Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Fund – Applications Open!

Colleagues at the University of Reading can now apply for funding to help boost projects that promote diversity and inclusion at the University.

The Central D&I team is accepting bids for funding between £300 and £1000. Previous successful bids include work to decolonise the curriculum, networking activities, allyship training and efforts to tackle attainment gaps.

Applications that align with key priorities, which include considerations of disability and neurodiversity, LGBT+ inclusion, racial equity, sex equality, and their intersections, are particularly welcome.

Applications are welcome from all colleagues across the University. Projects suggested by students, supported by a staff member as the project lead are also invited.

Any allocated funds must be used by July 2024.

Assessments will be based on the following principles:

  • Diversity and inclusion relevance specifically to School, Function or University.
  • Link to School/Function/University aims or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – although we would also encourage initiatives relevant to other protected characteristics.
  • Potential and plan for longer term impact on wider University.

Please note that as a condition of the funding, some reporting back is required:

  • A 1-2 page report received by the end of August 2024 that details: name of project and leaders and funding awarded; what has been done; what has been spent; what impact(s) there have been and any measurement of this; what follow-up plans there are, or plans for sustaining activities into the future.
  • Where possible, 1-2 photos relevant to work you have done as part of the project that might use in publicity, such as the Staff Portal or through social media, together with a completed permission form if relevant. These should be high resolution.
  • A short piece to be published on the #DiverseReading blog. This can be reflections at the end of the project, or a progress report part-way through.

How to apply

Applications must be made either through the MS Form or by using this Application Form (Word). If you wish to use the Word form, please complete and email it to the central Diversity and Inclusion Team at diversity@reading.ac.uk.

The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Monday 11 September 2023.

Applicants should be informed of decisions on funding bids by October 2023. The decisions made by the panel are final. Feedback will be provided where possible.

Wolfenden Lecture 2023 – 8th June – 17:30

The Wolfenden Lecture is a special event, part of our annual University lecture series, given by high profile members of the LGBT+ community. It is named in honour of the 1957 UK Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden Report). The report was written by the Wolfenden Committee, which was chaired by Lord Wolfenden, the University’s Vice Chancellor between 1950 and 1964. The report became a key milestone in UK LGBT+ history when it recommended that, ‘… homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence.’ This annual event was established in 2017 and celebrates an extraordinary part of our University’s heritage.

We are thrilled that our lecture this year will be an exploration of global LGBT+ inclusion as we listen and learn from our two speakers – Dr. Drew Dalton and Lauren Rowles – about LGBT+ inclusion in different contexts and sectors.


Dr Drew Dalton, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sunderland and Founder of ReportOUT - a global LGBT+ human rights charity - sits smiling in front of a blue background with his forearm resting on a table in front of him.Drew Dalton (He/Him) is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and the Programme Leader for the MSc Inequality and Society at the University of Sunderland.  Drew has significant industry experience in the Third Sector, human rights, HIV and AIDS, and in education. He has been Chair of several organisations including those that have highlighted LGBTQI+ histories, working with people living with HIV, and those that support LGBTQI+ Muslims. Currently he is the Founder and Chair of ReportOUT, an award-winning global human rights charity for sexual and gender minorities across the globe. Drew is a proud bisexual man.

Drew will be delivering ‘The Pink Line: What is happening to sexual and gender minorities globally?’


Lauren Rowles MBE is a World, European, and two time Paralympic Rowing Champion. She is also an inclusion consultant and public figure within the disability and LGBTQ+ community and is passionate about ensuring that there is greater inclusion for the next generation.

In the interests of making Wolfenden 2023 accessible for those who cannot join us in person, the event is hybrid. This means you can register to come to Wolfenden in person on the 8th June at 17:30 in the Van Emden Lecture Theatre at the University of Reading, or you may register to attend virtually.

We really look forward to welcoming our guests, hearing their stories and insights, and welcoming you to join us.

