Celebrating International Trans Day of Visibility and Autism Awareness Week

by Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisors at the University of Reading

 

 

International Trans Day of Visibility is an annual event, occurring on 31st March that is dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced globally by people whose gender does not align with that which was assigned to them at birth.  

World Autism Awareness Week (29th March – 4th April) is an opportunity to celebrate individuals with autism as well as encouraging awareness and education of challenges faced by those individuals.  

You may think these two events are unconnected, but we would like to shine a light on the unique experiences of people with autism, who also identify as trans or non-binary. 

Recent data suggests that trans and nonbinary people are ‘three to six times as likely to be autistic as cisgender people are. According to the largest study yet to examine the connection, gender-diverse people are also more likely to report autism traits and to suspect they have undiagnosed autism.’  An analysis of five unrelated databases that all include information about autism, mental health and gender has led to these conclusions. You can read more about it here – Largest study to date confirms overlap between autism and gender diversity.
 

 

The National Autistic society also highlights this intersection of identities, and shares some personal stories which can really help us to understand the unique experiences of those who identify as trans, non-binary and as a person with autism:

 

Sophie Gribbena non-binary autistic person, talks about celebrating Pride Month. They said: 

“One of the things I have difficulty with is attending Pride festivities. I am sensitive to noise, and crowds, but if I am properly accommodated then I really enjoy myself!”

 

Dr Wenn Lawsonautistic advocate, researcher, and psychologist, said: 

 ”The non-autistic world is governed by social and traditional expectations, but we may not notice these or fail to see them as important. This frees us up to connect more readily with our true gender.”

 

Researchers across several Universities contributed to a paper – Autism and transgender identity: Implications for depression and anxietywhich looks into this connection, and also highlights the increased risk of common mental health issues for people with these intersecting characteristics.  

 

In addition to the increased risk of mental health issues, trans people who also have autism often face barriers from health care professionals, who can undermine their trans identity, as explained in this article – The link between autism and trans identity It also highlights the ways in which the implications of this correlation are proving problematic and sometimes tragic for trans, autistic communitiesPlease be advised that the article relates to Kayden Clarke, a trans autistic man who was killed by police in the US, and therefore contains some upsetting content that you may not want to read.  

 

 

Intersectionality  

Intersectionality – This word has been used a lot more recentlyHere is short video where Kimberlé Crenshaw talking about what intersectionality means and the origin of the term.

It is crucial that we understand that people do not have protected characteristics in isolation, that marginalised groups exist within marginalised groups, and by beginning to hold these conversations, we create space for learning about each other, networking, supporting one another.  Multiple protected characteristics can also influence each other, exacerbate challenges and make barriers even taller than they would be without additional considerations. By talking about identities within marginalised groups, we can make steps in starting to see each other as the complex, multi-faceted beings that we are, with unique experiences and identities.  

It is important to note that though there may be a higher correlation of autistic individuals in the trans community this in no way suggests that the majority of trans individuals should be assumed to have autism, or that the majority of individuals with autism are trans. It’s important to recognise that larger more comprehensive studies need to be conducted on the topic which better reflect trans and autistic people’s views and experiences and how these experiences overlap. 

 

 

Events  

We have collated several external online events which you can attend in the coming days/weeks to learn more about autism, and trans identitiesJoin celebrations and even watch a film screening. Lockdown has never looked so exciting!   

 

  • Thinking Differently about Autism at Work

Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI)

Wed, 31 March 2021, 09:30 – 12:30 BST

UoR are members of ENEI, and all staff and students can register for FREE using their ‘@reading.ac.uk’ email address via this link

 

 

  • Bi, Trans & Non-Binary Intersectionality: a Parallel Journey to Acceptance

Global Butterflies, The London Bisexual Network and the Law Society

Wed, 31 March 2021, 12:30 – 13:30 BST

To mark Trans Day of Visibility 2021, Global Butterflies, the London Bisexual Network and the Law Society are partnering to host a panel on the intersectionality between being Trans or Non-Binary and Bisexual.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Spring Feast 2021: Virtual LGBTQ2S Family Celebration

The 519 EarlyON Child and Family Centre

Wed, March 31, 2021, 15:30 – 16:30 BST

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Day of Visibility – Screening of Disclosure

University College Dublin Students Union

Wed, 31 March 2021, 18:30 – 20:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • 2021 Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Health and Wellness Center

