LGBT+ intersectionality with race and disability

Guest blog by Debi Linton (Student Recruitment and Outreach) and Allán Laville (School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science).

Earlier this year, on 26 April, four members of the University’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group, Yasmin Ahmed (the Diversity and Inclusion Advisor in HR),  David Ashmore (from Procurement), Al Laville (from SPCLS and Co-Chair of the LGBT+ staff and PhD network),  and Debi Linton  (from Student Recruitment and Outreach), attended the Stonewall Workplace Conference 2019, Europe’s leading conference on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) inclusion in the workplace that takes place annually in London.

This is one of several blogs (see also here and here) reflecting on the sessions that this group attended and the discussions had at this meeting. This particular blog focuses on learning from the session at the conference on workplaces that are inclusive of LGBT people who are also Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME), and the session on understanding the experiences of LGBT disabled people.

Creating workplaces that are inclusive of BAME LGBT people

The Stonewall Work Report 2018 (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-work-report) gives clear examples of how being BAME LGBT is different from being white LGBT. For example, 1 in 8 BAME LGBT employees have lost their job in the last year because of being LGBT, compared to 1 in 25 of white LGBT staff. One potential reason for this difference could be the barriers that BAME LGBT people face in being able to perform to the best of their ability at work. In the BAME LGBT workshop [that was part of the Stonewall workplace Conference], it was shared that one reason could be lack of wider support and that 1 in 2 BAME LGBT individuals do not feel part of the wider LGBT community. This in turn could affect wellbeing and the ability to perform well at work. Other points were the role of unconscious bias and racial harassment. In relation to combating this at Reading, unconscious bias training is delivered as part of recruitment training and via online modules, and the University has clear policies and reporting processes around harassment and bullying.

In relation to improving practice, it was stated that it is important for BAME LGBT individuals to feel able to contribute in meetings, be praised for work ethic, and to have visible role models. It can be argued that these points apply across Diversity and Inclusion and protected characteristics (Equality Act, 2010). Exploring this further, the first two points strongly rely on the dynamic within meetings, those you work with and the approach taken by the line manager. These points should be consciously considered by leaders/managers to make all staff feel able to contribute in meetings and to acknowledge work that has been completed well.

In relation to visible role models, Stonewall run a BAME LGBTQ role-model programme, which is free to attend. The next programme is in Manchester on the 29th August 2019 (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/get-involved/get-involved-individuals-communities/bamepoc-lgbtq-role-models-programmes). In the videos provided on this webpage, the speakers discuss the benefits of sharing experiences with others to realise that you are not alone in the difficulties faced. At Reading, we promote role models through the ‘Faces of Reading’ project. This project shows the diversity of our staff by considering LGBT+, disability, parental or family leave etc. If you would like to put yourself forward for this project, please contact diversity@reading.ac.uk.

A final area of good practice was cross-network discussions to target as many considerations for BAME LGBT people as possible. At Reading, we have both a Cultural Diversity Staff Group and the LGBT+ Staff Network (https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity/diversity-networks.aspx), and are looking at setting up cross-network discussions and events. If you have any ideas for how we could approach this, please contact Al Laville at a.laville@reading.ac.uk.

 

Experiences of LGBT+ disabled people

Disabled LGBT+ also reported feeling excluded from the wider LGBT+ community. Part of this is the accessibility of the community itself; meetings in inaccessible places and a lack of support for the individual needs create barriers that prevent any interaction with the rest of the community. As a specific example, much NHS literature on the transition process is presented in ways that is inaccessible to blind people.

It also emerged that, because of the effects disability has on quality of life, sometimes disabled people can come out to themselves or their family later in life, as their disabled identity takes precedence. The effects of inaccessibility can often be more impactful and more stressful than any lack of LGBT+ inclusion, though of course they can exacerbate each other. LGBT+ people are more likely than others to lack any familial support outside the workplace, and this can have a massive impact for disabled people.

However, there are many ways in which the LGBT+ and disabled communities can work together. As with the Cultural Diversity Staff Group, we also have a Staff Disability Network, which is open to both disabled and non-disabled staff. At the Workplace Conference, we were reminded of the Social Model of Disability: the idea that “disability” isn’t a thing a person has, but rather, they are “disabled” by society’s lack of accessibility. This was brought up as a comparison to diverse LGBT+ identities, who are often brought together by a shared experience of oppression, despite varied experiences across the spectrum (touched on in an earlier blog).

When thinking about best practice, it is important to recognise that accessible work practices benefit all of us: many people undergo periods of being temporarily disabled, through acute injuries, or become disabled during adulthood, so having practices and infrastructure in place can save stress and harm later on. We are required by law to make reasonable adjustments (https://www.gov.uk/reasonable-adjustments-for-disabled-workers) and if there are any needs required for specific disabled employees that aren’t covered, Access to Work (https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work) can fund any additional requirements.

 

LGBT+ Inclusion in the University’s Supply Chain

Guest post by David Ashmore, Procurement

As many of you will be aware, the University’s procurement department‘s job is to get the right products and services at the right price at the right time. A less well publicised area of focus for us is our work to ensure that those goods and services we procure are bought in line with the University’s ethics, one aspect of which is the aim to support diversity and inclusion.

Why Should it Matter to Procurement?

As a public sector organisation, the majority of the money we spend comes from… well… the public. Hand in hand with this public funding comes the responsibility to ensure that the choices we make are supportive of the interests of those who we represent.

As a major employer and consumer in the local economy, the University is in a great position to be able to influence those around us, and by demonstrating role-model behaviour, we can help to drive change in areas which might not be within reach (or perhaps even aware) of organisations such as Stonewall.

Another reason to promote diversity and inclusion in our supply chain is to ensure that we support our students by providing an inclusive environment where they feel safe and respected. We expect our suppliers to uphold the same principles (especially important where those suppliers work on campus and have roles which bring them into contact with our students) which helps to keep the University’s campuses a place where discrimination, of any form, is unwelcome.

Asking the Right Questions

Over the last few years, in partnership with Stonewall, the University’s procurement team have been working to change our working practices, policies and procedures to promote inclusion in the supply chain and have made some great progress:

We have built up a suite of specifications and questions which we can include in our tendering documentation. Here are a couple of examples of statements and questions which give an idea of how we go about this. We often try to tailor the questions to the specific goods or services being procured.

