Blog: Working for action in LGBT+ inclusion

From Dr Al Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, University of Reading: 

Stonewall has played a huge role in the history of fighting for equal rights for people of all sexualities and genders. The University has worked closely with Stonewall for many years, and we will continue to work with them in the future. 

One of Stonewall’s successes has been the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, a metric for LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace. This has provided a useful yardstick to help organisations across the UK to measure their efforts to become better places to work for everyone. The University of Reading was awarded Top 100 Employer status in 2019 and 2020, and achieved a Silver Employer award in 2022. These achievements were made possible by partnership working with Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) at many events and initiatives including at Reading Pride and co-delivering our Bi inclusion training.  

The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index is updated every three years, and we have been an active part of conversations about how the index can improve, better reflecting the efforts of organisations to work towards equality. After providing feedback to Stonewall, the University has decided to pause our involvement with the index in 2023.  

We felt the Index can be overly-prescriptive, with positive actions highlighted more through a ‘tick-box’ exercise of activity, rather than genuine institutional improvement. For example, we run a detailed programme of activities for our senior leaders, which we believe provides the best environment to bring about meaningful cultural change; yet the Stonewall Index only recognises the activities of senior leaders by their attendance at specific events. We don’t think this reflects genuine leadership towards LGBT+ inclusion. 

We also felt that the current Stonewall index is inflexible in its reporting dates; evidence for the Index must be drawn from a strict 12-month period, whereas we know that genuine change comes from long-term action plans. Yet we feel these longer-term plans and activities are not adequately recognised. 

It’s important that we judge ourselves openly, but we need to be confident that we are testing the right measures. That’s why, after discussions with the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and the LGBT+ Action Plan Group, including representation from across the University, the LGBT+ Staff Network and RUSU, the University has decided to pause our membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme.  

We want to better support meaningful LGBT+ inclusion at the University of Reading. That’s why from today, we are launching a new LGBT+ inclusion initiative fund for 2022/23, with funding earmarked for inclusion projects, open to University staff and students. These projects will support the wider University LGBT+ Action Plan, and further advance LGBT+ inclusion for all our community. We urge anyone interested to find out how to apply for the LGBT+ inclusion initiative fund. From 2023/24, the LGBT+ inclusion initiative fund will be combined with our annual D&I initiative fund. 

We want to continue to work with Stonewall. We’ve spoken to Nancy Kelly, chief executive of Stonewall, about our concerns with the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. As a result, we have been asked to work with Stonewall in their strategic review of the index, which we will be happy to do in the coming months. We hope that this will lead to a scheme that will reflect good practice, encouraging more action and less bureaucracy. Once that is complete, we would be happy to revisit our formal membership of Stonewall’s scheme. 

From Sheldon Allen, RUSU President, and Jem Mckenzie, RUSU Inclusion & Communities Officer:  

We recognise the benefit that the University has received over the years from membership of Stonewall, and how this has previously proved beneficial in their work to be an open and tolerant workplace for all. However, at first glance, pausing our membership might not seem in keeping with this and we have sought to understand the rationale behind it. We attended a call with the Chief Executive of Stonewall to hear more about plans moving forward and Allán has explained the decision and provided some helpful context around why the decision was made. 

We are pleased that the University will launch a new fund that will be ring-fenced for staff and students to access funding to support LGBT+ inclusion and initiatives. We’ll be hosting Student Pride on 28th February, and we will work with university colleagues for LGBT+ History Month. We hope to see the partnership between RUSU, and the University strengthened, with more opportunities to capture student voice in this work.  

As the students’ union at Reading, we will always scrutinise the decisions of the University and speak up in the interests of all students. We hope the University continues to engage with Stonewall and will consider returning to its membership in the future if it is in the best interests of all students. 

From Dr Ruvi Ziegler, chair of the University of Reading LGBT+ staff network: 

The LGBT+ staff network is continuing to advance its educational mission by holding training sessions for members of staff. Our next sessions take place in February, a special time in the LGBT+ calendar, marking LGBT history month. We will be holding a Bi inclusion training (on Monday 6 February between 3-4pm), a Trans awareness training (on Tuesday 7 February between 1-3pm), and LGBT+ Ally trainings (on Wednesday 22 February and Thursday 23 February between 1-2 pm) to which all colleagues are warmly invited. We are also excited about the potential activities that the university’s funding commitment to support colleagues LGBT+ inclusion could facilitate, and strongly encourage colleagues to submit proposals. 


July: South Asian Heritage Month


South Asian Heritage Month logo


South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) in the UK starts in July! Running from Monday 18th July to Wednesday 17th August, this is the third year of South Asian Heritage Month in the UK. The theme for 2022 is Journeys of Empire.

Meet the team behind SAHM:

South Asian Heritage Month is a month-long celebration (similar in spirit to Black History Month in October), to celebrate the heritage of people with roots in South Asian countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. SAHM aims to commemorate, mark and celebrate South Asian cultures, histories and communities. It seeks to understand the diverse heritage and cultures that continue to connect South Asia with the UK.

Read more about the history of the British empire and South Asia here:


A full calendar of events is planned for South Asian Heritage Month 2022, with both in-person across the UK and online events taking place. There will be 31 events over 31 days, as well as specific Focus Days for each of the 8 countries of South Asia.