University of Reading celebrates IDAHOBIT 2023

people stand under the flagpole at the University of Reading cheering in celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). On 17 May 2023, we raised the rainbow flag to mark IDAHOBIT2023
The ceremony was led by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Parveen Yaqoob, with speeches by our Welfare Officer Poppy Lindsey and LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair Dr Ruvi Ziegler (see image below, three speakers from right to left). Ruvi’s speech is enclosed.
Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and IDAHOBIT speakers arranged in a line. From left to right: Ceara Webster, Ruvi Ziegler, Poppy Lindsey, and Parveen Yaqoob

For 18 years, 17 May has been observed around the globe as the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It marks the date when, in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Its key purpose is to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, and the public to the risks and challenges faced by LGBT+ people and by others who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.   

In many corners of the world, including countries in the Commonwealth with a colonial legacy, hostility towards our community is rampant. 70 countries, and nearly a third of the world’s population, still criminalise consensual adult same-sex male sexual acts, with 11 countries where the death penalty may be imposed.  

Whereas many places have seen advancement of protection and rights, the trajectory is also by no means one directional. To give one contemporary illustration, in Uganda, a draconian ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’, which only two out of 389 MPs voted againstis awaiting President Museveni’s signature before coming into force.  

The Bill imposes life-imprisonment sentences for gay sex, up to 14 years for “attempted” homosexuality, and 20 years in jail for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”. There are some aggravated conditions such as being HIV positive which carry the death penalty. The bill’s proposers outline its four objectives: 

  • prohibit same-sex sexual relations 
  • strengthen Uganda’s capacity to deal with domestic and foreign threats to the heterosexual family 
  • safeguard traditional and cultural values  
  • protect youth/children against gay and lesbian practice     

If this bill becomes law, it may make Uganda the worst place for LGBT+ persons globally and force many to flee their country. Unfortunately, if they arrive at our shores, the government’s new ‘illegal migration bill’ has in stock for them detention and removal to neighbouring Rwanda – not protection. 

Indeed, the trajectory in this country regarding protection of LGBT plus people is rather worrying, too: six years after a consultation was published on reforming the GRA to improve the situation of trans people, a culture war is raging in which transphobia is commonplace.  

The consequences, a significant rise in hate crimes against LGBT plus people generally, and trans persons in particular, could have been foreseen.   

‘I am deeply concerned about increased bias-motivated incidents of harassment, threats, and violence against LGBT people, including a rampant surge in hate crimes in the UK”.  

These are not my words, but those of Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the conclusion of his country visit earlier this month. He cautions that this could endanger very significant achievements, built over decades, to address violence and discrimination in the country’  

So, the battle for recognition and protection is far from won. 
But even as we recoil from abhorrent policies and practices, we must remain determined to make true MLK’s famous statement, that ‘the art of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’.
The BIPOC LGBT pride flag flies after being raised to close the IDAHOBIT flag raising ceremony for 2023.
We thank all those who attended; we are grateful to be able to celebrate this day together, in solidarity.

Have you heard about childlessness, not by choice (cnbc)?

Trigger warnings for discussions of childlessness, infertility, brief mention of miscarriage and endometriosis rates.

It’s late and I find myself staring out the window of a too-high-up floor flat in Manchester while the rain comes down relentlessly outside. So, I settle down to read while my sodden shoes and umbrella pool in the corner. This afternoon is destined to be lived indoors.

I hit page 64 in Harper’s Bazaar, the May 2023 issue of a magazine I have never read before, but turned to after storming through two issues of Vogue in a week. Upon this spread of pages is a report titled, ‘Conspiracy of Silence: From menopause to miscarriage, conversations about women’s health have been stifled for too long. Frances Hedges meets some of the campaigners advocating for change.’ Specifically, the report focuses on where the discussion is decidedly lacking in the workplace around these issues and I found it to intersect rather aptly with a topic that recently has taken up a large amount of my focus, childlessness.

Hedges’ article is rooted around research, reports, and campaigning that highlights how women’s health is typically overlooked, including one initiatied by Caroline Nokes MP, who delivered one of our recent events through the Women’s Network, the cross-party report on menopause and the workplace.