  • Statement – The UoR expects its key suppliers to have a diversity policy equal or superior to its own. Our policies can be found at https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity. As part of our commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, the UoR proactively monitors the Diversity and Inclusion of its supply chain. As a more significant supplier to the UoR, we would hope that the successful bidder would be willing to take part in our monitoring programme which would include periodic questionnaires and round-table meetings with other suppliers to the UoR.
  • Question – Has your company had any employment tribunal claims brought against it in the past 3 years relating to gender, race, religion or belief, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender reassignment? [No=5 marks; Yes=0] If you answered “yes” to this question, please provide details and the action plan(s) your organisation has put in place to prevent recurrence. [recoup 5 Marks]

Monitoring Our Partners and Suppliers

It is all well and good to be asking all the right questions when it comes to tendering, but it’s no good if we don’t keep an eye on our suppliers once we are working with them, and LGBT+ considerations are no exception. Procurement meet with our key suppliers on a regular basis and one standing item on the order of business is what that supplier is doing in the area of diversity and inclusion. This is always an interesting topic, as the work our partners carry out varies from sector to sector.

Sharing Best Practice and Influencing

The University made a great leap forward this year and made it into Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers, and a portion of the scoring comes from our procurement evaluation. Last year we scored 7 out of a total of 17 marks available. The average for a Top 100 Employer is 10, but the average for the HE sector is only 4.5! So, what this tells us is that, whilst we are doing well when compared to our peers, we still have some way to go!

It is for exactly this reason that we have started work on an information sharing network. We are hoping that through this network, we will not only be able to learn from organisations who are further along than us, but also to pass on what we have learned to others who are just setting out on their own journey.

One area which we are hoping to embark on shortly is to foster links between the University’s own LGBT+ staff network with those from our suppliers. We have started to get in touch with all the suppliers who have expressed an interest in working more closely on diversity initiatives and we are looking forward to making some tentative first steps in the coming weeks!

Recruiting women professors in mathematics: a case study

By Simon Chandler-Wilde (Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Applied Mathematics).

I’m grateful to my colleague Prof Jennifer Scott for commenting on a draft of this post, in particular suggesting that I add in the first bullet point in the list below. I’m grateful also to Dr Eugénie Hunsicker for suggestions for additional reading.

The proportion of mathematics professors in the UK who are women is disgracefully low. An influential report in 2013 for the London Mathematical Society (LMS) reported that 6% of maths professors are female while 42% of students taking undergraduate degrees in mathematics are female. There has been some progress since then, but the pace of change is slow. This is a huge waste of talent for the mathematics community – we’re essentially recruiting our mathematics professors from only half the potential pool – and we have too few female role models to provide inspiration, encouragement and advice to our female undergraduates and PhD students coming through.

This is a case study of recruiting to a chair in mathematics. It is a case study in obtaining the best international field of candidates so as to make the strongest possible appointment, of whatever gender. It is also a case study of working to maximise the possibility of appointing a female professor, as a small, local step towards redressing the gender-balance in mathematics at professorial level, nationally and in our own department. It is a case study of simple actions that attracted a superb field of candidates (male and female) in a gender-balanced shortlist, and led (through selecting from the shortlist the best person for the job) to a new female professor in the department.

This recruitment arose following the resignation of Prof Beatrice Pelloni, who left in 2016 to become Head of the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, following a career at Reading in which she was promoted from her first academic post as Lecturer to become Professor and Head of Department (in a job-share), and then became the first Director, jointly with Prof Dan Crisan at Imperial, of the Mathematics of Planet Earth Centre for Doctoral Training, a large EPSRC-funded centre joint between Reading and ICL. This joint CDT leadership, of Beatrice and Dan, sent a superb signal of gender equality and provided gender-balanced role models to the PhD students coming to our new CDT (and as at October last year we had 34% female PhD students in the CDT compared to the national average of 28.6% across mathematical sciences).

We advertised in 2016 for the role of Professor of Mathematics and Director at Reading of the Mathematics of Planet Earth Centre for Doctoral Training with the aim of recruiting the best possible candidate from the strongest field of candidates, but seeking as we did this to maximise the possibility of appointing a new female professor, maintaining gender equality in our leadership of the CDT. This recruitment led ultimately to the appointment of Prof Jennifer Scott, who at the time of her appointment held the position of Leader of the highly successful and respected Numerical Analysis Group at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, based near Didcot. Jennifer also held (and continues to hold) the prestigious position of STFC Individual Merit Research Fellow.

Here are the simple steps that we took in our recruitment. These are mostly best recruitment practice that one would wish to follow in any recruitment process to ensure the strongest possible field of candidates, but with a slant to them that led to a gender-balanced shortlist, and ultimately to the appointment of Prof Scott.

  • Write an advert, job description, and further particulars that seek to attract a wide and diverse pool of applicants. Concretely in this recruitment this included a number of elements normal in our recruitment to all our posts, namely:
  1. We minimised the number of essential criteria to widen the pool who see themselves as qualified (Jennifer asked me to emphasise this!), and where we had a criterion around subject area (some connection to mathematics of planet earth) we made clear that this was interpreted broadly.
  2. We included as an essential criterion “commitment to diversity and equality”. This is really important for running a CDT, and its inclusion helps to attract a more diverse field: under-represented minorities in mathematics are disproportionately represented in diversity and equality work.  The successful candidate’s evidence for this included many years’ work in the LMS Women in Mathematics Committee.
  3. We signalled our commitment to gender equality in the job description by flagging the Silver Athena SWAN Award that we held (and continue to hold) as part of the larger School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences.
  4. In the further particulars, building on the University’s standard “[commitment] to having a diverse and inclusive workforce” and “welcome [for] applications for job-share, part-time and flexible working arrangements”, expressed in every job advert, we made clear that this was a reality on the ground, including links to our local flexible working and parental leave webpages which give examples of men and women at all levels working flexibly in our department and the wider school.
  • Appoint a diverse search committee (in particular with gender diversity). Our search committee comprised 10 staff (at Professor and Associate Professor level) of diverse nationalities (7 different countries), and included two female maths professors, an external (Dan Crisan from Imperial), and representation from a range of relevant subject areas including from our meteorology department. The female representation on the committee was critical to achieving gender balance on our shortlist through the better connection of these female professors into networks of women mathematicians. In particular one of the female professors suggested we approach Prof Scott who we finally appointed.
  • Be explicit in communications to your search committee, and to your wider department, e.g. through communication up front from the search committee chair, that you want in your search to attract a diverse field of candidates. This was done, and as part of this we flagged that we “would be pleased if we came up with names of potential female candidates” and that “it is an undoubted strength of the current [CDT] leadership that the directorate is mixed male/female”. These explicit communications undoubtedly led to more names of prospective female candidates being suggested.
  • Invite suggestions for candidates from across the search committee, and the wider department, and do some brain storming with the search committee, with reminders about seeking a diverse applicant pool as you do this. Great suggestions for possible candidates came in from across the department, e.g. Sarah Dance (then Associate Professor, now Professor), suggested (male and female names) for conversations that led to strong applications.
  • Sound out a wide range of possible candidates across the UK and internationally by email, suggesting that you follow-up with phone calls/skype if they might be interested. And speak on the phone to senior colleagues internationally seeking suggestions for possible candidates (and raising diversity of the candidate field as you do this). We spoke to very many potential male and female applicants, in the UK and internationally, discussing the role, and encouraging possible applications, leading very naturally to a diverse (in particular 50/50 gender-balanced) shortlist. In many cases, following an initial conversation with the search committee chair (or another member of the search committee), there were follow-up conversations, including confidential conversations with other senior colleagues (not least the other CDT Director Dan Crisan). It may be that female candidates are less likely to apply without a personal approach, but in fact all of our shortlist were candidates that we had approached and then spoken to (in multiple conversations) encouraging applications. And indeed the person finally appointed had no idea that she wished to move jobs to a university and become a professor before we picked up the phone!
  • Have a diverse group do the shortlisting (including mix of genders). A slightly smaller group carried out the shortlisting, including some formal elements (e.g. the Dean of the Graduate School, Dianne Berry, as the agreed interview panel chair, signed off on the final selection).