See events here:






Further Resources:

University of Reading BAME Network:


SAHM Instagram:

SAHM Twitter:

South Asian Writers Articles:

The Hidden History of the Ayahs of Britain:

Poetry and Memory: The Bridge Between My Grandfather’s Memoirs & Me:









(image source:









UoR IDAHOBIT Virtual Flag Raising Event 2021

by UoR Central D&I Team 


What is IDAHoBiT? 

31 years ago – on May 17, 1990 – the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) celebrates LGBT+ people globally, and raises awareness for the work still needed to combat discrimination. 


Here at UoR, we mark IDAHOBIT annually with a flag raising event, accompanied by speeches delivered from staff and student representatives. In 2021, although we were not able to be together in-person for the event, we marked IDAHOBIT via Teams. In this blog, we wanted to capture the speeches that were delivered by our staff and students.  


Parveen Yaqoob
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, UEB LGBT+ Champion  

“I’d like to extend a warm welcome to you all to this flag-raising to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, celebrated in over 130 countries, even in some of the places that still criminalise homosexuality. I want to say a few words about why we do this and why it’s important. 

There are still over 70 countries that criminalise homosexuality. Every year, people lose lives fighting for equality. Even in countries which seem to support equality, discrimination results in limited access to healthcare, adoption, insurance, inheritance rights- the list goes on. On days like today we raise awareness and visibility as part of a movement to create a safer world. We do this to speak up for those that do not have those rights and to challenge discrimination wherever it arises. 

The theme for this year’s IDAHOBIT is “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing”. It was chosen because of the chaos, heartbreak and struggles of the past year and the fact that the pandemic will have lasting impact on social activism and the fight for equal rights, both positive and negative. 

The University has an important legacy in the form of a landmark report published by our former Vice-Chancellor, Lord Wolfenden in 1957 (known as the Wolfenden Report), which later led to the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships. 

We’re working hard towards inclusive practices, which includes LGBT+ networks, role models, an Allies programme and many more examples. But there is still more to do! 

We must ensure that LGBT+ inclusion remains on our agenda because we want the University to be a place where everyone can be their true selves and where respect is fundamental and heartfelt.” 


Rachel Wates
RUSU Diversity Officer 2020-21 

“The theme for this year’s IDAHOBIT is “Together: Resisting, Supporting and Healing!” due to the pandemic having an impact on the fight for equal rights.  

Reflecting on my own experience this theme seems more than fitting and truly does resonate with me. This is because it is only through being together and working in unity that I believe I have been able to deliver virtual talks such as the Bi Inclusion Training and the great Bi discussion alongside the University and student societies respectfully.  

Additionally, it was through supporting and healing was I able to reflect and move on from my own experiences with biphobia online and I am so happy and grateful to be working with such a progressive Students’ Union and University who do not shy away from addressing these matters.  

However, I just wanted to take a moment to discuss where in some places around the world LGBT+ discrimination still very much prevalent. From my experience living in Malaysia for a term abroad, to reading in the news about a young 20-year-old boy in Iran named Ali Reza Fazeli-Monfared who was executed for being gay just a week or so ago – we need to acknowledge that there is still a lot of progress and work that needs to be done surrounding inequality.” 


Lennox Bruwer
RUSU Trans Student Officer 2020-21

“In 2021, we still honour International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia because discrimination against LGBT individuals is still prevalent both in Britain and worldwide. This discrimination manifests both in highly visible ways, but also in subtler, institutionalised ways, particularly against LGBT+ people of colour, women, disabled people, immigrants and other marginalised identities. 

So, I’m calling on allies to make it known that discrimination against LGBT people is never tolerated. It’s not something you can ignore out of politeness. If you have the power to challenge discrimination within your social groups, your colleagues, your communities, do so. Sometimes allyship comes in the form of calling out discrimination, and sometimes it’s in the smaller actions too. For example, Instagram recently updated their interface so you’re able to include your pronouns in your profile. When allies share their pronouns, it normalises it when trans people like me do the same. Making it clear that you’re an ally helps LGBT people know that there is a safe space available to be themselves without fear of discrimination or prejudice. 

To my LGBT+ peers, I know that the conversation around LGBT+ discrimination is hard, so thank you for being here and continuing to fight the good fight, and I’m always here to talk if you need a space to be heard.” 


Dr Ruvi Ziegler
LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair 

“The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is marked on the 17th of May to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990, just 31 short years ago, to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.  

As we mark IDAHOBIT, we reflect on the fact that, while we have witnessed significant legal advances in LGBT+ equality in parts of the world, in 2021, there remain many places where LGBT+ persons are not free to live, thrive, and be partnered to whomever they wish. LGBT+ persons’ experiences are shaped globally by criminal sanctions and oppression, social barriers, intolerance, and unwillingness to accept and recognise them for they are. Of 194 countries surveyed by ILGA- the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, over 2 billion people live in 70 countries the world over where consensual homosexuality between adults is illegal. Only 66 countries offer broad legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.  

Some of those seeking refuge from persecution on grounds of sexual orientation come to our shores. I am proud that the university, jointly with Reading city of sanctuary and the Reading refugee support group, has relaunched the sanctuary scholarship scheme designed to enable 12 students at all study levels who are asylum-seekers or who have received a protection status in the UK to come to study here. 

