I am a Reader in the Department, and am currently Chair of the Biology Equality and Diversity Committee. I see our main role as improving the workplace for everyone in the Department. We have already made many positive changes resulting in our Bronze Award in 2015, and continue monitoring areas of imbalance and seeking ways to alleviate these. As a part-time staff member with heavy caring responsibilities outside of work, I am particularly aware of the struggles faced by working mothers.
The Athena Swan program has been brilliant for the School of Biology at St Andrews. In a very short period of time, through engaging with the Athena Swan initiative, we have completely changed the culture in our department. The experience was extremely rewarding, as it felt like we were pushing against an open door. All of our colleagues want a fair and just, family friendly workplace, where individuals can interweave their work and personal circumstances flexibly. We continue to strive for improvements, but it is great to be in an environment that you feel is supportive.
Professor of Biology and father
Since taking over as Head of School in June 2014, we have made good progress in the Athena Swan process, appointing an Equality & Diversity Officer to monitor data annually, modifying our recruitment material,
revising our return to work procedure and support for those taking maternity leave, revamping our mentorship processes and developing a fresh approach to promotion that should ameliorate any inherent inequalities. One of my first acts as Head of School was to introduce a more comprehensive workload model that allows workload balancing across research, teaching and service. We interrogated this model and found no inherent gender, age or other biases introduced inadvertently by School policies. Nonetheless, having also worked on a series of short-term contracts in the past, I am particularly aware of the difficulties faced by early career postdoctoral fellows and academics in the UK, where work, family and job insecurity can create a stressful environment. This is reflected in the “leaky pipeline”, where there is a clear loss of talented female researchers at the key transition between postdoctoral researcher and first independent academic position, and again before promotion to Professor. These key transitions are a major focus of my work as Head of School, together with the School Management Group and the Biology Equality & Diversity committee.
Head of School and father of two
A main theme of my research is quantifying diversity, and it gives me great pleasure to able to put that into practice as Equality and Diversity Officer for the school of Biology. My role is to quantify and report equality and diversity issues among staff and students within the school, so that we can use this information to identify what needs to be improved and how it can be improved. I feel the BE&D committee is making great progress in creating an inclusive culture that values difference and fairness.