The above reads very like standard (good) practice for recruitment. I think it is, with a diversity flavour, and I commend all the above as good practice in any maths professor recruitment; indeed, with some tweaks, as good practice across all academic recruitment, particularly at senior levels.

Let me mention for completeness other features of the final selection process. As is standard in our department the Head of Department organised presentations by the candidates open to the whole department, plus informal meetings of the candidates with a number of small groups of particularly relevant prospective colleagues, and a feedback meeting (open to the whole department) in advance of the interviews, this part of the transparency of the process throughout. The final selection was done by the interview panel, which again had a mix of genders and included Dan as external.

Much other advice on addressing the under-representation of women in mathematics has been published by the impressive Women in Mathematics Committee of the London Mathematical Society that won the inaugural Royal Society Athena Prize in 2016. In particular the 2013 report “Advancing Women in Mathematics: Good Practice in UK Mathematics Departments” has recommendations and examples of good practice on recruitment of academic staff (see section 4.4 of the report) that significantly overlap with the above list, as did the discussion at the LMS Good Practice Scheme Meeting in October 2016, see these slides.

There are surely other things that we might usefully do, more imaginative ways that we might rethink recruitment. Here is one blog (thank you Eugénie!that provides very much food for thought and much additional reading.

Isn’t “LGBT+” enough? Why do we need to discuss each letter separately as well?

Guest blog by Debi Linton (Student Recruitment and Outreach) and Allán Laville (School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science).

Earlier this year, on 26 April, four members of the University’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group, Yasmin Ahmed (the Diversity and Inclusion Advisor in HR),  David Ashmore (from Procurement), Al Laville (from SPCLS and Co-Chair of the LGBT+ staff and PhD network),  and Debi Linton  (from Student Recruitment and Outreach), attended the Stonewall Workplace Conference 2019, Europe’s leading conference on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) inclusion in the workplace that takes place annually in London.

This is the first of several blogs reflecting on the sessions that this group attended and the discussions had at this meeting. This particular blog focuses on supporting inclusion for employees representing particular letters of the LGBT+ community.

The LGBT+ “umbrella” exists because many people of diverse gender identities and sexualities share similar challenges and experiences of discrimination, and the community has historically faced these difficulties together. However, every identity within the community also faces their own specific challenges, and especially gender identity and sexual identity are different parts of a person’s identity: your gender identity is not necessarily linked to who you find attractive.

Some key identities within the LGBT+ community include: lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and asexual, but not everyone within the community identifies fully with any one of these. At the Stonewall Workplace Conference, we attended workshops specifically focusing on inclusion of trans, non-binary and bi employees.

Stopping to enjoy the view on the way to the Stonewall Workplace Conference at the QEII Centre

Trans inclusion

Stonewall’s “LGBT in Britain” (https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-work-report) report in 2018 painted a bleak picture for being trans in the workplace. One third of trans people report having been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues because of being trans, compared to “only” one fifth of LGBT staff as a whole (still an unacceptable figure.) More worryingly, one in eight trans people reported having been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the year preceding the report. 15 percent were also not being addressed by their correct name or pronouns.

These various experiences obviously contribute together to a potentially stressful and hostile working environment for trans people, often exacerbated by stresses and difficulties outside the workplace, such as discrimination from friends and family members and within faith and cultural groups, which might otherwise be relied on to provide support in times of difficulty. Access to healthcare, and sports and physical activities which can help reduce stress in cis people present their own barriers to trans people, and the current hostile media environment is an additional burden on its own. So it’s important for us as colleagues and employers, to help contribute to an inclusive and welcoming environment for our trans colleagues.

The benefits to having an inclusive and friendly workplace are self-evident: if everyone feels comfortable being themselves and can come to work without fear of discrimination and harassment, we can all work more effectively and, as a University, provide a safe and inclusive space for our students as well.

According to the Stonewall report, one in four trans people aren’t “out” at work, so it’s important to recognise that we may currently have colleagues who are trans but haven’t told us yet, and we can help to improve their working experience by creating an inclusive workplace without knowing everyone’s precise gender identity. There can be a perception that trans inclusion doesn’t matter if no one in the office is visibly trans, but without asking everyone we cannot be sure, and it’s always best practice to have working structures in place when new colleagues join.

Non-binary inclusion

Non-binary (often abbreviated to nb, or “enby” to prevent confusion with other uses of the abbreviation) people are those that do not identify as either of the two predominant “binary” genders (male or female). Some nb people identify as trans and some don’t, but they face many of the same challenges trans people face (see above) as well as some that arise specifically from not conforming into two specific genders.

There are many different identities within the non-binary “umbrella,” including people who identify as having more than one gender (e.g. bigender or pangender), no gender (e.g. agender or genderfree) a specific third or other gender, or fluctuating between genders (genderfluid). You don’t need the specific way a person identifies in order to use their correct name or pronouns, but it helps to be aware that not everyone will have the same needs or expectations.

