run Wikipedia events in Black History Month and in association with UncoverEd. We have a representative ( Rachel) on the LTC task group on decolonising the curriculum and we have created OER specifically on that topic. We have tasked our Equality Images Intern ( Francesca) to discover the stories of diverse staff groups in university history and we sponsored student -led university events organised by our interns Vicki, Gina and Dominique on topics of mental health and transexuality which took intersectional approaches to understanding the experiences of UoE students.
- We take care not to organise all-staff events on major high days and holidays
- Staff, mainly in User Services Directorate, attend cultural awareness training
- We take part in projects across libraries and collections and across the sector to explore the implications of decolonialising our metadata and descriptions
- We will name the next of our training rooms after David Pitt during Black HIstory Month 2019
- We are meeting with Advance HE to explore how University of Edinburgh can be part of their race equality project:
‘Racial inequality is a significant issue in UK universities. It is evidenced by the BME attainment gap, the BME staff pay gap, and the lack of representation and promotion of BME staff . A number of UK universities have made strategic and public commitments to advancing race equality, but the sector has found consistent progress hard to come by.
Advance HE/ECU has been actively working with the sector in Scotland on race equality since 2013 to promote conversations and initiatives on race equality with universities and colleges. In 2016, the Race Equality Charter was launched, and the Scottish Race Equality Network (SREN) first met. This project aims to support a group of Scottish universities to make significant and meaningful progress in developing strategic approaches to race equality, and in particular develop effective initiatives to support the recruitment and development of Black/BME staff. Improved staff representation, whilst being a key longer term outcome itself, is also a necessary condition for significant improvement in the Black/BME attainment gap.’
There seem to be some Scotland-specific challenge, Advance HE report that:
Scottish manifestations of race inequality in HE are under-explored. Intersectionality and differences between BME ethnicities are underexplored in the national sector literature, and may be different, and/or particularly relevant to the Scottish context. Positive action is under-utilised to drive strategic and institutional change, partly due to institutional conservatism, lack of expertise and lack of leadership.
The teams in LTW’s Learning Spaces Technology spend a lot of time thinking about how best to provide high quality AV services to a diverse university community across a very mixed estate. We aim to ensure that our technology is universal and accessible to all and that the benefit we provide to the university is useful in enabling accessible and inclusive teaching.
We support 400 rooms and 30,000 hours of teaching every semester. We pride ourselves in providing high microphone quality across the University Estate, hence why we use high-tier quality Sennheiser models. We upgrade and improve our services on a rolling basis. Whenever Sennheiser produce a smaller or lighter model or a new technology solution we check it out. The current model that we provide in teaching rooms is easily worn on a lanyard ( as modelled). This makes it an ideal, gender neutral solution as it doesn’t require a belt or pockets and works fine with any neckline or dress.
It has to be said, we’ve tried out some smaller, wireless mics around the place, but the quality just wasn’t good enough for the serivce we provide for learning and teaching but you can look forward to ‘flexible beamforming‘ from Sennheiser. We’ll be trialling this in the new spaces on campus and in Edinburgh Futures Institute building when it is ready.
What with the new digital accessibility legislation coming into place, I am gathering together a list of things/projects/initiatives and services we offer in Learning Teaching and Web Services to support accessibility online. We have a support service in ISG which provides practical testing and advice on meeting the requirements of legislation. At a strategic level we take a broad view on accessibility and inclusive learning.
We will be presenting the University of Edinburgh experience as an institutional case study at UCISA.
A working knowledge of accessibility is a key knowledge set for learning technologists and web developers and I’m very proud of how well we do in this area. I am often asked to support colleagues when they are writing up their CMALT portfolios and describing the policy environment in which they work, it is important that we reflect on what is quite a nuanced area of work.
I wrote my initial CMALT application in 2008 about the policies which shaped the context of my work. At that time those were: The new HEA UKPSF framework, the University of Leeds strategy and vision towards 2015, the HEFCE e-learning strategy, SENDA legislation on accessibility, copyright and emerging Creative Commons and CETIS -led technology standards. Back in 2004 I employed one of the first institutional web accessibility officers at University of Leeds. The second edition of our book about designing accessible learning is due out any day now…
University of Edinburgh has a huge corporate web estate so, as a central team, we are taking what we believe to be the most pragmatic and effective way forward toward improving accessibility, and thus reducing overall risk.