Wed, Mar 31, 2021 23:00 – Thurs, Apr 1, 2021 01:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Presence: Beyond Visibility Panel

Play Out Apparel and SelectHealth  Thurs, April 1, 2021, 01:00 – 02:30 BST

Live stories & music, a raw unfiltered panel discussion about trans diverse experiences, & more! On Transgender Day of Visibility, this event is going beyond visibility by sharing inspiring, informative, and diverse trans stories, spotlighting artists, and presenting important information about accessing health services.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Inclusion Training

University of Reading

Mon, 17 May 2021, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM BST

This is FREE to attend

Staff can register on UoRLearn via this link

Students can email diversity@reading.ac.uk to register 

 

 

 

 

Further Resources 

Autism and Gender Identity | National Autistic Society 
https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism/autism-and-gender-identity
 

Trans Day of Visibility | LGBT Foundation 
https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans-people/trans-day-of-visibility
 

The urgency of intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akOe5-UsQ2o 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2021 – A challenged world is an alert world 

Why do we celebrate international Women’s day? 

Celebrated on 8th March annually, International Women’s Day is a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women globally. It is also a day to recognise steps taken towards gender equality and address action still needing to be taken.  
 

This year the theme of International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge. At the University of Reading, we have a long history of challenging the status quo of gender roles. Edith Morley was the first woman appointed to a chair at a British university-level institution, after becoming English professor at University College Reading (now the University of Reading). In her autobiography, she described the appointment as: 

 

my contribution to the battle for fair dealing for women in public and professional life” 

 

Our annual lecture in her name celebrates her contribution and provides a platform for us to amplify the voices of women today who are choosing to challenge the status quo.  This year, this special event featured writer, activist, podcaster and journalist, Scarlett Curtis. You can watch the event here again via this link. 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2021 at UoR  

 

We have asked our staff and students to tell us what the theme of #ChoosetoChallenge means to them. Here’s how they responded… 

 

 

Asaiel Alohaly 

PhD student in the corporate governance of Aramco 

 

I am a tree rooted home 

I am a summer breeze 

Flying everywhere 

I am diversity 

I am what I am 

 

By: Asaiel Alohaly 

 

 

 

Claire Collins  

Co-chair of the Women@Reading Network

 

Courage – this is my new mantra.  I don’t have much of it.  I am like the lion in The Wizard of Oz. 

If we don’t have courage, we will never be seen or heard. Our voices will be mute, our deeds and achievements will go unrecognised.  When other voices are loud and deep, we need to raise ourselves up and speak, with confidence and conviction. Other voices don’t wait to be absolutely true to facts when they speak, but they do so anyway.  We hold back, until we’re absolutely 100% sure that we are correct.  And while we wait, the world, and the opportunity has passed us by. 

Speak up with courage.  Do your deeds with courage. Be a human being on this planet with the courage that you are as good as any other and have the same rights as any other to be heard and seen.   

Rise up Women – and fill yourselves with Courage!!! 

 

 

 

Dr Bolanle Adebola 

Associate Professor of Law
Co-Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, School of Law
Co-Lead, UoR Staff BAME Network
Convener, Commercial Law Research Network Nigeria (CLRNN) 

 

I #Choose to Challenge (the Notion that Women are not Effective Leaders

The year 2020 was remarkable globally, as well as personally. It was the year of the pandemic which saw women disproportionately affected by the recession it precipitated. It was also the year in which female heads of government were applauded for their decisive leadership that averted the high death toll experienced in counterparts with male heads of government. The year of Kamala Harris – the first female and Minority Ethnic Vice President of the United States. Despite these strides, the Reykjavík Index for Leadership shows that women are still not considered equally able to lead as men.  

For me, 2020 was the year in which I stepped into visible leadership roles to challenge barriers, inequity and exclusionary practices. A negative experience in November 2019 led me to investigate the racial experiences of other colleagues at the University. The answers I found were heartrending. So, I chose to challenge by co-founding a network for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff in January 2020. Through the UoR Staff BAME Network, we raise awareness and challenge the experiences on which we once were silent, with the aim of influencing change. The University responded by commissioning the Race Equality Review co-led by one of its Minority Ethnic female Professors and deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Parveen Yaqoob.