In addition to the challenges faced by trans people in general above, the Stonewall report showed that 31% of nb people didn’t feel comfortable wearing clothes to work that accurately reflected their gender expression (compared to 18% of trans people) and two in five aren’t “out” at work (compared to one in four trans people). There is clearly additional stigma attached to nb identities on top of that associated with being trans.

As a University, we’re working to put in place policies and procedures that are inclusive of all gender identities: for example, there are trans awareness training courses available, and of course there are the pronoun badges many of us now wear. (See an earlier blog https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/diversereading/2019/02/26/pronoun-badges-at-the-university-of-reading/ for more information on these, including why cis people also choose to wear badges.) Additionally, many buildings around Whiteknights and London Road campuses now have gender neutral toilets, which can be identified on the campus maps https://www.reading.ac.uk/about/visit-us.aspx.

For those people who require flexibility in the way they are identified, duplicate employee cards are available to wear over your main campus card, showing the photo and name that most fits your current expression.

As a university community, we can support our trans and nb colleagues by recognising the range of gender identities and expressions within our community. The University and RUSU have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and harassment (#NeverOK: http://student.reading.ac.uk/essentials/_the-important-stuff/values-and-behaviours/never-ok/never-ok-campaign.aspx) and we can support our colleagues by standing up for them, which includes gently correcting when a colleague is misgendered. (For guidance on how to do this, see the University’s online Diversity and Inclusion training session.)

We can also help by normalising the use of gender neutral language. If you’re not sure which pronoun to use, and it’s not appropriate to ask, “they” or “them” is often a safe alternative. When talking to groups of colleagues or students, be aware that terms like “ladies and gentlemen” or “guys” do not always apply, and gender neutral language such as “everyone,” “folks” etc make sure no one is excluded.

Bi

We use the term Bi as opposed to Bisexual here as following Stonewall’s guidance: ‘Bi is an umbrella term used to describe a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bi people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including, but not limited to, bisexual, pan, queer, and other non-monosexual identities’.

According to Stonewall’s work report (link at beginning of article), nearly two in five bi people (38%) aren’t out to anyone at work. A potential reason for this is biphobia. Stonewall, the largest LGBT charity in Europe, states that bi individuals suffer from dual prejudice. This is from within the LGBT community and outside of it. This prejudice can lead to mental health problems and risk taking behaviours. A related concept is that of the ‘bi erasure’, which is when your bi identity is ‘erased’ as others can view your sexual orientation to be one and the same as your current relationship status. For example, if someone who identified as male was in a relationship with another male, often the conclusion is that they are a gay man. These assumptions are dangerous as the individual has not shared their sexual orientation, which could well be bi.

In relation to improving bi visibility and awareness, the University published in 2017 a blog (https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/diversereading/2017/09/22/seeing-the-b-in-lgbt/) on Bi Visibility Day, which is 23rd of September each year. There are various events held across the UK (as well as internationally) to encourage and promote bi visibility. At these events, you will often see the Bi Pride flag which was created by Michael Page in 1998:

The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi). The key to understanding the symbolism in the Bi Pride Flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the ‘real world’ where most bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities.”

 

Therefore, it is very important to have bi awareness training within the workplace. However, according to Stonewall, only 5% of workplaces currently provide this. At the University, we are exploring the possibility of creating and subsequently delivering bi awareness training. If you are interested in contributing to this training, please contact Al Laville (LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair and Stonewall Bi Role Model) at a.laville@reading.ac.uk for an informal conversation.

Beginners guide to…. Christianity

We are a diverse community here at Reading, all focussed on learning, both academically, professionally and about others. This is the first in a series of blogs introducing the key features of different religions.

(Guest post by Beth Rice, studying philosophy and religion at A-level, who wrote this while on work experience at the University of Reading)

Some key aspects of the Christian faith

The main Christian beliefs are that:

  • God created the Universe,
  • God exists in three persons known as the Holy Trinity,
  • There is an Afterlife.

The Creation Stories: There are two Creation Stories found in the beginning of the bible. These are known as Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. In both accounts, God is the creator. God has three main characteristics; he is omnibenevolent (all-loving), omniscient (all- knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful)

The Holy Trinity: The belief in the Holy Trinity is that God exists in three persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father created the Universe and sent Jesus to earth as a sacrifice for human sin where he died on the cross. Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary and Joseph and experienced human suffering and temptation however lived a perfect life. The Holy Spirit however is more complicated. The Holy Spirit lives inside those people that believe in God

Afterlife: Although all Christians believe in an afterlife, there are many different denominations of Christianity (including Protestants and Catholics) and often different groups have different views on life after death and other aspects of the Christian faith or religious practices.

Major  Christian events

Shrove Tuesday: the last day of feasting before Lent (40 days of fasting) is now most commonly know as Pancake Day. Shrove Tuesday for Christians is traditionally a preparation for Lent (see below). It is a way of using up ingredients such as milk, eggs, flour etc.

Ash Wednesday: marks the first day of Lent when some Christians begin to fast and pray in order to replicate Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the desert.

Lent: 46 days before Easter (excluding Sundays) to replicate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. During Lent some denominations of Christianity choose to fast and pray in order to reconcile with God whilst others try to give up items such as chocolate, alcohol smoking etc.

Holy Week: the week before Easter remembering the last of Jesus’s life on Earth. Palm Sunday commemorates the beginning of Holy Week. Often churches hand out crosses made of palm leaves to remember Jesus riding on a donkey when entering Jerusalem. Maundy Thursday marks the Last Supper Jesus had with his Apostles. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.

Easter: Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Christmas: Christmas Day is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Often the Nativity of Jesus is shared in churches during the lead up to Christmas to remember Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem.

Being a Christian at the University

The University, like the rest of the UK, predominantly follows the traditional ‘Christian’ calendar  and thus the main vacations coincide with Christmas and Easter periods.

At the University of Reading there is a close-knit community of Christian students that participate in many social events such as the Bible Study Society https://www.rusu.co.uk/societies/biblestudysociety/ and Christian Union https://www.rusu.co.uk/societies/rucu/.

The Chaplaincy Centre (open from 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday) welcomes students and staff. They are available to contact by email chaplaincy@reading.ac.uk or phone 0118 378 8797 and have a wide range of weekly chaplaincy events for anyone to join. The chaplaincy offers a place for prayer as well as more general support for staff and students of all faiths and none.