University Website, MyEd, Web Search and our content support widgets have all accessibility statements published reflecting on our capabilities and access to support and report inaccessible content etc. What really helped was the use of EdGEL consistently across our services.
We will proceed with our ‘Future Web Services’ project, in conjunction with a migration to Drupal 8. We will take a stringent approach to accessibility throughout design, development and testing, considering both the end users’ experience and accessibility needs. We will proceed with a content audit with a view to decommissioning and archiving portions of the estate as appropriate and rationalising the remainder, redeveloping content as needed and with accessibility in mind. We will target agree key user journeys giving us a prioritised backlog for more in-depth accessibility assessment. Our web teams will develop, adopt and communicate policy, standards and guidelines around accessibility as part of our continuing development of our digital governance.
We attend every year, the UK webmasters conference the event typically covers a wide range of topics or relevance to this sector including digital transformation, website/digital governance, university strategy, digital strategy, UX, accessibility, design, development, user-journeys and tasks, team management, leadership, content, measurement and analytics, change management, student recruitment and retention, tools, technologies and communications.
Accessible VLEs and platforms
Our VLE and media platform teams have been battling to get our accessibility statements and roadmaps straight. Karen’s team have been working with colleagues across the sector to gather best practice guidance for Learn. Some of our platforms are cloud hosted and vendor supplied which makes things challenging.
Accessible course design of our VLE
Our EDE teams offer advice on how to deliver inclusive and accessible technology enhanced learning. We are currently working with six Schools and a Deanery to implement a new site structures in Learn. The new site structure is being rolled out to Schools with the support of a team of student interns during the summer break to create consistent courses within Learn in preparation for the start of the 19/20 academic year. The aim is to create a new site structure that will provide a consistent student experience by making course specific materials easy to find as well as supporting staff in delivering rich, online courses. It will ensure courses are more accessible and inclusive and the terminology used relating to learning and teaching is more consistent. We are finding a huge range of lefthand menu options being used, as many as 400+ in one school.
Digital accessibility is a particularly strong example of the universal benefits of inclusive practice. Students enjoy more usable and flexible learning resources, listening to lecture recordings or podcasts while traveling on the bus, or using heading styles to go straight to the important part of the course handbook. An inclusive approach allows all students to learn in ways that suit them best. If we can respond effectively to these regulations, all students will benefit from a better experience.
Accessible content in the VLE
The student interns are working over the summer to complete accessibility audits of course areas with a view to reporting back to heads of schools. They are sampling course materials and producing accessibility scores. This work is gaining a lot of interest from VLE support teams in other Universities. If you are interested in talking to the project team or looking to find out more information regarding the project contact the Learn Foundations team and we are presenting about it at ALT Conference in early September.
The University provides a selection of assistive software to staff and students. One such piece of software, and one which we are excited about is called SensusAccess . We believe this is a really useful piece of software for staff and students using the VLE. SensusAccess allows you to convert electronic documents into alternative versions of the document – such as audio, e-book or digital Braille formats. It even tackles less accessible documents such as image-only PDFs and PowerPoint files. It is quick and easy to use, and free to students and staff of the University. You upload the document you wish to be converted to another format to the software and it is then emailed to you once the conversion is complete. You can then upload this version of the document to the VLE. Students can also use it themselves to create a version of the document which suits them best.
Library Website Improvements
A workstream in our Digital Library Programme is looking at making improvements in particular to Collections, but also, some changes to DiscoverEd, with the focus being on improving search for collections.ed but also accessibility and usability where possible. We offer a huge range of digital resources and we are part of the IIIF consortium on digital imaging standards
Service level descriptions
In LTW we publish service level descriptions for all our services which include a statement on accessibility, and we publish Equality Impact Assessments for any new or changed services.
For example, here is the accessibility statement from our digital skills training service SLD
|Accessibility and equality compliance:
Links to relevant documentation
|Written resources are available in alternative format on request, as indicated on each resource. Resources are all available online.
Slides and visuals used on our learning events are designed with accessibility in mind.
Training rooms in Argyle House are installed with hearing loops and have a height-adjustable desk in each room.
All videos developed in house can be viewed at different sizes and have captions.
An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) has been carried out on Lynda.com.
Promoting universal design
We have specialists in our LTW teams who promote and train in universal design, whether that is design of digital materials, web sites, communications, rooms, spaces, signage or AV kit. Neil’s team have led the development of the new look for MyEd designed for mobile first, making it easier to use on any device, wherever you are. The menu-based navigation makes it easier to find content, and avoids the need to load content-heavy tabs, making it faster to get to the content that you need.