I was also concerned for students from these Minority Ethnic communities. I became Co-Lead for Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Law, and through this role, investigated the possibility of an awarding gap for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students.  I found a gap, which averaged 10.3% across the group over the 3 years of data that we had. I disaggregated the data to ensure that we obtained an accurate picture of the gap for each Ethnicity. The picture was much starker for Black and non-Chinese Asian students. I chose to challenge the situation by engaging colleagues in conversations. In collaboration with a committee of staff and students, I embarked on awareness raising and solution seeking conversations. I am happy that several colleagues of all races and across functions are contributing to the change that is underway.  

As a leader, I have initiated and participated in several important but uncomfortable conversations in various spaces within my School and the wider University. It is not easy leading the charge but I #Choose to Challenge barriers, inequity and exclusionary practices.  

  

 

Poppy Lindsey 

RUSU Women’s Officer

 

#choosetochallenge non-intersectional feminism 

This International Women’s Day, I’m choosing to challenge non-intersectional feminism. I first of all want to highlight the fact I am a straight, white, able-bodied woman, and so there are many struggles faced by women globally that I can never understand. The main crux of intersectional feminism is that we, as feminists, should not and cannot focus solely on issues which only affect people reflective of ourselves. It is not effective to the women’s rights movement to view certain issues as ‘them’ problems – as feminists we must fight for the liberation of every woman, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, ability, and so on. One of the most important women’s rights activists in promoting intersectionality was Fannie Lou Hamer, who said: 

 “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free” 

 I’m often hit with the criticism: ‘We don’t need feminism! Women are equal in this country!’. The thing these people need to hear is that every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18, and that there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. Should we not fight for these girls with no voice, just because it will most likely never affect us? As women, we cannot consider ourselves free when these shocking statistics still exist, and when female lives are being compromised to such an extent. This is why intersectionality is so important, and that racism has no place in the feminist movement.  

 

 

 

Dr Eileen Hyder 
PFHEA
Manager of FLAIR CPD Scheme 

 

#choosetochallenge injustice 

 Chain of solidarity and love – Women in Moscow took part in a ‘Chain of Solidarity and Love’ on Valentine’s Day in support of both Yulia Navalnaya (the wife of the jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny) and also women prosecuted for political reasons. The event’s organiser said, ‘Come with flowers, with red clothing items and with paper hearts attached to your clothes, on which you can write the names of the women with whom you want to express solidarity. We want to remind ourselves that love is stronger than fear’. I find it powerful and inspiring when women choose to challenge injustice in ways that show strength and gentleness simultaneously.   

 

 

 

Dr Ellen McManus-Fry  

Chair of the Parent and Family Network
Prospect Research Officer 


About this time, 3 years ago, I came back to work following maternity leave. My daughter was only 4 months old, due to how my husband and I had divided up our shared parental leave and was still exclusively breastfed. This meant that I needed to be able to express and store milk during the working day that my husband could then feed to our baby at home.  

Breastfeeding wasn’t something which had been mentioned at all in the maternity policy or in any other information I’d been given by the University, and I only knew that I could request to be provided with a suitable space to pump thanks to a colleague and friend, Nicola Hall, who had recently been through the same thing herself. I had great support and help from my manager and from Estates, who identified and adapted a room for me to use – installing a lock and blocking out the door window, albeit a week after I returned to work.  

However, I was surprised that there were no facilities already in place and there was a sense that I was the first woman to ever make a request like this, which I knew could not be the case. It didn’t feel right that the onus was on me, amid all the other challenges of returning to work after having a baby, to seek out and arrange these facilities; facilities which were vital to enable me to return to work whilst continuing to feed my child in the way I had chosen to.  

 Together with Nikki, I decided to investigate how other women had managed returning to work whilst breastfeeding and sent out an email asking for colleagues to share their experiences. I was shocked at some of the responses I got. Women had pumped in their cars; in the toilets; in managers’ offices, temporarily vacated; they had stopped breastfeeding sooner than they wanted to because they didn’t think it would be possible after they returned to work; they had to manage their schedule so that they could work from home during times when their child needed feeding. 

 Around that time the Staff Forum had put out a call for ideas for staff welfare projects and Nikki and I submitted a proposal to establish dedicated breastfeeding facilities on campus. We were successful, and although it has taken longer than expected, we will be ready to launch and promote our ‘parent-friendly rooms’ once the campus reopens. There will be three rooms (for now!): one in Meteorology at Earley Gate, one at London Road and one in the Library on Whiteknights, and they are intended to be comfortable, private spaces where colleagues can pump and store breastmilk or breastfeed privately, if the child is on campus with them. 

