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!
If you feel the urge, as Donald Trump sometimes does, to grab some pussy, this 3D model of the skull of a Scottish Wildcat (Felis Silvestris) made by Dr. Tobias Schwarz, of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies has been shared as OER on Sketchfab where it can be viewed, grabbed, re-used and re-shared. It’s a cat with big teeth.
You and I both know that phrases like ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ does not go down well with Scottish women, nor with our national Bard, Robert Burns. Even in 1792 he warned that such locker-room banter was old-fashioned. Burns’ poem on ‘The Rights of Women‘ describes three rights we can expect from men: protection , decorum and admiration. On decorum I am confident he would have stood with most men and scolded Trump bigly.
‘There was, indeed, in far less polish’d days, A time, when rough, rude men had naughty ways, Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot, Nay even thus invade a Lady’s quiet.
Now, thank our stars! those Gothic times are fled; Now, well-bred men-and you are all well-bred- Most justly think (and we are much the gainers) Such conduct neither spirit, wit, nor manners.’
On protection of our rights, one week in to the Trump presidency, I’m not filled with confidence. The pictures from the White House of Trump’s all-male advisors gleefully signing executive orders is chilling.
‘While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things, The fate of Empires and the fall of Kings; While quacks of State must each produce his plan, And even children lisp the Rights of Man; Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, The Rights of Woman merit some attention.’
At our Burns Night supper this week I was grateful to be reminded by Sian that it was Hilary Clinton who coined the phrase “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights,” . That was more than 20 years ago (1995) at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing.
“What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well. That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family, and every nation on this planet does have a stake in the discussion that takes place here.”
If only that had been more important than how she managed her emails. This episode of ‘This American Life‘ Act 1: ‘Server be Served’ describes how Secretary Clinton was scupperd by her own IT support.
The interviews “depict less a sinister and carefully calculated effort to avoid transparency than a busy and uninterested executive who shows little comfort with even the basics of technology, working with a small, harried inner circle of aides”.
( Act 2: ‘Knowing what we Know’, a dramatised conversation between Hillary and Huma is excellent too)
Last week, as part of our PlayFair Steps equality and diversity intiative in ISG, we invited Dr Rowena Arshad to talk to ISG staff about ‘Race Matters at Work’. The presentation was excellent and thought provoking. Attendance was low though, in comparison to an earlier talk in the same series about age. I wonder whether colleagues hear ‘age’ and think ‘that’s me‘, they hear ‘race’ and they think ‘that’s someone else‘.
Rowena’s presentation helped us to ask ourselves questions about how we see people as ‘other’, and provided valuable insights into real, recent examples at University of Edinburgh.
As well as being one of the ISG change themes through which we are looking at our organisation and changing it to be fit for the future, equality and diversity is part of a larger consideration of digital transformation going on in the university, being championed by our CIO.
Our CIO challenges us to think about the ‘internet of me’, where each of us is at the centre of a web of services tailored to what the internet knows about us and what it anticipates our wants and desires to be as a result. Examples given of Uber, Airbnb etc certainly seem to make life easier for some.
I’d suggest that we cannot think about digital transformation without considering privilege and bias. For some people, their experience of the internet is not as positive as it may seem to be for white, wealthy, north american or british men. For some it is toxic, biased and perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes. It is up to us as tech professionals to consider all our users and ensure that we create an internet for all. It is up to us not only to consider our unconscious bias but also to check and recheck that the services we build are inclusive.
The best way we can do that it to have diverse teams working on every project and provide safe working environments for colleagues to share their experiences which can inform our thinking. The risk if we don’t is that the more our services become personalised, the less we are able to empathise with the experience of others.
ISG is an organisation with a diverse workforce. As the first in our ‘PlayFair Steps‘ equality initiative seminars we invited Wendy Loretto, Deputy Dean and Professor of Organisational Behaviour at University of Edinburgh Business School to talk to ISG staff about ‘Understanding age in the workplace’. Wendy’s main research field is age and employment, with a particular focus on changes in employees’ and employers’ attitudes and practices in extending working lives. She gave us an overview of the issues, challenges and opportunities and brought critical insight to this topic questioning some of the rhetoric and assumptions that underpin much of the policy and mainstream management discourses. The session prompted group discussions amongst ISG colleagues and suggestions for real changes to move us towards working inclusively.