Our LTW graphic design teams offer expert advice on accessibility in print and design. With design for print, we always do our best to comply with University standards and where we need to, we will add the accessibility strapline to printed materials. Design for print often requires a balance of aesthetics with accessibility and Sonia’s teams have to carefully consider the purpose of the thing that we are producing. Finding that compromise is always a challenge that we do our best to make as a design team. We endeavour at all times to ensure that we are following best practice in terms of accessibility. This may be through looking at the following guidelines or consulting directly with experts from the very start of the project at the initial design consultation. Here are some of the links we may refer to for our information.
ISG: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/accessibility/creating-materials EdGel: https://gel.ed.ac.uk And other guidelines such as the Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inclusive-communication/accessible-communication-formats
We also ensure that our newsletters and graphics are available in a variety of accessible formats. We make sure to check that our LTW comms officers understand about accessible and inclusive communications.
Increasingly users interact with internet content via voice interfaces such as Siri and Alexa and text based chat bots. In LTW we are leading in the development of conversational interfaces for student support. We are running training sessions for students and staff.
AV in teaching spaces
Our teaching space development projects contribute to providing an Improved and more consistent user experience, supporting the accessibility and inclusion objectives of the new Learning and Teaching Spaces Strategy and the Estates strategic goal of creating a world class accessible estate. Lesley’s teams offer training on how to use AV and IT equipment in centrally managed teaching spaces.
The Subtitling for Media Pilot was established to investigate the feasibility, viability and cost of a student-led transcription service, alongside improving the digital skills of staff and promoting a culture change in our approach to delivering accessible content. The team subtitled public-facing audio and video content within Media Hopper Create, with a focus on content that was embedded in the main University website. Automated subtitling services are notoriously inaccurate and require checking before publication. In the pilot, subtitles were automatically generated and the student team acted as human mediators, checking and correcting the subtitles and drawing on their own knowledge and expertise of Edinburgh and University life. As a result of the pilot more media content is open and accessible to all users and new training courses are available for staff and students on DIY subtitling, aiming to move to a position where subtitling of media is standard practice at the point of creation as far as possible. Following the pilot, we’ll be establishing this as a service in 19/20. In the pilot service, subtitles were automatically generated and the student team acted as human mediators, checking and correcting the subtitles, drawing on their own knowledge and expertise of the HE sector in the process. Automation is effective at quickly processing large amounts of content; people are good at ensuring the right meaning is conveyed and that accurate sector–specific terminology is used.
In this project we subtitled 228 media [a total of 53 hours, 07 minutes play time] during the 12-week pilot. We established average times to subtitle, and identified things that will impact the time taken (accents, technical/scientific words, sound quality) and shared these finding with the sector. We produced a style guide that can be used as a subtitling aid for staff and ran four 2-hour workshops to develop University staff skills in subtitling, developing a successful format for ongoing training provision.We published two videos and five blogs to disseminate information about the pilot .
Accessible work experience and workplace
In designing our projects we think carefully about how we employ students. We are interested in whether digital work is the kind of work that might be attractive to students, specifically those who need some flexibility in hours and location of work. We are aware that this kind of work might offer opportunity for employment for students with caring responsibilities, who have disabilities, or who prefer solo working, and so we make sure to design these job opportunities with this in mind.
We have a number of staff in LTW who have visible and invisible disabilities and we listen to their feedback on how to ensure we have an inclusive workplace.
Professional Development and training for colleagues
We offer role-based training of staff, including webmasters, developers, designers, content creators, instructional designers.
Our University of Edinburgh PgCap Learning and Teaching includes a session on “Building accessibility & inclusion into your teaching & learning with technology”. We are going to develop this into a stand-alone session, and we’ve talked about developing a baseline e-accessibility resource (either on the open website or as a self-enrol course in Learn). We have recruited Tracy as an accessibility expert to our learning technology team.
Our course on Effective Digital Content (Writing for the Web) is mandatory if you need access to edit EdWeb. Bruce is our expert in web accessibility. It is open to all staff and students and available online or in person. This editorial training course covers good practice in writing and structuring information for the web. Nurturing a community of practice can help build leadership in and commitment to IT accessibility. That community of practice can and should reaches across unit and campus boundaries. Institutional challenges require institutional responses and our trainng includes guidance on data protection, freedom of information issues and improving performance in search engine results.