 The other, larger, thing which came out of this initial project was the establishment of the Parent and Family Network, which began in summer 2019 with Nikki and I as Co-Chairs. It has since grown to an active online community of over 300 colleagues, and I have a lot of plans for the Network in the future. I think there is great power and great value in colleagues connecting with each other to share their experiences, identifying where things could be improved and working together to make that improvement happen. 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all the contributors to this blog post! 

 

 

 

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Fund – Successful Bids!

by Dr Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion & Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor.  

 

The D&I initiative fund supports bids that
a) involve innovative approaches to advancing D&I practice,
b) have a reach across the University and beyond, and
c) lead to meaningful impact by improving the lived experience of colleagues and students.

The successful bids in the 2020/21 Spring term round strongly meet the above criteria and advance our University D&I strategy. It was particularly nice to see many submissions aiming to advance our work in disability and neurodiversity.

Here you can view a list of the projects that received funding in the 2020/21 rounds and 2019/20 rounds. We would encourage individuals to get in touch with the central D&I Team or to those who led on these projects for further information and/or sharing best practice.

 

 

The following projects received funding in the 2020/21 round. 

Jia Hoong Ong, SPCLS, Autism Book Club (ABC)
Amanda Clarke, SAGES, Sharing Heritage through Diversity: The Festival Project
Hella Eckardt, SAGES, Diverse Archaologies
Anna Jones, MERL, 51 Voices – different voices
Marc Jacobs, IOE, Towards a Best Practice Model: BA Primary Education (IoE) Final Year students as mentoring partners to Black, Asian and Minority ethnic (BAME) Year 1 students embedding academic writing skills
Carolina Vasilikou, SBE, Architecture, The Neuro-atypical Hackathon Podcast event: Inclusive Wayfinding for adults with (dis)abilities
Shweta Band, Law, DI-Law-gues: Designing a pilot evidence-based support programme for improving undergraduate BAME student awarding gap at the School of Law
Matthew Windsor, Law, Locating Islam in the (Law School) Curriculum
Claire Collins, HBS, Forming a Group for the Dissemination of Gender Research
Claire Collins, HBS, Male Ally Training for the Women@Reading Network
Sarah Chorley, HBS, Networking Roulette
Eileen Hyder, CQSD, Promoting Race Equality in Higher Education: an edited UoR Anthology
Emma Snowden, Student Services, Career Diversity Champions R U Inspired?
Ciara McCabe, SPCLS, Showcasing the Barriers and Facilitators to University Entry for BAME vs White Reading Scholars
Ellen Pilsworth, SLL, DLC BAME and Talking Race meet-up
Jenny Chamarette, SACD, Dwoskin, disability and…
Kat Bicknell, SCFP, Establishing a BAME Student Network for Pharmacy Students

 

The following projects received funding in the 2019/20 round.

Jane Setter, SLL, Supporting successful BAME outcomes: Student life through a lens #2
Suzy Tutchell, IoE, A Stitch in Time: Inclusive Threads of Learning
Mark Laynesmith, Chaplaincy, Interfaith Intern
Ludmilla Cerne and David Nutt, SCFP, Student-led activities for better integration of students from the NUIST-Reading Academy
Jennifer Scott and Sam Williams, SMPCS, International Women in Mathematics Day 2020
Julie Farwell, SLL, Women’s Springboard 2019 cohort Termly Meetings
Sarah Cardey and Rebecca Jerrome, SAPD, Resources for decolonizing the curriculum
Yasmine Shamma, SLL, Revisionist Thinking: Fostering Inclusive Diversity