 

 

Developing a New Action Plan for Gender Equality and Preparing the University’s Next Athena SWAN Submission

by Simon Chandler-Wilde, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (job share with Ellie Highwood)

One key part of how we work as a University on diversity and inclusion (D&I) is to bring groups of people together to focus on particular protected characteristics and associated equality and D&I issues. These groups are termed “self-assessment teams”, “action plan groups”, or similar. In each case the idea is the same: to identify on the basis of evidence, consultation, and personal experience what we are already doing well, and what needs to change, and then to propose an action plan, and agree the actions proposed with the wider University, not least with those who may need to carry them out.

In the last three years we have set up three such groups. In each case a framework for what the groups think about and do has been provided by existing national self-assessment and action-planning schemes. These are:

  • The Athena SWAN Bronze, Silver, and Gold charter marks relating to advancement of gender equality, run by the Equality Challenge Unit (part of Advance HE)
  • The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, focussed on equality and inclusivity for LGBT+ staff and students
  • The Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Bronze and Silver charter marks

Details of all the above schemes and copies of the action plans produced are on the Charter Marks part of the Diversity and Inclusion website.

We advertised last Autumn for volunteers to join a new Self-Assessment Team to prepare a new action plan for gender equality for the next four years, and to prepare our next University Athena SWAN submission in November, aiming this time for a Silver award. We received many, high quality expressions of interest, and have supplemented these by approaching some other staff and students directly, to ensure a balance of experiences and genders on the final team – the photo shows our team, and below are contact details and brief info for all our team members.

We’re keen to hear from staff across the University regarding issues that they would like us to address in the action plan. Queries, thoughts, and suggestions can be directed to any of the SAT members listed below, or can be sent through to the central D&I email diversity@reading.ac.uk.

We’re particularly keen for staff to volunteer themselves for focus groups we will be running. These are as follows, with more to follow:

  • Focus group on flexible working (formal and informal): contact Rachel Greenwood
  • Focus group on shared parental leave: contact Steve George
  • Focus group with Heads of Schools on how rewarding staff processes are working: contact Deepa Senapathi
  • Focus group with academic staff on how personal titles processes are working: contact Aleardo Zanghellini
  • Focus group with Heads of Functions on how regrading and rewarding staff processes are working: contact Yasmin Ahmed
  • Focus group on inclusivity and university committees: contact Carol McAnally
  • Focus group with secretaries of university committees on selection of membership: contact Nathan Helsby

Since we submitted last in 2016 there have been welcome and important changes to the Athena SWAN scheme. Athena SWAN was previously focussed particularly on under-representation of women in STEMM subjects. It now addresses gender equality across all academic subjects, and across professional and support staff, including equality issues affecting both women and men. It also asks for intersectional issues to be addressed (e.g. why so few black women professors in the UK?), and inclusivity for trans staff and students.

Our SAT team, in alphabetical order – and see above picture – is:

  • Yasmin Ahmed, the Diversity and Inclusion Advisor in HR. Her interests include all things D&I and particularly making the workplace more inclusive and changing cultures.
  • Simon Chandler-Wilde, the SAT Co-Chair, a Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (in a job-share with Ellie Highwood) and a professor of applied maths. His interests include equality around promotions, flexible working, dealing effectively with harassment and bullying
  • Ben Cosh, a maths professor and Head of the School of Mathematical, Physical, and Computational Sciences. His interests include gender equality (and getting more men involved), spreading good practice across the university, supporting staff across the university in their career development and progression
  • Maddi Davies, an Associate Professor in English. Her interests include feminist theory and discourse, and she is keen to bring together personal narratives together with quantitative data to paint a clear picture of what we need to do next on gender equality
  • Steve George, a Research Scientist in NCAS and chair of the University of Reading Research Staff Committee. His interests include the career development of research staff and the intersection of Athena SWAN with our work for the HR Excellence in Research Award.
  • Rachel Greenwood, a Senior Support Officer in RISIS who joined us last year, when looking for a part-time role. Her interests include flexible working and how we ensure that flexible working is encouraged and supported through recruitment processes, plus experiences of working parents.
  • Rebecca Harris, an Associate Professor and the School Director of Teaching and Learning in the Institute of Education, having previously worked in secondary schools for 16 years. Her interests include LGBT inclusion, and, as part of this, working to support inclusion in local schools.
  • Nathan Helsby, Head of Planning and Reporting in the Planning and Support Office. His interests include effective and usable diversity data reporting, e.g. via our Athena SWAN dashboard, and supporting the development of our professional staff.
  • Karen Henderson, the Director of Technical Services. Her interests include supporting the development of our professional staff and addressing the over-representation of women in lower grades, and under-representation at higher grades.
  • Ellie Highwood, the SAT Co-Chair, joint Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and a Professor of Climate Physics. Her interests include the promotion of flexible working, fairness and support around promotion processes, and part-time working.
  • Joanna John, Joint Head of Doctoral Skills Training and Development in the Graduate School. Her interests include: intersections between gender, ethnicity and socio-economics; part-time students; student parents.
  • Carol McAnally, a Business Relationship Manager in the Knowledge Transfer Centre within Research and Enterprise Services, having previously worked for a research council. Her interests include embedding flexible working within the culture, and working on gender equality within professional services.
  • Claire Rolstone, Assistant Director of Human Resources, with a portfolio including HR Operations and Advisory Services. Her interests in Athena Swan focus on staff recruitment processes and how we support our staff.
  • Patricia Riddell, a Professor of Applied Neuroscience and the diversity and inclusion champion in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science, who led the last Athena SWAN submission from that school. Her interests include workplace stress, reducing this, its impact on staff, and the gendered nature of its presence and effects.
  • Deepa Senapathi, a Research Fellow in Agriculture, previously a Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences (SBS). Three years ago Deepa co-led the SBS Athena SWAN Bronze application, which was successful. Her areas of interest are barriers and incentives to progress, especially as regards early researchers and fixed term contractors. How we communicate across cultures is also an area of interest and knowledge.
  • Susan Thornton, the Assistant Director of HR for People and Talent. Her interests include staff and leadership development, e.g. her team organises and supports female staff on the Aurora Programme, and making sure that we pull experience of working on Athena SWAN within Schools into the wider university.
  • Nozomi Tolworthy, the RUSU Diversity Officer, who previously graduated from the Department of Film, Theatre and Television. Her interests include communicating across cultures with staff and students, and the flow of communication between staff and students, especially related to diversity and inclusion initiatives and achievements
  • Robert Van de Noort, the recently-appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading and the University Executive Board Gender Diversity Champion. His interests include all aspects of supporting and developing work on diversity and inclusion at Reading.
  • Aleardo Zanghellini, a Professor of Law and Social Theory in the School of Law. His interests include gender equality, career progression and intersection with gender and (not least through his own research work) gender identity and the support of trans people at Reading

Showcasing diversity in the creative sector through our ‘I am, We are…Different by Design’ zine

Guest post by Camara Dick, Seniz Husseyin, Malaika Johnson, Martha Macri and Jeanne-Louise Moys (Department of Typography & Graphic Communication)

I am, we are…different by design’ is a student and staff partnership project within the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. The project began in October 2017 to explore new ways to embed diversity in the BA Graphic Communication curriculum and evolve a stronger sense of community in the Department.