Things 5&6 in our ’23 Things’ course are diversity and accessibility and our collection of online digital skills courses offers dozens of courses on accessibility and these are available for free to students and staff including ‘Accessibility: Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Office’ and ‘Creating Accessible PDFs’. We run 2-hour workshops to develop University staff skills in subtitling and a range of courses in creating accessible media and learning content.
We work closely with Institute of Academic Development and our course design service offers clear accessibility advice to colleagues making courses in our VLE.
We’ve fitted some rooms with lecture recording facilities . We hope that lecture recordings can support a wide range of accessibility and inclusivity needs including those:
- who are visually impaired
- who work with a scribe to create text notes from lectures
- who have dyslexia or other learning needs
- who have autism spectrum disorders
- who may find physical attendance overwhelming
- for whom English is not their first language
- who are learning complex technical terms or in translation
- who experience debilitating anxiety as a result of missing classes.
We offer training guides on how to make your presentations accessible, and also provides links to useful resources and services within the University and online to help you with this process. We are well aware that in some of our largest lecture theatres the distance from the front to the back of the room is significant. The chalkboard recording facility with Replay allows “zooming in” when playing back, and offers an improved experience for students who might have been at the back of the lecture theatre. We are presenting about it at ALT Conference in early September, and we have podcasts explaining how lecture recording supports inclusive learning for Edinburgh students.
For many students the most useful thing colleagues can do to make the content of their lectures accessible is to use the microphone. The microphone in the room is linked to the induction loop which is essential for students with hearing loss and is the best way to capture high quality audio as you talk. We provide advice on how to wear a microphone and pack with a dress and on a lanyard. We’ve learned from our rollout of lecture recording that the best quality and most accessible recordings are produced when the most suitable microphones are used.Whether you have a loud voice or small group, all microphones will pick up only the closest speaker. Lapel mics work best for presenters, handheld mics and Catchboxes work best for audience interaction. In the largest teaching spaces, there will be a throwable microphone called a Catchbox. In rooms without Catchbox or a handheld microphone, you should repeat questions to ensure they are picked up on the recording. Find out more about how lecture recording can support accessible and inclusive learning.
Accessible online courses
Our distance learning and MOOC platforms have very clear and rigorous rules about the ways in which content is presented. We recognise that some of our learners will have particular needs and circumstances and we will strive to identify and respond to barriers to participation in our courses so that these can be reduced or removed. We view the diversity of our learners as a resource that enhances their learning experience and the experience of other learners.
We work with FutureLearn, Edx and Coursera to make sure our learning content is accessible as it can be for our learners. We provide advice to staff making elearning materials accessible and on licensing which makes making alternative versions permissable.
The University of Edinburgh University Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy is due for a review, not least to reflect the technology environment on campus which has changed significantly in the past 6 years and to include the fact that we have online courses and students to whom the policy would also apply. Much of the technology referred to in the policy is owned by LTW and since the policy is out of date it no longer reflects the technology we provide. Policy development meetings are well underway with contributions from web, AV, online learning and digital library teams.
Teaching excellence exemplars
We are working closely with the assistant principals responsible for reviewing the promotions criteria for academic teaching and developing exemplars of excellence to include digital and accessible teaching.
*work in progress*
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.
The ‘leaky pipeline’ is definitely a thing so we must think about ways in which we can create a more inclusive and attractive work culture where women aspire to stay. Business-wise it make sense to retain valuable, experienced staff rather than having to train new staff.
Do we know what older women in the workplace want? do we ever ask them?
When we take an intersectional approach to recognising that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. We have to pay attention to how long people have been working and where they are in their careers.
We are a big recruiter, with a high turnover and a lot of innovation, so we need to attract and retain talent. We advertise placements and returnerships via Equate Scotland. We also need to explore how age and length of time in the organisation influence staff engagement.
RETAINING WOMEN IN WORK
In ISG we monitor the age profile of our staff, and 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:
- Personal development programmes
We have coaching programmes and mentoring for women- we take part in the Aurora and Connections programmes and we run specific ‘Renew You’ and ‘Speak up‘ personal development programmes for women. The participants on these courses seem to find them valuable and so it seems like a good investment, but I don’t have any actual data for evaluating impact.
We have run sessions specifically about the impact that feminist mangers ( with Prof Fiona MacKay) can make and about how promotions and annual reviews work. We have data on who gets sent on leadership programmes.
