The BIO Equality & Diversity Committee (BIO-E&D) has built an accurate picture of the teaching, research, enterprise, engagement and administrative activities of students and staff within the School of Biological Sciences. This has been achieved by: (i) a regime of comprehensive and recurrent data collection at the School, UEA and national levels, (ii) targeted surveys within the School and UEA, and (iii) targeted focus group meetings within the School.
These data are reviewed regularly by BIO-E&D, and reported to the School Executive Committee. BIO-E&D’s role is to develop and implement our Action Plan to increase transparency and equality of opportunity within the School. In addition, all data and our Action Plan are presented formally each year to the School Board.
Our main current priorities, together with changes we have introduced, are summarised below.
1. Raising awareness
- A ‘Did You Know' slideshow was generated in collaboration with the Human Resources Department and the Equality and Diversity Office. It is regularly projected in the BIO Atrium café to raise awareness of possibilities and facilities available around the campus.
- Banners promoting our Athena SWAN initiatives have been developed and are displayed within the BIO Atrium café to raise awareness of Athena SWAN to students, staff and to members of the public visiting during open days, visit days and exhibitions.
- Our dedicated Athena SWAN website for the School of Biological Sciences (BIO) has been created to provide relevant information to students, staff as well as external stakeholders.
- Athena SWAN information is included in the induction materials provided to new staff.
- We regularly survey the views of our staff. This information is used by BIO-E&D to understand the local issues we face, to feed into the development of our Action Plan.
- Athena SWAN and Equality and Diversity information added to the BIO Student Info Zone.
- All UEA staff, regardless of role, are now mandated to undergo e-learning ‘Diversity in the Workplace' training.
- ‘Women in BIO’ posters developed to promote female role models in the School.
- Equality and Diversity topics are tweeted from @biouea and flagged with the hashtags #AthenaSWAN, #equality etc.
2. Supporting staff at key career transition points
- Mentoring is offered to all within the School, and includes advice for the preparation of CVs, job applications, interviews, scientific presentations as well as more targeted careers advice when needed. Opportunities for mentorship external to the school are also available.
- Structured support for preparing and submitting research funding applications is provided through internal review panels.
- On-site career development courses for staff are provided by the Centre for Staff and Educational Development, including over 200 courses where staff can gain new or develop existing skills and learn best practice, regulations and pedagogy. Staff also have the opportunity to attend off-site training courses for enhancing workplace skills and employability; central training funding can be applied to for assistance with attendance costs.
- From 2014, a pilot ‘Sprint' programme for female PhD students, developed from ‘Springboard' has been offered. It is intended that Sprint will now be rolled out more widely across the UEA.
- The effectiveness of appraisals has been highlighted as an area for improvement in staff surveys. BIO-E&D will be helping to action the initiatives resulting from the SCI Faculty Appraisal working group.
3. Supporting transparency in promotion
- In response to focus group and survey feedback the School has developed promotion benchmarking information, based on anonymised case studies of School faculty. The aim is to increase transparency, and promote timely applications: "to allow folk in BIO to gain an approximate 'feel' for what is required. It should therefore encourage overdue promotions and discourage overly optimistic ones ..." (Professor Tracey Chapman).
4. Promoting networking opportunities
- The BIO Atrium café, located on the ground floor of the School, provides a relaxing environment for socialising and coffee-time, informal mentoring. The Atrium hosts many social events such as ‘Birthday Cake' and ‘Paper Accepted Cake' celebrations held by many research groups within the School, as well as the TGI Friday after work social event.
- The BIO Contract Research Staff forum meets regularly to address specific research staff issues and provide updates to members on opportunities and changes occurring within the School. The forum is led by a post-doctoral Research Associate and is supported by academic lead Dr Simon Butler.
- An Enterprise and Engagement club has been created to inspire students and staff to pursue opportunities in science communication and entrepreneurship. Staff and students have the opportunity to attend seminars and network with external guest speakers.
- Staff and students have the opportunity to network at ResNet events (a contact and information network promoting gender equality and fairness across UEA and the Norwich research Park). Many BIO staff and students contribute: Professor Kay Yeoman talked in June 2015: ‘Everything you wanted to know about promotions but were afraid to ask’, and Professor Tracey Chapman in May 2014: ‘Women in Science – Progress to Gender Equality’.
- Staff, PDRAs and post-graduate research students supervise our undergraduate student iGEM synthetic biology teams. We encourage participation in order that the iGEM teams reflect the diversity of the student body. The iGEM competition offers opportunities to network with businesses and other student teams.
5. Supporting Flexible Working
- The School arranges research seminars and meetings flexibly at times to maximise participation for all staff.
- A focus group on flexible working in 2013 led to an analysis of BIO’s absence database for gendered use of home-working by academics.
- BIO-E&D are working on a care leave planning template to help staff in planning their work cover during leave and handing back work on return. BIO supports returning staff by offering a gradual increase in hours, flexibility in start and end times and reduced workload.
- The school works in close partnership with the Human Resources department to provide support for flexible working.
- BIO-E&D led the campaign to establish the SCI Return to Work Career Development Fund: to support career development and transition back to work following a significant period of absence; all staff employed directly by the SCI faculty are eligible to apply, contact Siobhan Dorai-Raj (firstname.lastname@example.org; SCI Athena SWAN Project Coordinator) for further information or to apply.
6. Supporting Families
- The highly regarded UEA Nursery is available to staff and students. Dedicated drop off and pickup parking places are available.
- The UEA has a dedicated family room in the basement of the Elizabeth Fry Building. It is fully equipped for nursing mothers and has changing facilities.