‘The role of the tempered radicals: experiences of making changes in our organisation‘.
‘Tempered radicals’ are individuals who are committed to and identify with the organisations in which they work and yet are also committed to a cause or ideology which is fundamentally at odds with with the dominant culture in that workplace. Debra Meyerson has written about how these change agents make tactical decisions to effect change without making trouble. If you think you too may be a tempered radical this is the session for you.
We have been working for four years in University of Edinburgh Information Services Group to build an intersectional diverse, adaptive, family-friendly and socially responsible workplace not through revolution or protest but by balancing a delicate set of incremental equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives which provoke thought, nuance and behaviour change.
In our presentation we will share our experience of being ‘tempered radicals’ working toward transformational change in an organisation with historical structural inequalities while still being minority ethnic women and feminists in IT with successful careers. In this workshop you will be encouraged to think about how your own radical agendas have been tempered by your experiences of your workplace and how this tempering can be used to make you stronger and more successful as agents of change in the organization you care about.
We will share stories, evidence and data to describe the impact this work can have.
This is the second time I’ve been on strike across International Women’s Day. The UCU strike action two years ago was at the same time of year.
That year, while we were on strike we were also hit by the ‘Beast from the East’ -unprecedented snow. This year we are hit by Coronovirus and the University is hurriedly making preparations ( but not reparations obv.).
The snow and the virus are acts of G_D and can be seen as business continuity incidents. The impact of both can be mitigated by use of learning technology.
If you are wondering why your university is slow to publish guidance on using tech for remote teaching and working from home. It may be because some of the professional expert teams are on strike.
The strike is not about short term things, it is about long term things and these are things worth recognising on IWD. The lack of equality at the University of Edinburgh is real. The pay gaps are real: gender (16.7%) and race (7.9%).
It is frustrating to not be able to come into work but we have gone for some digital celebrations, most of which do not require anyone to cross any picket lines.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March 2020, events and activities are taking place across Information Services Group to celebrate women and their contributions to the University and beyond.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, a new training room at JCMB is being named after computer scientist and educator, Xia Peisu.
Xia Peisu (夏培肃) (1923 – 2014) has been hailed “the mother of computer science in China.” After graduating from The University of Edinburgh with a PhD in electrical engineering in 1950, she returned to China where she was recruited by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Xia eventually became a founding professor of the Academy’s Institute of Computing Technology and led the development of Model 107, China’s first locally designed general-purpose computer.
Throughout her long career, Xia made numerous contributions to the advancement of high-speed computers in China and helped establish both the Chinese Journal of Computers and the Journal of Computer Science and Technology. A devoted educator, she taught China’s first course in computer theory and mentored numerous students. In 2010, the China Computer Federation honoured Xia with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her pioneering work in China’s computer industry.
LinkedIn Learning playlist
The Digital Skills and Training team have compiled a LinkedIn Learning collection of International Women’s Day themed videos and courses. The collection includes videos in a wide range of topics, presented by women who are experts in their field, and will be available from Monday 24th February. To access this playlist, make sure you are logged in to LinkedIn Learning with your University account, and choose My Learning > From Your Organization > International Women’s Day 2020. Alternatively, you can view the collection at https://edin.ac/37Nhs1N.
The Main Library’s Digital Wall is showcasing images and videos of women who are shaping the University and those who have had a significant impact in their field. These range from content from our historic collections including L&UC digital images collections and videos have been curated from the Media Hopper media asset collection.
Visit the Main Library to see the Digital Wall, which will be live until the end of March 2020 as part of Women’s History Month.
Data-Driven Innovation – Women in Data campaign
The Data-Driven Innovation Women in Data campaign aims to showcase the rich landscape of women working with data science, technology and innovation across a diverse range of industries, fields and sectors in the City Region. From students to government ministers, chief executives to lab technicians, the campaign captures their achievements, careers and hopes for the future in our 60+ eclectic interviews.
Women in Data aims to show women and girls that others ‘just like them’ are thriving in these areas, including from atypical and ‘non-scientific’ backgrounds. The campaign sheds light on their stories and talents, and supports long-term, critical conversations about the ongoing journey to gender equality.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First of all I’m reading ‘Discover’ magazine from National Library of Scotland. In it there’s an article about Edith Simon. I remember Edith Simon. I look her up in Wikipedia. She has a mere stub of a page. I’m thinking it needs some development and presumably the nice ‘open images ‘ policy at NLS will free up some lovely artwork to include.
Then I ask my excellent mother: ‘How do I know Edith Simon?‘
‘ She was fabulous, Jewish, and she made beautiful paper-cut portraits of your child-hood friends, when they were young, before they died of CF ‘ is the reply.
Her obit says:
‘The qualities of intense discipline, exuberant delight in the world of flesh and objects, and sheer graphic ability involved in these productions are rare enough individually. She had them all, together with considerable intellectual power, literary gifts, charm and a mordant wit. She was striking in appearance, trenchant in her views and generous to the young and those in need. ‘
I can’t add that picture to the wikipedia page because the licence belongs to her daughter Antonia Reeve, but I’m still hoping the NLS will liberate some great images for this fabulous woman.
Feel free to join on in and add or edit for Edith.
In her lecture she quoted Aaron Swartz “It’s not ok not to understand the Internet anymore.”*
I talked about Creative Commons.
Creative Commons has changed the way the Internet works in higher education.
Therefore, it is not ok not to understand Creative Commons anymore.
As it happens, the day before , on April 22, I saw Baroness Oona King of Bow speak. Baroness Lane Fox name-checked Ada Lovelace, who was of course, Countess King in her own day, but I think that is just co-incidence.
*She also said “get more women involved in technology.”
This year at work, in my new role and new division I am involved in a new set of gender equality initiatives. I am the only female Director in Information Services, I am a mentor within the department and an Aurora role model for the Leadership Foundation. Information Services is exploring approaches to using an Athena Swan-like framework to improve the working environment for all and my teams are working hard to figure out how we can usefully make it a success.
In the last few weeks we have carried out a staff survey in my division to gather feedback from colleagues. I am very pleased to say that despite having gone through a number of restructuring experiences and quite a bit of change, the majority of LTW staff say they are are satisfied with their jobs; receive appropriate praise and recognition; are treated with equality and respect and understand their role within the organisation.
In my new role I have been at pains to ensure that I do not send email to my staff outside of working hours. This is a deliberate attempt to send a signal that balancing work with family or home commitments is expected and ok. When I travel I keep my wrist watch tuned to UK time to help me remember what time it is at home and to ensure that the experience of working for, or with, me is one based on mutual respect. I admit I have lapsed occasionally, mostly by mistake because the email conversation is interesting, so I apologise to my team leaders for that.
I feel like I am continuing to do my bit to ‘Make it Happen’. Do you?