But we must not forget that, even in political spaces where LGBT+ people enjoy legal protections, we still face serious challenges. Alarmingly, according to a recent YouGov survey, 26% of UK adults would be ashamed to have an LGBT+ child. Therefore, IDAHOBIT is fundamentally important wherever you are, as it is a day that gives the LGBT+ community and its allies the world over the opportunity to celebrate the social and political advancements in LGBT+ equality but also to reflect on the work that remains to be done to make our communities truly inclusive.  

It is, also a great opportunity for employers – like the University of Reading – to help raise awareness about tackling LGBT+ discrimination and show support by being visible allies. As co-Chair of the LGBT plus staff network, I would like to invite our Staff and PGR students who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and/or other sexual and gender identities, such as asexual, non-binary, intersex– as well as LGBT+ people with multiple identities, and allies – to join us. Let’s continue to work together to make our university as inclusive and welcoming a space as it can be.”  



Following these speeches, we took a moment to view the rainbow flag flying over our Whiteknights campus. We hope to be able to gather around the flagpole in-person next year. Nonetheless, being able to mark IDAHOBIT virtually and listen to these speeches was equally as important.  


As we closed the event, we shared some points we felt that everyone in the UoR community could do beyond IDAHOBIT and incorporate into our daily lives:  

  • Add your personal information through ESS Your personal data is kept confidential and used in an aggregated form to help us see a more accurate picture of our UoR staff demographic which allows us to better understand our staff and where resources may need to be prioritised. 
  • Participate in UoR LGBT+ training sessions– Trans Inclusion, Bi Inclusion, Becoming an Ally to LGBT+ Staff and Students.
  • Join more events – there is an upcoming event organised by ENEI ‘LGBTQ+ Culture Around the World’ on 24th June 2021 from 13:00-14:00 BST. This event is free to UoR staff as we’re members of ENEI. 
  • Join the LGBT+ Staff Network(s)as a member or an ally.
  • Contact your local Diversity Lead and see how you can get involved within your own school or function. 
  • Call out bad behaviour – use the UHT method, watch Stonewall’s #NoBystanders video. 
  • Normalise including your pronouns – in your email signature, introductions and bio. 
  • Check out the #DiverseReading blog – if you would like to share something on the blog, send an email to  




Influential BAME Psychologists

by Renée Lee, Second Year Psychology Student


More often than not, the world is Psychology is heavily dominated by western influences, ideologies, and psychologists. Therefore, this post is to provide information about BAME psychologists and the influence they have had worldwide.


Firstly, Kenneth Bancroft Clark a psychologist who was an essential part of the infamous Brown v. Board of Education case in America during the Civil Rights Movement. He conducted a study – now named the “Doll Study” – in which a sample of 200 black children were given the choice of dolls: white dolls or brown dolls. Although the children were no older than 3 years of age, Clark’s findings indicated that children had a strong preference for the while dolls over the black dolls. From this, he therefore concluded that segregation in America was causing strong psychological damage to the black youth. This study helped the Supreme Court make the final decision to outlaw de jure segregation. In addition to his monumental achievement via his study, he was also the first ever black president of the American Psychological Association (APA)!


Another inspiring figure is Robert Williams II who created the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity in order to counteract the controversial American IQ test. The test he created utilised the common African American dialect (Ebonics) and shared anecdotal personal experiences. The test managed to conclude and show that black people weren’t any less smart than white Americans and that that differences in vernacular can skew results. Soon after conducting this test, he also created the term “Ebonics” which is the name for the African American vernacular.


Finally, Reiko True is a Japanese female psychologist. She attended university in Tokyo and was the one of the 3 females in her class of nearly 100. Due to her passion for equality in the mental health sector, she managed to create the first mental health centre in California specifically to serve Asian Americans. As mentioned in our previous email, it can be important for the BAME community to have therapists who can help relate to their experiences on a deeper level. True lead this centre herself and she ensured that the staff employed there were culturally aware and trained in Asian languages so they could provide the best care possible.





Discrimination and Disparities in the World of Psychology

by Renée Lee, Second Year Psychology Student and Professor Patricia Riddell, Director of WIDE


Within the field of Psychology, multiple students wish to progress into the clinical roles. Therefore, it is important for them to know about how the BAME community is treated in the medical health field. There are myths about BAME individuals that are important to address since they can consciously or subconsciously affect the way healthcare professionals provide care.


You may or may not already be aware that there is discrimination within the mental health sector of our NHS. According to government statistics (“Treatment for mental or emotional problems”, 2017), black individuals tend to experience worse mental health than white people, however, the latter are more than twice as likely to receive treatment for these problems. In addition to this, when mental health treatment is provided healthcare, it is often implemented through the criminal justice system. Further to this, 40% of black people are given compulsory treatment and drug therapy rather than receiving psychological talking therapies which are more commonly provided to white people. Moreover, black people are four times more likely to be arrested under the Mental Health Act in comparison to white people. It can, therefore, be argued that black people are treated more harshly than white people even before receiving any therapy sessions (“Discrimination in mental health services”, 2019).


The Royal College of Psychiatrists (2018) in the UK also acknowledged that Black British individuals have more mental health conditions. This is results from greater incidence of poverty, homelessness, poorer educational outcomes, higher unemployment and greater contact with the criminal justice system in BAME communities than White communities (National Institute for Mental Health in England, 2003). This increases stress and has a negative impact on mental health (Bhui, Nazroo, Francis et al (2018). These differences can also result in culturally inappropriate treatment of BAME patients by healthcare professionals.