In 2017–8, our team secured funding from the University’s Partnerships in Learning and Teaching (PLanT) scheme for a diversity campaign. For the campaign, our team decided to create a zine. This has been the most fulfilling part of our initiative so far.

Our ‘I am, we are…different by design’ zine was made with the intention of creating awareness of and celebrating diversity in our discipline. As a team, we are passionate about wanting to counterbalance the dominant western canon in our discipline and encourage students to move beyond our ‘cultural comfort zones’. We agreed that making a zine was the most effective way to start because it would enable us to share a range of perspectives and take advantage of our Graphic Communication skills.

The process of making the zine started with our team discussing who we wanted to feature in the zine and why. We wanted to include work by people who were engaging with diversity in their practice or research. Martha notes that it was ‘difficult to identify people who were creating something with the idea of diversity/culture behind it’.

In particular, we wanted to showcase projects from across the School of Arts and Communication Design. We interviewed current students from all three departments in the School (Art; Film, Theatre and Television; and Typography & Graphic Communication), researchers and graduates, as well as other practitioners with links to the University. This entailed us having to do extensive research, get ethics approval, conduct interviews and communicate in a professional and respectful way.

We used these interviews to write articles showcasing a range of inspiring projects and research that explores issues of diversity, identity and inclusion. Some of these articles included artwork by Joshua Obeng-Boateng on representing equality in visual art and work by BMJ designer Will Stahl-Timmins on helping medical staff understand gender dysphoria through design.

The design of issue one of the zine features camera lenses to represent looking from different perspectives and capturing something new. We wanted to include a range of colours to reflect inclusion but also give a vibrant feel to the zine. Within the zine we also included photos ofour team in action as we felt that this was a good way to showcase what we were doing to inspire other students to follow our footsteps.

As a team, we worked hard and were very dedicated to creating something that would inspire others. Overall, we are very proud of our outcome and of the ability to share it not just in the University but on a wider scale. Malaika reflects that ‘considering the time we had, it was amazing to see the outcome and how well it was received’.

We were very pleased with all the positive feedback we received about the zine such as one of our School’s diversity leads Lisa Woynarski saying: ‘we are very inspired by the whole project and how we can expand it to other departments. The zine turned out so well!’

This has encouraged our team to continue the project, recruit new team members (Liselot Van Veen, Labiba Haque and Charlotte Prince have also joined our team) and begin planning a 2019 issue. We’re delighted to have been awarded funding from the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Fund to support the production costs of our next issue. We’re extending opportunities for students and staff across the School of Arts and Communication Design to collaborate in this project and also plan to publish an online version.

In addition to the zine, some of our achievements include:

  • leading a very well-received creative workshop with members of the public at the Tate Exchange as part of the School of Arts and Communication Design’s Reading Assembly in 2019
  • co-creating a new part three module called ‘Design for Change’ that ran for the first time in the Autumn term
  • engaging with Graphic Communication applicants on portfolio visit days to develop awareness and a sense of community and
  • presenting our initiatives at the RUSU Teaching and Learning Celebration last year and at Typography’s ‘Baseline shift’ programme in the Autumn term.

Our project represents students recognising that working towards greater equality and inclusion in the creative sector is important and is our way of coming together to start a snowball effect of change. We understand that there is still so much work to be done for our industry to be where we think it should be, however this motivates us to carry on spreading awareness. We’re hopeful that when people from all backgrounds come across our zine our message inspires and encourages others to celebrate and explore diversity across different professional sectors. We look forward to collaborating with our peers across the School and sharing the next edition of our zine in the summer.

Pronoun Badges at the University of Reading

by

Debi Linton (LGBT+ Staff Network representative on the University’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group), Nozomi Tolworthy (Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) Diversity Officer), and Parveen Yaqoob (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, and University Executive Board (UEB) LGBT+ Champion)

Members of the University’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group have been working with the Diversity Officer 2018/19 at Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) this academic year to launch pronoun badges to the university community of both students and staff. These pronoun badges aim to create positive cultural change across our campuses.

In this blog we explain why we want to introduce pronoun badges, and what they are for. We end the blog with a brief glossary of some of the terms we use.

The badges are available from RUSU Reception, and very soon from receptions across the University, in They/Them, He/Him, She/Her versions, plus a version that you can complete as you wish.

What are pronoun badges and why are people wearing them?

Pronoun badges are exactly what they sound like: badges that inform people you are talking to the correct third-person pronouns to use when referring to you. For example “the correct person to contact about this is [xxx], here are her contact details” or “this person is looking for the library, can you show them the way?”

The most common pronoun when talking about people are he/him, she/her, and the singular they/them, but many people use another pronoun altogether. This is why the RUSU & University’s badges include an option with a white space for people to write in their own with a permanent marker.

Why does using the correct pronoun matter?

For many people it seems that the right pronoun should be obvious: if someone is clearly presenting as male, for example, you may default to using “him.” However, for many people it’s not always obvious; where people use gender-neutral pronouns, or when trans people don’t look or sound exactly how we expect a man or woman to do. This also applies to cis people who don’t fit into expectations for their gender, even if it’s the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.

Pronouns are such a common part of our language that it’s common and understandable to not even think about using them. However, each usage carries an assumption about the person’s gender identity and can reinforce that assumption to anyone listening. When you are frequently misgendered, the effort of correcting every incorrect usage can be tiring. The practice of using pronoun badges normalises the idea that gender shouldn’t have to be assumed, and recognises that diverse identities and expressions are welcome in our University.

Some examples of pronoun usage

  • She wrote her group’s project submission by herself.
  • He may not have written his thesis entirely by himself.
  • They ordered business cards for everyone in their school but forgot theirself.
  • Ze has offered to help hir school on Open Day but doesn’t want to do it by hirself.

Do I have to wear a pronoun badge?