within the Curriculum, and Beyond

Eileen Hyder, CQSD, CQSD Diversity & Inclusion event: addressing ethnicity attainment differentials.
Calvin Smith, SMPCS, Hidden figures: putting people back into mathematics resources
Naomi Lebens, UMASCS, Drawing Diversity: Artist-in-Residence
Flavia Ghouri and Sophie Oduyale, SCFP, Setting up positive role models for the diverse body of students in Pharmacy
Nicola Abram, SLL, BAME students in English Literature: A Network
Matthew Windsor, School of Law, Decolonising the Legal Curriculum
Tony Capstick, SLL, Diversifying the curriculum: drawing on students’ linguistic and cultural heritage to develop intercultural awareness
Sedtin Wan, International Student Advisory Team, Gingerbread Village
Sedtin Wan, International Student Advisory Team, Global Buddies
Elizabeth Conaghan, School of Law, “The Disappearance of Miss Bebb” – a play about challenging inequalities.
Eleanor Draycott, IT, DiversIT: Diversity in Tech Event
Ellen Hackl, Technical Services, Making practical classes in Pharmacy Inclusive-by-Design.
Emma Butler, Careers, Identifying what support students with disabilities need with their career decisions and applications.
Jeanne-Louise Moys SACD; Richard Nunes HBS; Carolina Vasilikou, SBE, INCLUSIVE WAY HACKATHON: the design of everyday wayfinding in outdoor public environments.
Dr Rachael Neal and Rebecca Morgan, SAPD, Investigating effects of educational background and other D&I characteristics on student retention and attainment in SAPD UG programmes.
Dr Matthew McFrederick, FTT, Race and Performance Today
Dr Karen Jones, IoE, Leadership and Diversity in Higher Education
Liz Conaghan (School of Law) and Madeleine Davies (SLL), 100 Years of Women’s Voices
Sian Walsh, SBE, SBE Celebrating Diversity
Ruth Evans, SAGES, GES, Rights-based Mapping of Race and Religion Equalities and Discrimination in Statutory Service Provision in Reading
Colin Campbell, ISLI, Sanctuary café at UoR
Bolanle Adebola, Folashade Adeyemo, Law, Black History Month for Law (Month of October)
Mara Oliva, History, Women & BAME Women and US Foreign Policy
Amanda Clarke, SAGES, ‘Us Too: mental health, sexual harassment & bullying in fieldwork situations’
Allán Laville, SPCLS, Disability Research Showcase – Theory to Practice
Fiona Knott, SPCLS, Learning from the experts: students with autism tell us about autism at University
Daisy O’Connor, RUSU Activities Officer, Knights Pride Sports Day

 

 

For further information about the fund, take at look at these Staff Portal Articles:

Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Funding (30 November 2020)

Funding available for diversity and inclusion initiatives (06 August 2020)

Get in touch with the central D&I Team at diversity@reading.ac.uk if you have any further questions.

 

 

 

Dear Women of Colour…

Dear Women of Colour…

a poem by Apatsa Rose, Contracts Associate, Research and Enterprise Services

 

Dear Colour,

It took a while for me to notice you
Though I would stand in a room with a sea of individuals with faces that looked nothing like mine
They were always kind
Hence I was always blind to you
Until year two.
When I came in with a little fro and lo and behold I was…
different.
My nose was
wider, My lips
were larger, My hair was
coarser
And I never knew until she pointed it out at school.
Running to the bathroom with
tears streaming down my face, then all I
wanted was my mother.
Looking in the mirror
I contemplated her abrasive statements
Was she right?

Did I look just
like
poo?
Was I ugly for being different?
Was I still that sweet, precious girl that my family said I was or was I now
Disposable?
Being the only non-white child in school had never been so apparent until this pivotal moment
Suddenly,
I saw you.
You brought with you a divide,
A fight with self to discover the wealth that my colour brought
To find the light we hold inside
To manipulate perceptions, yet stay true to who I am
I can’t say much good has come from knowing you
But I’m aware
And though I’m not sure how to deal with you yet
I still walk on. I still stand strong.
To Colour, I say Hello…

 

 

Dear Woman,

Did God curse just you
Or he cursed man too?
Though sometimes you are seen as less than
You’ve been shown that you still can
Be the queen of the home
Of the road
Of the show
Though we speak of girl power
Is it a myth that really exists
Or do we aim to empower one another?
Woman, he says to you
Mother, Sister, Girlfriend, Wife
At times these terms connote strife
From the time the period arrives
Expectation is created,
Though you knew not
Because you were silently elated.
Long nails
Tight curls

Rouged lips
Thick hips
Shaved legs
Full edges
Are supposedly what make you, you.
Yet to you there is no structure
Too varied, intricate and positively complex to categorise
Men are mesmerised by your diversity.
Dear woman, to you I say
When in doubt
Question a world without your touch.