There is evidence that the BAME community, and particularly black men, do not always want to seek professional help partly as a result of cultural mistrust and clinician bias (Hankerson, Suite and Bailey (2015); Memon, Taylor, Mohebati et al, 2016). This is sometimes a result of stigma, lack of knowledge of resources available, or a lack of sensitivity of healthcare professionals to cultural sensitivities. One further reason that this mistrust exists is that, in some parts of the world, healthcare professionals have chosen to experiment on particular racial groups (for example, in the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Male Negro”). This practice is still in evidence today, for example, when French doctors insisted that COVID-19 trials and testing should take place in Africa due to the lower number of cases there. This led to outrage among the black community who pointed out that they are “not human guinea pigs” (“Coronavirus: France racism row over doctors’ Africa testing comments”, 2020).


Moreover, there are biases that relate specifically to the Black community that may affect the care that healthcare professionals provide. A common example is that clinicians have sometimes been found to underestimate the cognitive abilities of Black people as a result of stereotyping (Hankerson et al, 2015). Another example involves the idea of the “strong, independent black woman”. If healthcare professionals view black women as strong all of the time, then there is a possibility that they will be incorrectly diagnosed correctly and/or provided with inappropriate treatment.


Overall, this information provides evidence of the ways in which black people are discriminated against in the mental health sector. Whether it be access to treatment, diagnoses or the treatment prescribed, the BAME community are not always treated the same as the white community. The future generation of healthcare professionals need to realise how important it is to dispel biases both individually and as a community in order to provide effective treatment for all. No-one should be denied the best and most appropriate access to healthcare on the basis of their race or the colour of their skin.





Links to read more about the topics discussed above








Is Being “White” Bad? Understanding Race During Covid-19

Reham ElMorally, PhD Candidate, Dep. of International Development, SAPD
Dr Billy Wong, Associate Professor, Institute of Education
Meggie Copsey-Blake, MA Education student (2019/2020), Institute of Education


Can 2020 get any worse?” A trending question in the global community. 2020 has confronted us with life-altering realities, which in turn has changed the discourse around what is perceived to be ‘normal’. The shift in paradigm throughout the world, as influenced by the global pandemic, COVID-19, and the death of George Floyd fuelling the #BlackLivesMatter movement, has encouraged the reassessment of institutionalized racism in Higher Education (HE) settings in the UK.

In our three-year longitudinal study we have so far conducted 69 interviews from undergraduate students in STEM disciplines, asking about their experiences in HE. The parameters of our analysis varied. On one occasion we set the parameters to racial understanding and comparing. The theoretical approach included institutionalization of racial biases through unconscious means of transmission.

Institutions, such as universities, have been established to cater to a specific socio-economic and cultural fragment of society. During the establishment of many universities the objective was to perpetuate social hierarchies and discern the social hegemonic bloc from other sects of the society. In the UK, the social hegemonic block is the White population. However, the changing global climate, and the efforts by governments to eradicate racialized understandings and mannerisms (for example the Race and Equality Act 1965), have contributed to levelling of the playing field. Recreating racial understandings, nonetheless, does not connote an eradication of it. Unconscious biases are one of the facets racial understandings are manifested.

Unconscious Bias describes the underlying prejudicial attitudes and understandings one has towards a person or a group. Sequentially, it informs and is affected by how one views themselves and others. Self-perception, however, can be deceiving. As scholars pointed out, Unconscious Biases could lead to a cognitive error called Affinity Bias; the tendency to identify, relate, and behave more favourably towards people similar to or within your affinity group. For instance, a White, heterosexual, abled, women, can relate better to another White women, with similar dispositions, than to a Black, homosexual, disabled, man.

Affinity bias can oftentimes lead to a skewed sense of self. In extreme cases, one could argue, it leads to aggressive racial interactions, where a sense of self-worth is heightened and deviators from the affinity group are regarded as lesser in worth. Consequentially, an aggravated sense of superiority and inferiority can arise. Where members of the social hegemonic bloc are reassured by their affinity group, other social blocs are discarded as hindrances, and in extreme cases, enemies of the social order. In the UK, the hegemonic bloc is the White population for whom the institutions were erected to serve, such as universities.

How does this relate to Higher Education? Well, HE institutions such as universities, much like government institutions, are meant to serve the interests of the majority population, particularly the hegemonic bloc; Karl Marx referred to those as ‘owners of means of production’ or the bourgeois. In any given society, as Rousseau argued, a social contract of sorts needs to be established to govern and police behaviour and attitudes. The social contract provides guidelines to who is entitled to what, and when. Once a social hierarchy is agreed upon, institutions are erected to solidify and organize the social fabric. While constructing these institutions, rarely did anyone question who is it intended for and for what purpose. With the scholastic community giving more attention to qualitative studies, since the 1970s, they have uncovered that structures, much like human beings, are reactive to the environment in which they were constructed. Less similar to humans, structures like those of institutions are more difficult to dismantle, as bureaucracy slows down any process of change.