Information Services has more than 600 staff. Earlier this year more than 300 of them replied to a gender equality survey. The results of this survey are providing a starting place for the IS senior management to promote equality in the workplace and implement proactive plans for change. We are recruiting an intern to help us. This internship coincides with an exciting time for Information Services as we make plans to move to a new building and find new ways of working.
Opportunity and strategic alignment
Following our gender equality survey, within the context of the University’s commitment to Athena Swan, and in line with a broader approach to change management in IS, we have an opportunity now to make some innovative moves to address equality and diversity issues for our staff.
One of the key messages arising from our staff survey was that ‘equality involves everyone’. This indicates that our success will depend on ensuring that our plans target all groups and include a range of positive actions, in addition to those specifically designed for women.
Alongside the work we must do in HR and with directors and managers around policies and process, we will establish an innovative programme of staff workplace activities * and L&D opportunities focused on a general concept of ‘fair play’ called ‘The PlayFair Steps’**.
To begin making our planned equality action areas into a SMART plan for 3 years.
To recruit (using CIO innovation funds) a Phd intern to work with us for the first year to monitor progress against targets in these change areas.
To establish a staff group to lead, shape and bring new ideas.
Proposed Equality Actions Areas for next 3years
Deliver a communications plan to advertise, update and raise awareness of relevant university HR policies where they exist.
Deliver a communications plan of concerted positive comms around ADR, L&D, mentoring, professional networks for career development.
Dispel myths of inequality of access to opportunity by making visible stats which reflect the real uptake of staff development, training, conference attendance and rewards and recognition payments across ISG.
Offer staff development sessions on ‘how to get promoted’.
Review how ‘good citizen’ activities contribute to promotion criteria, reward and recognition.
Do follow up surveys (from the University) on race, faith and disability.
Ensure fair and transparent recruitment, promotion and policy-making processes.
Ensure everyone involved in recruitment (JD, panels etc) has been on diversity and bias training. Showcase and share examples of JDs with gender-neutral language and positive action.
More visible positive action to recruit to under-represented groups/areas including use of social media to advertise opportunities using appropriate hashtags and fora. e.g #womenintech.
Work –life balance
Enhancement of family-friendly policies and improved communication of these.
Ensure colleagues have an equal chance of a healthy work-life balance by not holding meetings outside core hours.
Encourage work/social activities which are family friendly.
Ensure colleagues have an equal chance of a healthy work-life balance by reducing management email sent outside core hours except re tier1 service incidents.
Designate a separate (bookable) quiet room with a nice view for prayer, meditation, escape from sensory overload, breastfeeding and expressing.
Supporting gender equality more broadly
Offer visible equality role models of both genders by ensuring that invited speakers, presentations, vendor presentations reflect a gender mix.
Offer visible equality role models of both genders by working with conference organisers to reduce the number of single sex panels at conferences or events.
Ensure that we have diversity in our decision-making groups.
Provide opportunities for career development and networking through visible support/involvement/hosting of organisation events e.g Ada Lovelace Day.
Offer visible equality role models by naming computer systems, servers, rooms etc after relevant famous women.
Display more art by diverse (and women) artists.
Ensure that systems which hold personal data offer a choice of gender neutral honorifics e.g Mx
Build systems and applications which pass the Bechdel test for software.
Promote to staff and students digital initiatives for gender equality in tech areas e.g coding and gaming.
Engage with research in emerging areas around gender and the internet to inform the development of services to support staff and students’ safety online
* Similar to our ‘healthy working lives’ initiatives.
** As well as including the word ‘fair’ and ‘play’, the Playfair Steps are a well-known set of steps in Edinburgh which take you easily from the old (town) to the new (town) . Additionally, the engineer William Playfair invented infographics- bar charts and pie charts -and much of our gender equality business is done using these.