- Raising awareness and widening discussions
We organise 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. Menopause is an intersectional issue of gender, health and age and it is an important issue for managers and service teams. For many women it is experienced as a double or triple whammy, coming as it does just at the time when your children are teenagers, your parents are elderly and you have just made it back from a career break. We are figuring out how to promote a menopause -friendly workplace.
One of the first steps is to make sure everyone has access to fans to cool down. The aim is to normalise and destigmatise the use of fans- but it has to be said this is not such a great challenge as we work in one of the hottest buildings in Edinburgh!
The next step will be to gather some actual data about how many work days are lost because menopause symptoms go unreported and to think of ways to bring that number down.
- High profile events which make women visible
We do a lot of work to celebrate and support high profile ‘women in tech’ and ‘women in STEM’ activities. We organise events for Ada Lovelace Day, International Women’s Day and we name our training rooms and systems after inspirational women. The numbers of women who attend these events are growing, the Wikipedia activities particularly are getting pretty impressive .
We need to do more in really under-represented areas though, to think about how to involve more women in AV, VR, IoT and GIS.
- Universal design in technology
There are moments in the workplace when you may suspect it has not been designed with you in mind. As a technology provider we can promote universal solutions ( such as how to wear a radio microphone pack with a dress) and disaggregate our data by gender and age where ever we can.
- Recognise and rectify historical wrongs
Those of us who have been around for a while have heard the stories of historical wrongs. We can do things now to help our institutions to address some of that history , such as the degrees finally given to the Edinburgh Seven.
- Professional and skills development
I have anecdotal information that middle-aged women are the group least likely to attend ( or be chosen for) new skills training in tech. We are very aware that we have a large group of 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 130 learners on course. It wasn’t targetted exclusively at women, but we managed to attract 65 % women to participate. 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. 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.
- Flexible working
We have pretty good flexible working arrangements and policies in ISG. It is not clear though whether they are consistently applied.
- Developing male allies
We know that male allies are a big part of the success of any equality and diversity initiative. At ISG we have a Fathers Network which provides a space to discuss the experiences of the fathers in our teams who juggle work and family responsibilities. We are also working with CIPD to develop a new personal development course for men. This will focus on emotional intelligence at work and the challenges faced by men in managing workplace expectations in relation to their roles. It is important to acknowledge some important intersections, and where men can see that they also face intersections of identity which may influence the experience of other men, then that can carry over to understanding what that may be for women.
What else should we be doing?
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.
I am delighted that we are able to host the Echo360 conference in Edinburgh next week.
I’ll be speaking at the conference about how important it is for leading institutions to change.
The implementation of lecture recording at University of Edinburgh was an innovative project to equip up to 400 teaching spaces and automate the recording of lectures at scale. The University has targeted an improved student digital experience by investing several million pounds in a state-of-the-art lecture recording system that has covered all the campus lecture rooms. Our approach is based on being widely flexible and enabling choices of formats and pedagogy.
The demand for lecture recording at University of Edinburgh was designed to in response to student feedback. The ability to watch lectures again as an aid to revision is immensely popular with our students already, video and audio recordings of lectures supplement the rich set of online resources that already exist to support learning.
The project was managed by a well co-ordinated team and delivered to a high quality specification, on time and in budget. The team demonstrated an outstanding commitment to delivering a high quality service for the institution. Over the last 12 months the team have successfully handled complex academic development, policy implementation and technical challenges with considerable skill and sensitivity. All throughout this time they retained a core focus on supporting an excellent student experience, championing accessibility and inclusive practices. This work has opened up critical conversations that go beyond technology to discuss the value of lectures, the value of recordings and why we teach the way we teach and has been accompanied by evaluative research into the impact and value at institutional level.
The team has been particularly effective at incorporating research findings to continually improve the service and respond to the needs of users. As an organisation we learned a huge amount from the process: academic insight, student satisfaction, new research, communications strategies, technical know-how and a field-tested working model of how to complete a project of this size and ambition.
The Lecture Recording Project at Edinburgh University is one of the largest upgrades of AV technology in teaching rooms to take place in an educational institution anywhere in the world and it was done across an historical and rapidly expanding estate. We now have the capability to record close to 100% of lecture activity within the institution. We offer a consistent experience for all students and support our diverse student community. Many of our students have complex lives and are balancing study alongside caring responsibilities, or the need to work to fund their studies. Recordings of lectures can lessen anxiety about keeping on top of study, and provide a safety net when life circumstances prevail.