As changing institutions has proved to be a difficult task, we analysed how students have reacted to said institutions. The parameters of the study juxtaposed White Privilege with internalized inferiority. Utilizing critical discourse analysis, we revisited students’ statements with regards to the influence of their own ethnicity on their academic performance and achievements respectively. Accounting for the university’s effort to establish a diverse and tolerant environment, we have identified failures of the institutions to account for psychological stressors associated with HE. One of said stressors is the institutional inability and lack of capacity to restructure understandings. The UK, as a one of the major former colonial and imperial forces, anachronistically attempted to rebuild a society on the basis of tolerance and diversity, particularly after the United Nation’s Resolution 1514 to decolonize imperial territories in 1960. While facades are easy to alter, the spirit, in the philosophical-legal understanding, is complex in its structure and composition, making it harder to change.

Even though racism and discrimination on the basis of race have been legally deemed unacceptable and in some cases punishable by law, carriers of the racist beliefs have remained vigilant in the way they disseminate within society. This is evidenced by the noticeable negligence of some White students we spoke to towards racial issues. Contrastingly, students of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) affiants have stressed the centricity of ethnic background to their experiences. Not only did we find that students of minority ethnic backgrounds feel ‘out of place’, which was expected after establishing that the hegemonic bloc sets the boundaries for normalcy and by extension defines the social contract to govern and police disenfranchised social blocs, but we also found that students have internalized their respective position within the society. For instance, students of White ethnic backgrounds are less likely to notice or comment on ethnic diversity within classrooms, while BAME students report an increasing awareness it (Wong, ElMorally, Copsey-Blake, Highwood, and Singearyer, 2020).

Upon further investigation and analysis, we argue that the intersection of race with the affinity bias can be a cause of the discrepancies observed. Some of our White students were disinterested and aloof, indicative of lack of awareness towards privilege as a result of their race. Some of the students who emphasized such characteristics were more defiant and reacted less favourably when presented with buzzwords such as Affirmative Action. This in turn changed the tone of conversation from investigative to defensive. Students who reacted in said manner exhibited a basic understanding of ‘White Guilt’ and ‘White Shame’ to defend their position. Unaware of the inherent contradictions of White Guilt and Shame, said students exposed the side-effects of affinity bias; the familiarity of their skin colour blinded them from realizing the bias is indeed an evolutionary cognitive method to foresee threats. However, when left unchallenged, the bias self-actualizes, and any action to prove its validity is used as confirmation, i.e. Confirmation Bias. For instance, an effort by the university to spread the holiday spirit around December/Christmas, but the lack of effort exerted to celebrate other cultures and holidays such as Ramadan, can confirm the affinity bias. To the prejudiced mind, this signals the superiority and importance of one holiday over another, and by extension the superiority/inferiority of one observer of a holiday over another.

On the other hand, minority ethnic students and allies alike, are often aware of the dichotomous environment. However, when one is unconscious of social hierarchies, it is easier to submit to it and, in some cases, reproduce and perpetuate it. This model is called the Stereotype Threat, in which a person feels at risk of confirming an existing negative stereotype about their affinity group. When the ‘vulnerability’, e.g. assumed to be weak because one is a woman, is reiterated to the subject, their performance is undermined and their focus shifts to negating the negative stereotype as opposed to completing the task, compromising the integrity of the results. This means that in situations where the salience of one’s stereotyped group-identity are increased so is one’s vulnerability to the Stereotype Threat.

The intersection between the aforementioned variables and academic performance coincide with the national data on degree awarding and achieving gaps. This makes us believe that in order to enhance the academic performance of minority ethnic students, we must restructure our training and development schemes in place to accommodate for unconscious bias and its effects on the psychology of students.


This paper draws on a research paper that is currently under review:

ElMorally, Reham., Wong, Billy., & Copsey-Blake, Meggie. Is being ‘White’ Bad? Understanding Unconscious Racialized Behavior of University Students.

Raising undergraduate aspirations through career mentoring?

Tania Lyden, Career Consultancy Lead: curriculum and academic engagement, July 2020

The Thrive Career Mentoring evaluation reports for undergraduates at the University of Reading showed that mentoring had raised 41% of mentees career aspirations: convincing given the potential mentoring seems to have for influencing social mobility. To harness these findings to influence the University’s Graduate Outcomes, we needed to better understand the processes involved. We needed to know which of our mentees had raised career aspirations and examine whether particular widening participation (WP) students were benefitting or not  How had this change in aspiration happened? What processes were involved and how could we enhance the scheme?

From previous career mentoring research, certain theories and studies had come to the fore to help understand how mentoring worked, particularly in relation to WP students. These included: Bourdieu’s work on social reproduction and subsequent theories such as Hodkinson’s ‘horizons for action’; career identity theories (Meijers & Lengelle, 2012) and employability models  (Dacre-Pool & Sewell, 2007), (Tomlinson, 2017), including self-efficacy, (Bandura, 1977) alongside theories on mentoring processes ( (Kram, 1983), (Bouquillon, Sosik, & Lee, 2005), (Ragins, 1997)).

What emerged were several questions. Did mentoring provide students with a changed view of the labour market (field[1]), whether more detailed, broader or simply different and what was the impact of this: greater self-efficacy in relation to a specific career and a shift in career identity? Did mentees experience changes in their ‘habitus’[2]  or get a better sense of the tactics necessary, or ‘feel for the game’, for those roles? Did this also impact on their self-efficacy about securing a more aspirational role? Did mentoring processes such as cognitive overlap between mentor and mentee, recognition, identification, integration and trust feature and were their aspirational shifts consequences to this?