Pronoun badges are completely optional. However, by wearing one, even if your pronouns are rarely or never used incorrectly, you are sending a message to colleagues, visitors and students that you recognise the validity of pronouns other than what is immediately obvious.

What if I make a mistake?

Mistakes happen all the time! If you use an incorrect pronoun and are corrected or later realise you were wrong, then you can treat it like any other error: apologise and correct yourself. You don’t have to draw attention to yourself or to the other person by drawing out the apology.

If someone uses the wrong pronoun for a colleague, you can also gently correct them at the time, for example, “actually, I think Alex uses ze” or later in a private conversation where appropriate.

What should I do if I don’t know the right pronoun or I’m being hypothetical?

If you don’t know which pronoun to use, but you don’t want to assume, then you can get used to checking politely when it’s relevant; for example, “can you remind me of your pronouns?”, before introducing a speaker.

If it’s not appropriate or possible to ask, then “they/them” is a useful neutral pronoun. You probably already use it when talking about people you haven’t met, for example, “your personal tutor is there if you need them”.

What are some other ways I can show my support for gender diverse colleagues and students?

Try to spot times in your language where you are making assumptions about gender. For example, rather than using “he or she” when talking about a hypothetical situation, substitute “they.”

When leading group discussions or meetings with people who don’t already know each other, you can also normalise the practise of sharing pronouns by including them in introductions. For example, “My name is Chris, I work in SAGES and my pronouns are he/him.”

When creating forms or collecting personal information, include gender-neutral options. For example, when asking for personal titles such as “Dr/Mr/Ms,” think about including “Mx” (pronounced “Mix”) [this option is available, for example, when you complete the standard online University of Reading job application forms] and if asking for gender is relevant, include an “other” option.

You may also want to consider putting your pronouns in your email signature, after your name.

If you would like to learn more, you might like to sign up for the Trans Awareness Training coming up on 16 May (see the Diversity and Inclusion Events page for more details and how to book), and there is further “Trans and Gender Identity” guidance available on our diversity and inclusion policies and procedures page.

Glossary of terms

AFAB / AMAB
“Assigned female at birth” / “assigned male at birth” relates to the sex a person is assigned when they are born. This is independent of a person’s lived gender identity.

Cisgender or Cis
Someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.

Cissexism
The assumption that being cisgender is the norm, often resulting in discrimination towards and erasure of trans people.

Gender
Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.

LGBT+
The acronym for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and others’. The ‘+’ is inclusive of other groups such as asexual, non-binary, questioning, queer, intersex etc.

Mx (Pronounced ‘mix’)
This is a title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female.

Nonbinary
Term used for people with gender identities other than male or female, thus outside the gender binary. Those who identify as nonbinary may think of themselves as both men and women (bigender, pangender), may identify as neither male nor female (genderless, agender), may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes (genderqueer), or may simply feel restricted by gender labels.

Sex
Assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. Sometimes the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are interchanged to mean ‘male’ or ‘female’.

Trans
An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, two-spirit, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.

 

Chinese New Year 2019 – Year of the Pig

Guest post by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望, Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) Diversity Officer 2018/19

(This article includes Chinese words and phrases with Cantonese and Mandarin pronunciations respectively)

When is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year as it follows a traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar whose dates indicate both the phase of the moon and the time of the solar year. This coming Chinese New Year is on Tuesday 05 February 2019.

Why is 2019 the “Year of the Pig”?

Each year is represented by one of 12 Chinese Zodiac animals. 2019 is the year of the pig.

Chinese Zodiac: https://banner2.kisspng.com/20180328/fxw/kisspng-chinese-zodiac-chinese-calendar-chinese-new-year-zodiac-5abc0167b80006.4694013715222705677537.jpg

The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2,000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other zodiacs. This is the order they are in: rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ) ox (牛 – ngau / niú) tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ) rabbit (兔 – tou / tù) dragon (龙 – lung / lóng) snake (蛇 – se / shé) horse (马 – maa / mǎ) goat (羊 – yeung / yang) monkey (猴 – hau / hóu) rooster (鸡 – gai / jī) dog (狗 – gau / gǒu) pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

How do people celebrate?

Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world. The celebrations are not limited to China. Hong Kong, Laos, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and many Asian countries celebrate Chinese New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Chinese New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

Before celebrations kick off, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean. Chinese New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

What do the decorations mean?

Decorations for Chinese New Year are predominantly red, as the colour red represents happiness and good fortune. Here are some popular decorations used for Chinese New Year:

Fortune ( – fuk / fú)

Fortune pin badge, Photo credit Nozomi Tolworthy

Certain words are displayed during Chinese New Year. The most common is 福 meaning happiness and good fortune. It is often displayed on square red paper and put up on doors, windows and walls around homes and commercial buildings. Many like to put 福 upside down. The word for ‘upside down’ (倒 – dou / dào) is a homophone of the word for ‘here’ (到). This pun represents that good fortune is coming, or is already here.

Paper Cutting Arts (窗花 – coeng faa / chuāng huā)

福 is often incorporated into other decorations such as paper cutting arts. This is a folk craft that is usually seen on windows with the literal translation meaning ‘window flower’. The images on these decorations often include fish (a pun for blessings), grains (representing hope for a good harvest) as well as dragons and peaches (symbols from folktales and legends). The zodiac for the year is often the image on these decorations too.

Lanterns ( – dang lung / dēng lóng)

There are often different activities for each day of the Chinese New Year holidays, often including the lantern festival. Some places still release lanterns for the festival, but for environmental reasons, many people choose to simply display their lanterns at home. There are many different styles of lanterns that are displayed ranging from red spheres to dragons!

Red Packets

https://marketingweek.imgix.net/content/uploads/2018/02/15170414/chinese-new-year-750.jpg?auto=compress,format,&crop=faces,entropy,edges&fit=crop&q=60&w=750&h=400

Red packets / red pocket / red envelope… There are many names for these little red gifts! But all of these 红包 (hung bau / hóng bāo) contain money. The money inside is known as 压岁钱 (aat seoi cin / yā suì qián). This translated means ‘money to anchor the year(s)’ hence it’s known as ‘lucky money’. It is tradition for elders to give them to children in hope of passing on good fortune and blessings for the year to come. Younger generations also commonly give their elders red packets as a sign of gratitude and as a blessing of longevity.