It also featured the Ginsberg Women’s Health Board – founded by Nimco Ali, Mika Simmons, and Geeta Nargund. Ginsberg wants to build a “culture of transparency” so these issues can be discussed. “These issues” extend to matters of endometriosis and miscarriage. One in 10 women suffer from endometriosis and yet it takes, on average, eight to ten GP appointments to be correctly diagnosed. Ginsberg’s latest campaign is aimed at supporting those who go through miscarriage, the outcome of one in four pregnancies, and who often have to use holiday leave to grieve. In cases where people do not have adequate time to grieve, they are “’forced to continue working as normal, which contributed to a “suffer in silence” culture.’”

I put down the magazine and resumed staring down the long street outside. I know outside there are the sounds of traffic horns, rain turning umbrellas into instruments of percussion as it drums down everywhere, people laughing loudly while their footsteps thunder against the road as they head for cover. But I hear none of it with the windows closed. When it comes to discussing the uncomfortable, we shut the windows of awareness to the reality on the other side, but that doesn’t stop it raining or cars from almost colliding, or people laughing as their clothes are soaked through. It just anaesthetises the experience. In the case of childlessness, the impacts of scoping it out of the realm of ‘acceptable’ and into the landscape of ‘taboo’ can be disastrous for those people who are experiencing these things and trying to come to work without the support they need. Though they may be inside the building, their needs cannot be heard through the metaphorical window.

We are fortunate at Reading to have a Women’s Network that hosts Women’s Health Cafés monthly (the next one is today, the 3rd May and the following one is on the 7th June). However, we are in much earlier stages when it comes to discussing the somewhat more taboo topics of being childless not by choice (cnbc), infertility, and disenfranchised grief. These are complex issues that can impact anyone of a range of genders, ethnicities, ages, abilities, and sexualities.

As mentioned by Heather Girling in her blog about being childless not by choice, the vast majority of people are childless by circumstance, not through choice. People who are childless, not by choice, may be so because of lack of opportunity, resource, or due to medical reasons. You may also hear this referred to as involuntary or circumstantial childlessness.

Childlessness was not a topic that I had previously come across before at work until I watched a webinar through the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei). I was moved so deeply by the speaker’s story and the thought that people may be suffering every time someone made an assumption that they had children in a Teams meeting, or a child was brought into the office unexpectedly, or if they had to fill out a return to work form and tick the ‘pregnancy’ box as their reason for absence when they had just lost theirs, that I decided to contact other universities in the United Kingdom who have networks and support groups for people who are childless not by choice. I am so grateful for their knowledge, advice, time, and willingness to share.

The point of this post is to start opening up some space to talk about and give voice to these overlooked and underdiscussed topics at work and to recognise and legitimise the very real cycles of hope and grief that can accompany coming to terms with being childless.

“Disenfranchised grief, also known as hidden grief or sorrow refers to any grief that goes unacknowledged or unvalidated by social norms. This kind of grief is often minimised or not understood by others, which makes it particularly hard to process and work through.” Heather Girling, 2021.

Socially, grieving a loss of fertility is not seen as legitimate because what has been lost or what is being grieved cannot be seen. Not being able to appropriately grieve will, inevitably, impact people in their everyday lives, including when they are at work. With one in seven couples experiencing infertility, which is one of many reasons that someone may be childless, it becomes important to start opening up space to discuss (in)fertility as well as complex fertility journeys and circumstantial childlessness at work for those who wish to talk about it. Only then will we start to generate a culture of transparency and break the conspiracy of silence.

To find out more about why fertility matters at work, The Henley Partnership are running a webinar discussing “the many routes to parenthood, explaining what infertility is and why people need fertility treatment and how common it is…[including] routes to parenthood for the LGBTQ+ community, including discussions around surrogacy, adoption and solo parenthood.” The webinar is on the 11th May at 11:00 – 12:30 GMT.

If you feel you are in need of external confidential support, you can make use of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). The University of Bath’s blog post provides really simple Dos and Don’ts when conversing with colleagues who do wish to discuss childlessness in the workplace. And, as always, my virtual door is always open should you wish to talk about childlessness in the workplace, if you have questions, or if you want to know where you can access support.

Best and be well,

Ceara, your Diversity and Inclusion Advisor.

Digital Accessibility – Learning from People with Lived Experience

In a campaign running this May, colleagues at the University are being encouraged to take another look at online content they produce to ensure it does not exclude those with certain accessibility needs. 