The current before and after surveys for career mentoring were adjusted to ask about student perceptions around career aspiration before and after mentoring, with analysis around why mentee’s perceived it had happened and also some analysis of the shift in occupations sought. This would reveal which students had raised aspirations. Focus groups would deliver a better understanding of the processes involved. However, this approach became challenging and interviews were opted for instead. Importantly, survey analysis revealed that what mentees viewed as raised aspirations, for the most part, did not seem to be. The researcher used the interviews to explore this misunderstanding about raised aspirations and why mentees answered yes, when their reasoning behind the answer suggested otherwise and what this meant for the mentoring programme. Unfortunately, only two WP students volunteered to take part in deeper qualitative research so each was undertaken as a case study.  The research revealed some interesting results. Firstly, a higher percentage of mentees from BAME groups and/or NSSEC category 4, 5, 6 and 7 reported raised aspirations compared to non BAME mentees and mentees from NSSEC categories 1, 2 and 3. Conversely, mentees reporting disabilities and/or who had lived in low participation neighbourhoods (Polar Q 1 and 2) had a lower percentage reporting raised aspirations. After analysing any association between these characteristics and raised aspirations using Chi Square tests, it was revealed that none of these results were statistically significant. The tests relied on small numbers of participants for the WP categories particularly, but the Chi Squared tests were valid.

Secondly, our qualitative survey analysis revealed only a handful of students had actually adjusted their career goals. What the others reported was feeling more focused regarding their career options (31%), having chosen a specific career path (24%), feeling more ambitious (7%), broadening their outlook (5%), feeling more certain about their career choice (5%) and having higher self-belief about their chosen career option (5%). The pie chart shows this breakdown. What this reveals is that for the vast majority of mentees their journey seemed to be more about making career choice progress and/or feeling more committed and ready to apply for the roles they aspired to do, rather than aspiring to ‘higher level’ roles. Without career mentoring, they may not have made a choice, not been committed enough, have lacked self-belief and potentially reverted to non-graduate level applications.

In terms of shedding light on the processes involved, the two interviews provided rich, useful data. The participant names have been changed to ensure privacy.

Jack was a male, part two, BAME mentee and a mature student. He clearly displayed higher self-efficacy due to achieving a more realistic, up close view of the career he aspired to, and the lifestyle that accompanied it, through his relationship with his mentor. This seemed to show symbolic modelling (Bandura, 1977). 

I feel it’s been less about raising my goals as about specifying them. Again, making them more realistic, actually making them a reality. It’s become a lotless nebulous now. It looks a lot more concrete now.

He received reassurance from a likeminded, yet demographically different, role model and this seemed key to him feeling like the career was right for him and that he had a good chance of success. This relationship showed clear cognitive overlap and some integration of identities, and although only this case seemed to support the idea that similarity enabled trust and identification to occur, this led to successful outcomes for Jack.

As much as this sounds attractive, and I think it’s the right call, I’m not really certain that may be once I get into it, it may be will kill me a little bit on the inside or something. Um, after the mentoring scheme I feel very definitely, no I’ve made the right call here.

Suhanna was a female BAME mentee who had almost no cognitive overlap with her mentor and was re-exploring her career identity having strongly identified with one of her parent’s careers and since rejected it. There was little bonding and no identification and only limited progress for her in terms of career direction. Both Jack and Suhanna gained a new view of the labour market ‘field’ and this resulted in a highly evolved understanding of the role and employability tactics for Jack and a huge opening up of career options for Suhanna. Neither raised their aspirations, but Jack ended up certain about his career identity and how to realise it and Suhanna realised that the answer to her career journey was to explore further career options and could see a way forward. It seems that Suhanna’s self-efficacy in her ability to navigate the career decision making process had increased, perhaps as a result of performance exposure (Bandura, 1977), in the form of exploring many new career options. She had another placement planned to explore a subsequent career option.

I wanted to aspire to be like my Dad, I want to be successful, I wanted to be in finance and the more I’ve grown up, the more I’ve realised I was, not naïve, but I just didn’t realise what else was out there. So I guess that’s what mentoring has made me realise.

A clearer career identity seemed to accelerate mentoring benefits, but progress can still be made if mentees are early in the career choice process and that building self-efficacy around applying the career decision making process is fruitful. Having mentor/mentee common ground helps and that with a well formed mentee career identity that common ground can include career interests. Cognitive overlap seemed to enable identification and comparisons between the mentee and the mentor such that the mentee saw their future self in the mentor’s current self via ‘symbolic modelling’ (Bandura, 1977). However: firstly, that cognitive overlap did not seem to need to be based on demographics. Interestingly Jack and his mentor were very different demographically but had very similar career interests, academic background, personality and work ethic. Secondly, this presented a paradox in that for mentoring outcomes to truly accelerate and reach fruition, students seemed to need better-formed career identities, something which mentoring ideally should help to achieve, but that for those with limited career identities at the outset, building self-efficacy in the career decision making process would help them move forward. Those with poorly formed professional career identities, logically, would be those who have had least exposure to professional graduate roles through their families, friends and communities, making mentoring vital for social mobility.

Several recommendations are made as a result of this research:

•            Matching processes should focus on multi-facetted mentor/mentee cognitive overlap.

•            Mentors should know how well-formed their mentee’s career identities are and encourage mentees to apply the career decision making process and reflect to build self efficacy in it.

•            Mentors and mentees need training and exercises to reflect on common ground, discuss differences and recognise the importance of relationship quality on career mentoring.

