One of our innovation projects over several years was to develop a Playful Engagement Strategy for ISG and to test some playful approaches. We know our Information Services Group (ISG) staff are innovative and creative, and they have developed a variety of fun, creative, and engaging ways to provide and deliver our technologies and services.
We want to ensure that this continues and that ISG fosters an environment, and culture, where innovation, playful learning, and creative engagement are embedded in our practices. This is in line with the University’s aim to offer an educational experience that is inspiring, challenging, and transformational.
To this end, we have established playful engagement themes, strategy and goals.
Our goals are to:
Facilitate the development of playful innovators, researchers, and creators
Promote creative, playful, and innovative use of technologies and tools in ISG services
Utilise our world-class libraries and collections in innovative and engaging ways to enrich our services
Support a healthy work life balance, and a positive, engaging and inclusive work environment
I am very pleased that Charlie has been able to spend the time to really think about what playful engagement could mean for a large IT and libraries service. Her work draws upon a whole raft of team, game, maker, challenge and enjoyment activities which all combine to make working here much more fun than it might otherwise be.
She and I will be presenting about this at the UCISA leadership conference in Edinburgh.
We are taking the opportunity of International Women’s Day to rename our Boardroom in Argyle House after Brenda Moon, the first woman to head up a research university library when she was Librarian here at the University of Edinburgh in the 1980s and 90s.
Brenda played a major role in bringing the University into the digital age, as Edinburgh became the first major university library in the UK to tackle and deliver a computer-based service.
Also on the day we will be hosting an ‘Edit-a-thon’ for staff, students and friends of the University to create Wikipedia entries for notable women currently missing from the encyclopaedia site, and a ‘Sketch-a-thon’ using images from the Centre for Research Collections’ Special Collections. All artistic abilities welcome!
Learn about the lives of some of the incredible women in the archives of the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh, while putting your creative side to use in a relaxed learning environment!
This year has been quite a one for my work with the PlayFair Steps. The PlayFair Steps is the name I have given to the programme of activities in University of Edinburgh Information Services Group which are designed to deliver an improved experience for all our staff by tackling equality and diversity issues in our workplace. I began this initiative in 2015 and it is part of a wider change programme across the whole of the organisation.
After 3 years we are seeing impact and progress towards our goals. We have also been successful in winning a number of awards.
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, is a consideration that may influence senior management. So if you can show that your activities have gained external recognition, won awards or been celebrated by your peers, more investment by senior management may follow. It’s not an exact science but as employers we are all very aware that the tech industry has a bad reputation for diversity and inclusion.
Students of organisational development will be well aware of the importance of context, culture and ‘climate’ in enabling the success of workplace diversity programmes. With this in mind I worked with my teams to write applications for various employer awards last year in the hope that we would be nominated and shortlisted.
Winning this award in the HE sector boosted my confidence to try for 2 more awards in the wider tech sector. Alongside rapid growth a new and urgent interest in diversity can be seen by the appearance of industry awards and celebrations. Targeted trade sector and community events such as awards provide the opportunity for HR practitioners in organisations to gain external acknowledgement and assessment of their organisational efforts and commitment to diversity .But its a hotly contested area. Organisations which promote diversity may benefit by being more attractive to women and ethnic minorities and those employers may be able to recruit from a larger talent pool, so the big recruiters are keen not to miss out and are pulling out all the stops.
In October and December we were finalists in the ‘Employer of the Year’ category in the Scotland Women in Technology Awards in Glasgow and for ‘Diversity Project of The Year’ in the Women in IT Excellence Awards in London. At both events I was very pleased to be able to host a table at the awards dinner and to invite colleagues and friends to join our celebrations. In Glasgow each of the 4 female University of Edinburgh Directors of IT invited as our guests women in our organisations who we identify as rising stars for the future. In London we were joined by friends from ALT, WikimediaUK, Open University, EDINA, Ordnance Survey and Wellcome Library. A lovely, sparkly time was had by all and it was exciting to be part of such celebratory events. In both cases however, we were pipped at the post by big recruiters such as JPMorgan and Empiric, both of whom have huge recruitment and marketing efforts targeted at women in IT.
The awards create a climate in which organisations compete to showcase themselves as diversity-aware recruiters and attractive employers for a range of groups. While such awards may also be dismissed as window dressing or worse, validation of insidious work practices, the investment being made by some large tech industry employers is undeniable. The rise of business awards which bring external recognition and validation to organisations’ visible efforts towards diversity is framed in the language of inclusive growth, improved competitive performance and better targeted services. It may be time for university IT departments to up our game if we are going to be able to attract the best talent to improve our services.
Perhaps we should work together as a sector to do this. One way we could do this would be to return again to the knotty problem of what IT careers look like in HE, and indeed what learning technologists look like. We should ask ourselves: ‘If you as an employer, had to take a bunch of recruitment materials to a recruitment fair what would you say to attract the best, brightest and most diverse talent to join our professional teams?’.
*Dominique and I will be showcasing our award-winning programme next in London on 28th February. The event is hosted by UHR and is an opportunity to hear from other HE organisations about how their teams have improved practice, contributed to business efficiency, and enhanced organisational effectiveness and staff engagement. Book your place now.
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.
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.
With so many staff categorized as IT, the University of Edinburgh is one of the largest tech employers in the city. We aim to diversify our workforce but we are doing that in a very competitive labour market. Other tech employers in the city are also keen to recruit women into IT roles.
The University is preparing its silver Athena SWAN application. Input is being gathered and examples of good practice corralled. Action plans will be set.