- Supporting a programme of evaluation and engagement activities which has opened up critical conversations about the role of the lecture and why we teach the way we do.
- Running a pro-active communications campaign around opting-out of lecture recording, to be sensitive to concerns raise by academic colleagues.
- Working with course organisers and professional staff to develop highly usable scheduling software based on timetabling information, to automate the recording of lectures at scale.
- Equipping 400 teaching spaces, including our innovative camera and recording solution for capturing chalkboards in Maths and Physics.
- Improving the use of microphones in lecture theatres and increasing awareness of accessibility and inclusion issues.
- Integrating the new lecture recording service with the University’s VLEs offering safe and secure access to recordings.
- Training 40 student helpers across the campuses during the first week of teaching in each Semester to provide immediate advice on use of the recording equipment.
- Offering comprehensive training programme to support academic colleagues to prepare teaching materials for lecture recording.
- Delivering a system designed to be as user-friendly as possible and to have minimal impact on the presentation and delivery of lectures.
There are many proven benefits to making recordings of lectures available including supporting students for whom English is not a first language and ensuring that our face to face lectures are available in an alternative format for students who require it. Not having to take notes at speed allows students to focus more on what is being said and use valuable contact time to ask questions, knowing that notes can be reviewed and improved later.
This work at Edinburgh has had a wider impact across the sector, we have involved commercial partners, external advisors, learning technologists, academic developers AV specialists, trainers, researchers and staff and students from across all disciplines to deliver one of the most successful large scale roll-outs of learning technology across a large institution with a challenging physical estate.
2018/19 Academic Year: Recordings made/scheduled: 24,000, Student views (year to date): 528,000. Hours watched (year to date): 527,000
We gratefully acknowledge all the colleagues and practitioners in other institutions who have shared their practice with us. Much of our project has been built upon the lessons learned by others. We believe that by considering the widest possible range of technical, academic, policy, and social factors around lecture recording, we have achieved a model for lecture recording, and indeed other learning technology implementations that others could copy. A large part of our ethos has been to work as openly as we possibly can, sharing and reflecting on our practice. With that in mind we have tried to make as many of our guides, training materials, research, evaluation, processes and planning as possible available openly online for the benefit of the wider sector.
We recently ran an excellent session on using inclusive language in recruitment. We spent some time thinking about the positive things we can say about the inclusive culture in ISG. One of the aspects of an inclusive culture can be seen in the extent to which we think about and talk about how our colleagues experience the workplace differently.
With regard to organisational culture and openness to diversity Olsen and Martins offer a theory-driven framework for evaluating managerial and organisational approaches to diversity management (Olsen & Martins, 2012). They propose that organisational approach is particularly important to study because it is within the control of the organisation more explicitly than external society-level factors. The Olsen model aims to explore the ‘how’ and ‘why’ which underlie diversity management approaches in organisations and to link these to organisational outcomes. ‘Openness to diversity’ is defined as putting an emphasis on pro-diversity beliefs and attitudes and refers specifically to group members’ positive attention to dissimilarities (Lauring & Villesèche, 2017). Diversity programmes in the workplace are socially situated and the organisation provides the specific environmental context in which such initiatives will success, thrive or fail to a lesser or greater extent.
For me, as senior leader, this means that whenever there is a workplace issue, even if it is not a top priority for me personally I try to think about how it might impact other people and specifically whether there are any groups of colleagues who might be disproportionately affected, and whether there are voices which are unlikely to be heard. In the workplace we are all part of different groups. Those may be identity groups (e.g. age, gender, race, class, ethnicity) and/or organisational groups (job function or place within organisational hierarchy). While managers are an organisational group and members of the management group may be perceived as representative of that group by their staff, their own membership of one or more identity group will also influence how there are perceived or behave (Kossek & Zonia, 1993).
One of the workplace issues which particularly exercises the ISG staff who work in Argyle House is the heat. Colleagues want to see data, and they want to see action. When I think about the excessive heat in the office I know that this will disproportionately affect colleagues who are struggling to regulate their own body temperature, such as women who are experiencing hot flushes as the result of menopause. I also know that the voices of those experiencing menopause are often unheard and easily dismissed. Menopause is still a ‘taboo’ topic for many and we don’t gather good data to know what the impact really is on our organisation. A smart employer with an inclusive culture would attend to this. Women of a certain age are a large group in ISG.