•            Mentors should provide mentee’s with mastery experiences as per Bandura’s self-efficacy concept, including providing experiences, if possible, occupational information, vicarious insights into job roles and reassurance as well as honest reflection about a mentee’s emotional reactions to what they learn and the process. This will broaden mentee horizons, deepen knowledge from new vantage points previously unavailable to them plus support about how they feel about it.

•            Scheme organisers need to encourage mentors and mentees to invest in the relationship.

•            Stakeholders need to better understand mentoring processes and how to support them.

To conclude, what originated as a study of career aspiration, evolved into a study of how career mentoring ensures mentees create, develop certainty around and ultimately secure their career aspirations and how schemes can support this to improve graduate outcomes. Aspects of the mechanisms of recognition and identification, habitus and field and self-efficacy all seemed at play.


[1] ‘Field’ is a place where agents are based with their positions of power dependent upon the interaction between; the rules of the field, the habitus of the agent and the capital (social, cultural, symbolic) of the agent.

[2] ‘Habitus’ is a repeated set of behaviours, assumptions and judgements that have developed over time due to family socialisation and that particular position in ‘the field’ and scaffolds decisions as a loose framework (Bourdieu, 1990)



Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Bouquillon, E. A., Sosik, J. J., & Lee, D. (2005). It’s only a phase: examining trust, identification and mentoring functions received across the mentoring phases. Mentoring and Tutoring Partnership Learning, (13): 1-20.

Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Dacre-Pool, L., & Sewell, P. (2007). The key to employability: developing a practical model of graduate employability. . Education and Training, 49(4):277-289.

Kram, K. (1983). Mentoring at work: Developmental relationships in organizational life. Academy of Management Journal, (26): 608-625.

Meijers, F., & Lengelle, R. (2012). Narratives at work: the development of career identity. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 1-20.

Ragins, B. R. (1997). Diversified mentoring relationships in organizations: a power perspective. Academy of Management Review, 22(2): 482-521.

Tomlinson, M. (2017). Forms of graduate capital and their relationship to employability. Education and Training, 59(4): 338-352.


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.

Launching a project to recognise diverse role models in STEM for the International Day for Women and Girls in Science

Guest post by Dr Joy Singarayer (Associate Professor of Paleaoclimatology and Equality and Diversity School Champion in the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences), marking the International Day for Women and Girls in Science (11 Feb 2018).

Link to the STEMsational Figures website (

Visibility of role models is an important aspect of inspiring student achievement, sense of belonging, and career choices. Students may find aspiration from role models in a variety of places, for example in the teaching staff, other students, public figures, or key scientists featured in their courses. There is a diverse student population in SMPCS (School of Mathematical, Physical, and Computational Sciences) in terms of gender, ethnicity and other characteristics (see the figure) and ideally our curricula should also be designed to recognise the contributions made by a diverse range of scientists. There are national movements to introduce more inclusive and diverse curricula within higher education, following campaigns started at other universities, including ‘why is my curriculum White’ and ‘decolonise our Uni’. I believe this move for change is not just of benefit to underrepresented students but to raise awareness of diverse role models for everyone, as a life enhancing opportunity, and because we are educating future leaders and employers.

Our school successfully renewed its Athena SWAN silver award in 2017. We have made significant progress in gender parity in many areas of staff and student recruitment, inclusive work environment, and career progression. However, our recent data analysis and focus groups did also bring to light some previously unexamined issues, such as an intersectional gender-ethnicity attainment gap as well as concerns of gender differences in numbers going on to postgraduate studies. In response, among other actions in the SMPCS Athena SWAN Action Plan 2017, we have included an action to explore how we can raise attainment and career aspirations through the development of a web resource highlighting diverse role models within subjects studied by SMPCS students. This is especially relevant here as the staff currently delivering our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are somewhat less diverse than our students (we are also working towards rectifying this within our action plan).

Our Head of School provided a budget for us to employ three undergraduate research experience students over summer 2017 for six weeks to initiate and develop a website for SMPCS to enable students and staff to explore the contributions of diverse scientists and mathematicians relevant to their programmes. The undergraduate research students who developed the webpage gained experience of independent research, web design, interview techniques, writing for public online media, and project management. The results of their hard work can be found at the STEMsational Figures webpage (, which we are launching to correspond with International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11th 2018). The webpage currently features figures such as Maryam Mirzakhani – mathematician and first woman to win the Fields Medal, Grace Hopper – computer scientist and inventor of the compiler, and Susan Soloman – climate scientist who worked out the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole.

Having completed the initial phase of webpage development, hopefully, this is only the beginning of this project. The question is how to maintain, publicise, and develop the webpages so they will be of on-going benefit to future students. Our plan is to explore the potential to incorporate further development within the graduate skills modules that undergraduate students in all of our departments undertake. We can use this framework to discuss unconscious bias and diversity, raise awareness of the broader history of their subjects, enhance their skills in writing for a public science audience and using social media in research, and at the same time develop the webpage content year by year. We hope to coordinate with module conveners to assess this opportunity in practical terms in time for the 2018-19 academic year. In the meantime we would welcome any feedback on the webpage or suggestions for more role models to Joy Singarayer ( or Calvin Smith (

Remembering local LGBTQ+ history in LGBT History Month

Guest blog by Film & Theatre student Bradley Greening and LGBT Plus staff network Co-Chair Deb Heighes, to mark the start of LGBT History Month 2018

We are delighted to have a joint staff-student blog today to mark the beginning of LGBT History Month 2018. Bradley and Deb talk about their involvement in a Heritage-Lottery funded project, led by local LGBT+ support and resource organisation Support U in collaboration with Reading Museum and the University. This project, Wolfenden60: Living Wolfenden’s Legacy, kicked off last year, the 60th anniversary of the 1957 Wolfenden Report (chaired by our then Vice Chancellor Sir John Wolfenden).