 

 

Dear Women of Colour,

We salute you
We salute that you tore your enemies in two
Because some of us in your shoes
Wouldn’t be able to do the things you do
Downtrodden by society
Their men, our men

The beauty of your boldness always stand strong
In a world where sometimes it’s hard to belong
Dear woman of colour
This appears to be wrong
Oprah, Archie,
Michelle, Mum
When you stop to think of what you’ve become
An inspiration, a ray of sun
Though you are of colour
Though you are a woman
Though anyone who beholds you can clearly see this
May you not be purely defined by the beauty of your physique
Or subject to pre-conceived ideas about who and what you should be
May your spirit be seen
Your heart keen
To illuminate generations to come along
Show us that we can do,
Be, Anything.
That one day, we won’t have to work thrice as hard to get where we need to
And will only depend on our man if we want to

Break free from any chains that will ever seek to bind you
Mental rains should fail to surround you
Fear cease to drown you
Dear women of colour, bright as day
I proudly say,
You are the future.

 

 

 

Anti.

Anti.

a poem by Apatsa Rose, Contracts Associate, Research and Enterprise Services

This fight has been happening for centuries.
The fight to be equal
Equally free
Equally paid
Equally perceived
Equally likely to stay alive.

The police have been crushing the bones and skulls of victims for years
Shooting the bodies of our peers
Then being promoted after this,
Whilst the testimonies of the dead
Fall on deaf ears.
The courts have ignored
Industries have soared
Churches have adored Jesus…but not the ones he came to save
Society has scored
On the backs of those who roared
And never stopped shouting.

But you
The worst of all
The one who makes up these institutions
Individuals
Beings
Humankind
Have bathed in apathy
Have laid in passivity
Have sprayed the cologne of accidie
So why ​now have you joined the fight?
Has lockdown given you a reason to think of others
Outside of yourself?
Outside of your circle?
Outside of anything that affects your existence?
Why is it that ​now
You have seen the light?
Who can blame you?
It’s in our nature…

Well done though

Clap for yourself
Honestly, go-ahead!
Congratulations for getting up and out of your complacent bed!
Splendid job
For climbing of
out the pit of
torpor
And posting a
picture on the trendy
bandwagon of “#blackouttuesday” because
Everybody’s doing it, so
why not you?
Take 2 minutes out of your
day to show you’re down with the culture
When this has never even crossed your mind!
It’s something I struggle to get behind
Because there’ll never be true equality
If mindsets stay sleeping
So why did it take George Floyd to make you see that there’s a problem?
Why now?


This is for all those who died at the hands of brutal force just for the colour of their skin, including George Floyd…

Is That You? A Bystander, Walking By Racism…

Dr Billy Wong, Associate Professor, Institute of Education

 

Calling out racist behaviour, especially to strangers in public, take courage because you never know how others would react. Understandably, you might be concerned about your own safety. You might even doubt and question your judgement. Was that really racism? Or just a misunderstanding? Or just banters between friends? If you interfere, the situation could go out of hand, or even violent. In the end, you decided it is probably best to carry on walking, minding your own business.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unprepared, with little options but to walk. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

With your family, friends and colleagues, you witnessed another episode of racist behaviour. This time, it was more implicit, nuanced and subtle. It was racial microaggression. You were unsure if it was intentional. It was a short comment in a conversation, which was flowing and before long, moved onto another topic. You did not think it was necessary to interrupt the conversation to revisit an earlier remark. So, you decided it is probably best to carry on listening.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unsure and no one else seemed troubled by it, so it was probably nothing. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

Being a bystander may be our default position on issues we feel unfamiliar, unprepared and unsure, but we must not get too comfortable in this role. If silence is complicity, then we must actively retrain our passive mindsets. We have activists who are challenging the inequalities of the status quo, but we need more, a lot more. Are you ready?

 

P.S. We can easily substitute racist behaviour and racism with other social inequalities, such as sexist behaviour and sexism, or more broadly, just unacceptable behaviours.

 

 

 

Inspired by our recent article: Wong, B., ElMorally, R., Copsey-Blake, M., Highwood, E., & Singarayer, J. (2020). Is race still relevant? Student perceptions and experiences of racism in higher education. Cambridge Journal of Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2020.1831441

 

Educating Ourselves: actively opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance

post by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, adapted for the #DiverseReading blog

 

Click Here to Access Relevant Resources

 

As an individual who discusses and works in diversity, inclusion and representation most days, I’ve been lost for words recently.

There is no singular way for us to show up. What is most important is that we do the work that we can and it’s okay for this work to look different depending on our emotional capacity, financial circumstances, physical ability and personal situations. As long as we remain collectively committed to educating ourselves and those around us so we can change the systems we live in.

After seeing so many resources and helpful information being shared on social media over the last week, I’ve collected some of what others have shared and some resources I have learnt from, and put this together with the intention to help myself and those around me gain a better and more thorough understanding of racism and the anti-racist work we can all be doing.