The University has a bunch of professional support staff. Numerically far more women work in Administration than any other job segment, and outnumber men at a ratio of 4:1 in these roles. Women also predominate at a ratio of greater than 2:1 in Alumni & Development, Human Resources, Finance, Library, and Marketing &PR .
Men dominate at a ratio of greater than 2:1 in Agricultural Work, Health & Safety and IT. Agricultural work has 7 people. Health and Safety, 17. IT has more than 700!
This is a a large group of people, we should make transparent what we are doing to address the structural issues which lead to this inequality – these are STEM careers after all, and the staff who work in these STEM roles are visible role models. Strategic diversity staffing initiatives are needed. I have been reading up on the topic. This chapter in the Handbook of Diversity and Work provides a good literature review and suggestions as to what works. I have learned how organisations can tailor their recruitment and selections systems to identify those candidates who are best suited to help achieve strategic objectives. We have to be proactive about this. We can’t rely on the same sources any more. It is important to think about how and where we advertise, what messages we send and who is involved in the selection process.
Here are just some of the things we do to support recruitment and promotion in ISG:
We have completed our gender equality survey and we keep regularly updated HR dashboards of gender split by grade and by Directorate. This enables us to identify groups or areas of ISG where the gender ratio is significant.
When roles come up in those areas we take care to ensure that we attract a broader range of applications internally and externally. For senior roles we instruct our search partners to find us female candidates and 18 months this has resulted in 3 new Grade 10 directors being appointed from outside ( welcome Janet, Jen and Gosia) along with several new and newly-promoted grade 9s.
I am not convinced that we are well served by the university advertising IT jobs on Jobs.ac.uk as a recruitment source That maybe good for learning technologists, and roles which need experience of HE ( do they, really?) but it’s not a place the best developers and IT professionals are looking.
In an attempt to try to attract a more diverse workforce we* have established a Company page on LinkedIn, and we use the powerful data tools, targeted adverts and social media sharing to get more reach for our recruitment and to attract passive talent. We review job descriptions from other employers to compare with our own, and we have engaged with external groups such as Equate Scotland to give us advice on writing job adverts and role descriptors. We encourage our existing staff to share the job adverts on their own networks. We have become partners with GirlGeek Scotland to raise our profile as a tech employer which welcomes women and invests in their ongoing careers. We have established ‘Women returners’ projects with Equate Scotland. Research suggests that effective diversity management is the key to unlocking the benefits. It also suggests that university campuses are a great place to find diversity. In ISG we have established dozens of internships for university students but no graduate recruitment scheme, as yet.
When our jobs are advertised on Jobs.ac.uk we are able to use the data (along with the data from linkedIn) to understand more about who is looking at our adverts and make decisions . We were apparently the first people in the University of Edinburgh to ask Jobs.ac.uk for data. We need to pay much more attention to the wording of our job titles and adverts and think abut the messages they send. The aim of an advert is to get people to click to find out more. It is important that the messages presented make all applicants feel welcome. We use social media ( twitter) to promote our job adverts using combinations of hashtags such as #womenintech #womeninstem #girlgeekscot to encourage retweets and sharing.
Would we, could we be so bold as to say: ‘If we can’t shortlist diverse candidates, we will review the role and how we advertise it. We won’t proceed with an all-white, all-male shortlist.’ or is that a step too far?
We try to have diverse panels involved in selection and everyone involved in recruitment has done their equality and unconscious bias training. To support internal recruitment and promotion of women into more senior roles we participate in all the university initiatives such as Aurora and Connections and we activity celebrate Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day. We also have internal workshops and seminars to explore the various issues such as age ( ‘baby boomers’ and ‘millennials’) , gender, sexuality, disability, race, parenthood (part time-working, fathers network) which combine and intersect to have an impact on our workplace experiences.
We ensure that all jobs are advertised internally and that secondments, flexible and part time working are available as options. We encourage staff to gain professional qualifications where appropriate and have offered support for preparing CPD portfolios for membership of those professional bodies such as CILIP and CMALT. We pay special attention to areas of technology where there are few women, such as drone pilots, and encourage colleagues to gain their qualification. On top of all this we try to highlight and celebrate success through social media, IS News and BITS magazine.
We are aware that the external perception of us as an employer is key to attracting staff. Research suggests that the images and and stories during recruitment convey messages to applicants and specific diversity-focused statement bring positive outcomes. Our Linkedin site showcases the innovation and range of IT and media projects that we do, the benefits of working for a university and particularly highlights stories from within our organisation which reflect diversity and equality themes. We showcase women in STEM roles and highlight career paths. Maybe once we have a head of communications we can think about impression management.
*when I say we, I mean me and my trusty LTWadmin and intern side-kicks.
If you have ever visited our meeting rooms on Floor E you will have been immersed in an installation by Fabienne Hess.
This installation of images on the glass walls of our meeting rooms in Argyle House is a whole work by Hess, she was commissioned as part of the refurbishment the office spaces to create a work featuring images of existing objects of University collections. Her work exploring the University of Edinburgh’s Collections has spanned across several years and she features in current displays at The Talbot Rice. The process of digitizing, which started in the summer of 2012, has involved photographing almost 25,000 diverse items, from ancient manuscripts to musical instruments, anatomical drawings to historic maps. Throughout the process Fabienne has also created a series of ‘sub-collections’- these groupings, put together in arbitrary themes such as those images containing a red dot, those featuring a person raising an arm, a triangular shape, a certain shade of blue, create a fascinating set of ‘new’ collections. One of these new collections is the installation you are in. Did you notice?
In addition to more editing and inspired by Kirsty, I am also looking forward to hosting an intern, in conjunction with colleagues in Centre for Research Collections to look at the metadata which describes our images so that the women ( and others) are more easily found!