New Year’s Visits

Red packets, fruit, candy and cakes are often gifted when you go on a New Year’s visit 拜年 (bai nin / bài nián) to see friends and family. Upon giving and receiving red packets, of course one will say 新年快乐 (san nin faai lok / xīn nián kuài lè) meaning Happy New Year and another very common phrase is 恭喜发财 (kung hei fat choi / gong xǐ fā cái) meaning to ‘wish you wealth and prosperity’.

Food

With family being at the heart of Chinese New Year, family feasts are extremely important. Families often have a large reunion for a New Year’s Eve dinner. Although every region and household will have different customs, there are often some common dishes seen on every dinner table: Spring Rolls (春卷 – ceon gyun / chūn juǎn) These are eaten to celebrate the coming of the first day of spring. They are a wish for prosperity and wealth because they look like bars of gold!

Dumplings (饺子 – gaau zi / jiǎo zi)

Photo credit Nozomi Tolworthy

The word for dumplings in Chinese sound like 交子. 交 means ‘exchange’ and 子 is the midnight hours. Placed together, 交子 means the exchange between the old and the new year. By eating dumplings, you are therefore sending away the old and welcoming in the new. Dumplings are also shaped like ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots and as such, symbolise good fortune. There are steamed as well as pan-fried dumplings that are eaten during Chinese New Year.

Noodles (面 – min / miàn)

For Chinese New Year, people like to eat long noodles, also called 长寿面 (zoeng sau min / cháng shòu miàn) which means ‘longevity noodles’. The longer the noodle, the longer your life will be so you shouldn’t cut them nor bite them. Needless to say, this calls for lots of slurping!

Parades & Performances

Each holiday has its own set of activities and traditions. During Chinese New Year, there may be the releasing of lanterns for the lantern festival, firework displays and often parades that include a dragon dance or lion dance. Fireworks are set off as it is thought that the noise and lights will scare away any evil sprits. The dragon is a symbol of China, and is an important part of Chinese culture. Chinese dragons symbolise wisdom, power and wealth, and they are believed to bring good luck to people. As such, dragon dances are an important cultural activity during Chinese New Year as well as Mid-Autumn Festival.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/iqremix/12025364133/

Similarly, lion dances can be seen at many festive events from Chinese New Year to weddings. The lion is meticulously designed, with movable eyes and mouth. Each lion is operated by 2 performers, one as the head and one as the body. Lion dances often involve crowd interaction where the lion may open its mouth asking for food and the crowd are given cabbage leave to throw to the lion.

How will we celebrate at RUSU & UoR?

This year we are hoping to make Chinese New Year a campus-wide celebration. As such, we have created pin badges with 福 (fuk / fú) meaning happiness and good fortune printed on them. These will be given out to staff and students around campus in the first week of February to be worn on lanyards, jackets and backpacks alike to show your support for the celebrations and participation in the festivities on campus.

For any enquiries regarding the Chinese New Year celebrations, please feel free to contact: Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望 RUSU Diversity Officer 2018/19 diversityofficer@rusu.co.uk  or Ellie Highwood, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (e.j.highwood@reading.ac.uk)

Is unconscious bias training effective?

Ellie Highwood

Largely a summary of….

Unconscious Bias training: An assessment of the evidence for effectiveness , Equality and Human Rights Commission, Research Report 113, by Doyin Atewologun, Tinu Cornish and Fatima Tresh

 

Premise and Reading context:

 

Unconscious Bias training is frequently cited as a solution to reducing bias with respect to protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 in selection processes. Indeed no self-respecting Athena SWAN application would be without it. At Reading some form of unconscious bias training is mandatory for chairs of interview panels across the University and some Schools have trained larger teams as part of their Athena SWAN bids. Currently our unconscious bias training is delivered in a number of ways:

 

  • Embedded within face-to-face recruitment and selection panel and chair training
  • Specific online Unconscious bias module
  • Some historic bespoke training at school or function level.
  • PGR student training developed from undergraduate training work in the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Science
  • Some coverage in modules for trainee teachers within Institute of Education

 

We are in the process of evaluating and updating our approach and delivery of unconscious bias training as one of the Institutional Athena SWAN actions. We have several academics with experience of designing and delivering Unconscious Bias Training, however this recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report provides a broad evaluation, highlighting where evidence exists for the effectiveness of this type of training. Here I summarise points from that report which reviewed many published articles and grey literature annual reports of studies into the effectiveness of unconscious bias training (UBT). The studies used varied in terms of robustness.

What can UBT do?

  • Can be effective for awareness raising.
  • Can reduce implicit bias but is unlikely to eliminate it. Most UBT is not designed to reduce explicit bias.
  • The evidence for UBT being effective in changing behaviour is limited – but most of these studies did not use valid measures of behaviour change.
  • More successful in reducing implicit bias relating to gender, than race and ethnicity.

What does the most effective UBT look like?

  • Uses an IAT (Implicit Association Test), followed by a debrief, incorporating theory about unconscious bias rather than detail about impact.
  • The most successful interventions include bias reduction strategies and bias mitigation strategies so that participants feel empowered to do something.
  • There appears little difference in effectiveness between on-line and face-to-face training.
  • However, there is evidence that increasing the sophistication of the UBT (e.g. an interactive workshop) can increase awareness and concern about wider discrimination and that this awareness continues to increase over time.
  • The report emphasises that UBT should be only one part of a programme designed to achieve organisational change.

Who should be trained?

Training teams together resulted in positive group behaviour change despite the evidence for effectiveness in changing individual’s behaviour being weak. However, there is too little UBT specific research to judge whether mandatory or voluntary training has a different effectiveness.

 

What can go wrong? If UBT participants are exposed to information that suggests stereotypes and biases are unchangeable, this can back-fire and result in more entrenched bias.

 

Considering Reading’s approach in the light of this review

 

Our current online offering clearly states that it is intending to raise awareness.

  • It includes a heavier emphasis on theory about unconscious bias compared to statistics about impact.
  • It covers many types of diversity.
  • Although an IAT is not used in this online course directly, they are explained and a link is provided as follow on work.

 

What we may be able to improve –

• More training of teams together – to result in effective group behaviour change.

• Make sure a resource that covers a debrief after the IAT test is available if people take that up as part of the online course

• There is a reference in the start of the training to implicit bias being “hard-wired” and it is a fine line between normalising implicit bias to encourage reflection, and making it “ok” to be biased.

• Provide some specific bias reduction or mitigation strategies

• Better evaluation of implicit bias reduction and behaviour change, if we provided follow up resources for these.

 

Finally – there is a need for more research in this area, specifically UK based (as many studies currently US focused and the race issues in particular can be quite different between the US and the UK).