To learn more see the events coming up at Reading Museum this month or our own UoR programme for LGBT History Month.

Bradley writes:

My university experience has been such an unexpected, hugely rewarding period of my life so far. It has opened up opportunities that I never anticipated, it is as if I have been transformed by the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting whilst studying in Reading. Two of these people are truly incredible women who work for local LGBTQ+ charity Support U – Jessica Stevens-Taylor and Kath Tuthill. Jess and Kath have been working on a major project, aided by the financial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report. Exploring the legacy left by the report through a 20 to 30-minute documentary, Jess writes: “We felt that showcasing real LGBT people’s life stories was the most appropriate way to do this. We wanted to capture the thoughts and feelings of people of varying ages who could share how they felt living as an LGBT person.”
The project not only involved the making of a documentary, but also several other aspects which I have been fortunate to be involved. This included a series of thoroughly interesting debates discussing representation of LGBTQ+ in the media, the state of unity within the community, and finally, one addressing the important question: who benefited from the Wolfenden Report?
The documentary, in particular, has been such a fun experience. As a student of Film & Theatre who specialises in Theatre practice, I don’t have many opportunities to engage with filmmaking anymore, so to be able to participate in the filmmaking side – setting up the equipment, recording the sound etc. – was very exciting for me. Additionally, I spent a lot of time liaising with Kath, Jess, and the other volunteers around the content of the script, adjusting and editing it to make it accessible and coherent. I am a little sad that the documentary is almost finished because it has been fun working on it with everyone, and meeting all the friendly faces who got in front of the camera.
That is not to say that the project hasn’t come with its challenges, especially with testimonies and finding people willing to share their stories on film. As Kath points out, “Many seemed unwilling to travel back emotionally to these difficult times,” but Jess notes that “We were still keen that we should share real life stories and experiences so we ultimately hit on the idea of asking for written submissions and have actors read these.” Even I read some of these testimonies for the camera, and though I had flicked through them previously, it wasn’t until I read them aloud, without any rehearsal, that the words really resonated with me on an emotional level.
There was also a lack of testimonies from school age people and, to remedy this, Kath and Jess created some questionnaires for the members of the Affinity Youth group, one of multiple groups run by Support U, to offer a safe space for those who may have questions about their sexuality, who may not feel 100% comfortable with their sexuality, or anyone who just wants to form new friendships with people who identify as LGBTQ+. In the making of the documentary, we have had many individuals help us in the process: veteran activists Andrew Lumsden and Netty Pollard, our wonderful narrator Dan from 1stNature, the talented Jess Tuthill who recorded some original music and covers to accompany the documentary, and finally, Vicky from Lesbian And Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA).
It has been great working with Support U on this project, and it doesn’t end with just the documentary and the debates. During LGBT History Month, Reading Museum will be hosting ‘tea time talks’ on Saturday afternoons, and Jess and Kath will be taking an education pack on the Wolfenden Report into local schools, and I expect interesting discussions will take place in both cases. To end on a few words from Kath: “We have been so lucky with our volunteers. They are truly amazing, each and every one. They are the true shape of the project!”

Deb adds:
I have also been able to be involved in the Wolfenden Project over recent months. Like Bradley, the experience has been transformative. To give some context, my ‘long’ working life included working as a school teacher at the time when Section 28 was put on the statute books and also when the infamous tombstone AIDS information campaign was on the TV and dropping through our letter boxes in the form of leaflets. These memories were revived when Caroline Crolla and I were working with Jess and Kath to develop educational resources about the ‘Legacy of Wolfenden’; we included a timeline of key historical LGBT+ landmarks alongside sessions on transgender identity that can be used in secondary schools. Other sessions draw on historical artefacts including Wolfenden’s interviews with Peter Wildeblood and a letter written by Jeremy Corbyn in the 80’s. These educational resources show how there is a real positive legacy of Wolfenden, one that is continuing to develop and progress. For me, it has led to reflection on how society has changed over the course of my working life and how that change is in small steps forward and sometimes small steps back. However, the fact that I am an LGBT+ workplace role-model and a Face of Reading is something that I would not have believed possible when, in 1988, guidance was received in school on the implications of Section 28 on our work with children.

Like Bradley, I became involved in the filming of testimonies for the documentary; it was lovely to work with students from FTT and see them work with confidence and expertise to get the best out of me – sat on the biggest pile of cushions I have ever seen! I read some testimonies of young people and it was striking that the pain and fear of coming out has not changed much; the individual journey can still be difficult despite society apparently being more accepting. There is still transphobia and homophobia and it is important not to assume that now we have gay marriage it is all OK. To tell your Mum and Dad, your grandparents and those you are at school or at work with is not an easy task. A voice in your head will be telling you that things will never be the same again and potentially will be ruined. This is why it is important we have strong and outspoken allies who are willing to speak out and not be bystanders particularly for the youngest and most vulnerable in our communities.