To be anti-racist is to be a person who (actively) opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance.

It means ‘checking your privilege’, challenging our white* privilege and admitting how we might have benefited from a system of oppression in ways we have not considered before.
It means having conversations with our families, friends, colleagues, communities about race, even if it’s uncomfortable.
It means trying our best to educate ourselves on the history we might not have taught in school, on what we can do now.
It means showing up for Black folks** and striving for racial justice.
It means standing against overt and covert white supremacy and racism, from now on and always.

We are all educating ourselves and (un)learning at our own pace and investing our energy in ways that we can. We’ve been seeing a lot of information and resources shared across various platforms and I am finding it helpful to collect what I am seeing, so that I can continuously educate myself.

 

I hope you might too.

 

This document is by no means an exhaustive list and I hope to be able to continue to come back to it and update it with new knowledge and understanding over time. If you have any suggestions for additions, please let me know.

Click Here to Access Relevant Resources

 

White Fragility is when a white person feels uncomfortable about conversations around race. It can make you feel like you have to tone down your experiences with racism to make the person feel comfortable. Honor yourself by reclaiming the right to honestly express when something does not sit well in your body.

(‘white fragility’ infographic credit to @ogorchukwuu on Instagram)

 

*“When I write about white people … I don’t mean every individual white person. I mean whiteness as a political ideology …The politics of whiteness transcends the colour of anyone’s skin. It is an occupying force in the mind. It is a political ideology that is concerned with maintaining power through domination and exclusion. Anyone can buy into it, just like anyone can choose to challenge it.” (Eddo-Lodge, 2017)

**Whilst non-Black People of Colour (POC) also face racism, Black folks are suffering disproportionately under white supremacy and right now they need our support and attention.

 

 

 

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Guest blog by Matthew Searle, Head of Employer Relations, Henley Careers and Professional Development

A few years ago, one of my former colleagues took me along to a #heforshe event. I’d never really heard of it, so was quite curious. It turned out to be one of the most powerful events I’ve been to in my career. My key takeaway was that male/female equality was something that everybody could have an impact on, regardless of their gender.

So, when the Henley Careers team were discussing activities around International Women’s Day and deciding who should be the host, I really didn’t have much hesitation. When designing the event, we wanted it to look and feel different to what we’ve done before: we wanted to focus on celebration, we wanted real-life stories and we wanted a common theme that would unite everybody in the room. The most important aspect, though, was a chance for our students to build relationships with those working in industry.

There is so much to talk about in gender equality, so throughout the planning Cristina Marcu, a final year Finance and Investment Banking student joined us to help us hone our content to our audience. We scoured our little black book of industry contacts and identified two Henley alumna from BT and Kia Motors, plus a Partner at EY Reading with great career stories to inspire students.

We wanted to have an interactive event, with obvious learning points, so we used the Hampton-Alexander Review to form a discussion. Led by Professor Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj, the audience discussed steps we can all take to increase the number of women in executive leadership roles in the corporate world.

In terms of facilitating relationship building, I’m a big fan of joining people together across both student cohorts and years of experience. Everyone learns something from someone, no matter their background or length of career. We invited all students, from our first year undergraduates, right through to our Executive MBA students and of course those in between. The little black book came out again (it’s really a sophisticated GDPR compliant database, I promise) and we also extended an invitation to some of our most trusted employer contacts. The result? A wonderfully diverse audience, all willing to listen, collaborate and take action on the evening’s discussion.

Cristina really pushed us (nicely) to offer prizes to students. We talked about books and vouchers and then finally settled on trying to source “money-can’t-buy experiences” and on reflection that really added to an event with a different feel. You could really feel the excitement when five of our lucky students won lunch and office tours with senior staff at BMW, BT, ADP, SHL and PRA Health services.

Our guests provided some great anecdotes, stories and career advice. The themes which most resonated for me were:

  • how to determine work/life balance at various stages of your career
  • how to put together a set of trusted professional colleagues to support career progression
  • recognising your own personal style and how to draw on your strengths

The great conversation flowed into the evening, with a packed networking reception. We were joined by Smartworks, a UK charity that provides high quality interview clothes and interview training to unemployed women in need.

It was a truly inspiring way to celebrate International Women’s Day and I really hope that in some small way, I used my privileged position to do #heforshe proud.

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.

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