Menopause is an intersectional issue of gender and age. For many women it comes as a double or triple whammy, coming as it does just at the time when your children are teenagers, your parents are elderly and you have just made it back from a career break. In an ‘aged hierarchical’ organisation like ours it may also come just at the time when you are consolidating leadership and management responsibilities. Three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work (CIPD, 2019) For these reasons it is a topic of interest for employers, unions and politicians. If you haven’t thought about menopause in the workplace before, or what it means to your practice as an inclusive manager I recommend a quick google search on ‘menopause in the workplace’.
Here’s the blurb for our upcoming PlayFair Steps event at University of Edinburgh Information Services. It’s part of the ISG ‘going through the change’ theme 😉
PlayFair Steps: Overheating and Stressed in the Workplace?
We know from our very first PlayFair Steps event that age is an important issue that affects employees at work in a variety of ways. Experiencing the menopause while working can be a double whammy bringing stress, sleepless nights and hot flushes which make it difficult to perform at your best and thrive at work. Recognising and understanding the causes of stress in the workplace and thinking about how we can best support our colleagues makes sense for leaders, managers, recruiters and customer facing service teams. All are welcome at this session to discuss and engage with how ISG can be a better place to work for all. This session is the starting point for ensuring ISG promotes a culture that is open to employees talking about health issues.
***Remember that all IS staff are welcome to any PlayFair Steps event, even if you do not know much about the topic under discussion. You are encouraged to use this space to ask questions and have meaningful discussions. As this working group meeting will be over the lunch hour, do feel free to bring your lunch.***
Booking link: https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=33941.
Olsen, Jesse E., & Martins, Luis L. (2012). Understanding organizational diversity management programs: A theoretical framework and directions for future research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(8), 1168-1187. doi:10.1002/job.1792
Lauring, Jakob, & Villesèche, Florence. (2017). The Performance of Gender Diverse Teams: What Is the Relation between Diversity Attitudes and Degree of Diversity? European Management Review, 0(0). doi:10.1111/emre.12164
Kossek, Ellen, & Zonia, Susan. (1993). Assessing Diversity Climate: A Field Study of Reactions to Employer Efforts to Promote Diversity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14(1), 61-81.
We nominated Dominique for this award and she won.
Dominique Green is a PhD student at University of Edinburgh. She is a data scientist and a tutor in quantitative methods. She also works one day per week as Equality and Diversity Intern in the University’s Information Services. Over three years Dominique has made an amazing impact on the institution. Her expertise has helped us to address the challenges we face as a large tech employer, to support women in our workplace and to change and develop policy. Her work has developed our organisation, improved and celebrated the experience of women in STEM and contributed to a cultural shift towards ‘openness to diversity’. Her own passion for the topic and expertise in theory grounded in data inspired us to adopt an intersectional approach to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in our workplace and has pushed us to go beyond anecdote and use data-based decision making to really address some entrenched structural issues.
Since the beginning of her internship Dominique has helped us to understand the link between diversity in our workplace and improved services for staff and students. She has also helped us to understand the data we have about our organisation and the management decisions we can make as a result. After analysing the data from our 2015 gender equality survey, Dominique produced a SMART plan of strategic management actions for 1,3 and 5 years to get us to a more diverse and inclusive workplace (plan attached below).
Her recommendations were accepted by senior management and integrated into departmental plans and reporting dashboards. She has organised an innovative programme of activities to engage staff across the organisation ( c500 staff have attended these events). She has liaised with academic experts, third sector groups, charities and consultants to put together a staff development programme of 20 training and discussion events which enables colleagues to engage with new ideas and thinking about how we experience our workplace and how we design our services. She has also become to go-to expert for advice on how to ensure that our work has real impact.
Dominique’s work in partnership with University of Edinburgh Information Services has had short and long-term impact on the Edinburgh University student population and for the wider community of university staff. She has ensured that we are accountable and transparent in the ways in which we consider diversity in the organisation and understand the experience of women in STEM. The profile of women across grades has changed significantly with significantly more women now in roles at UoE Grades 9 and 10. She has pushed our services consider equality and diversity in their design and encouraged us to welcome students from all across the university as change agents in our organisation. More than 50% of staff have undertaken equality and diversity training. We now employ more than 100 students with us as interns, placements and apprentices. As a student herself Dominique has been uniquely placed to help us understand how to be an inclusive STEM workplace, and the value of this partnership working between institution and student has been seen across the organisation.