The Look Again campaign, led by the DTS and Staff and Engagement teams, is providing tips on creating content that works for everyone in order for the University to fulfil its diversity and inclusive commitments. This includes supporting the Disability and Neurodiversity Review recommendations. 

Is your content accessible? get tips at rdg.ac/digi-access and rdg.ac/lookagain" in the digital accessibility area https://www.reading.ac.uk/digital-accessibility/digital-accessibility-section


In this blog, colleagues and students share their first-hand accounts of just how much of a difference it makes when content is designed with all users in mind. Some individuals have chosen to submit their experiences anonymously. 

For advice on how to create accessible content visit the Digital Accessibility resources webpages. 

Mathew Haine, Student Outcomes Manager in the Student Success and Engagement team: 

“I have a colour vision deficiency called deuteranopia which affects my ability to distinguish between reds, greens, and yellows. This type of colour blindness is common in men (1 in 12) and rare among women (1 in 200). There are many types of colour vision deficiency which affects colour-blind people in different ways.  

“You never know for certain whether you are perceiving colours differently to the people around you – how could you? – until some aspect daily life suddenly becomes impossible. It could be confusion about whether a piece of meat is cooked, struggling to follow a sporting event when the jerseys look identical or thinking a restroom is occupied when it isn’t. 

“Colour blindness can be inconvenient in the workplace particularly when it comes to visualising data. Most problems parsing spreadsheets, tables, charts, and graphs comes from the ubiquitous ‘traffic light’ indicators of red, yellow, and green. The simplest solution is to double up with other visual cues, like symbology or text. Try printing out your report in greyscale. If it works without the colour, the chances are that everyone can understand the information being presented.

“The recent work on digital accessibility at Reading has made me realise that, actually, I deserve to be able to read reports like this. Colour accessibility might be a mild inconvenience, but everyone deserves to participate equally, and collective action will go a long way. 

“Taking a few extra moments to ensure others feel valued and included in whatever you are doing will improve working life for everyone.” 

Anonymous member of staff in the Creative & Print Studio team, Marketing Communications and Engagement: 

“Sat in a physics class with 30 people staring at me while I struggled to read a number on a card wasn’t how I would have chosen to find out I was colour blind but it did explain a lot. I’d frequently mix up colours, on one occasion resulting in a concerning drawing of what I thought was a happy brown bear, that to others looked to be quite badly wounded. 

“Surprisingly as an adult I have a creative job and colour is a fundamental part of that. Rather than hinder what I do, I find my colour blindness helps me to work empathically; I perceive colour differently to the majority of people, so how do I create something that not only looks good for myself but everyone else as well, no matter how they perceive colour. 

“Creating accessible content is all about empathy. We need to consider how everyone will experience what we share online and make that experience as positive as possible. 

“Incorporating accessibility into what we do prevents anyone from being excluded from information and helps to create an inclusive community for the University, even online.” 

Anonymous third-year Philosophy student: 

“I have moderate-severe hearing loss which means I rely heavily on lipreading or wearing painful hearing aids to hear sounds around me. 

“Hearing loss means that I feel incredibly isolated when a conversation is occurring but I cannot see people’s faces to read their lips. Or if a video is playing without subtitles, or if the sound is too low. 

“I remember one time a video was shared in class, and everyone was saying ‘this is so helpful’ and ‘interesting’ and ‘beneficial to the exam’, but because there was no text alternative it was almost impossible to be included. It’s the same for social media. If a video doesn’t have captions I instantly swipe past because it’s too lonely trying to figure out what’s happening.  

“Also, writing down all the notes discussed on a board, and ensuring all the key material is published on the slides prior to the session so the hard of hearing person can review the topics and understand the structure of the lesson; this is so if they get lost during a seminar/lecture conversation, they can guide their focus back to what they’ve revised already, and fill in the gaps to figure out what the conversation is about. 

“Little differences such as these help a huge amount. I want to stress that these extra measures benefit everyone, not just the hard of hearing person. It is incredibly important to be mindful and inclusive of the hard of hearing/deaf community because nobody’s hearing is perfect. We all struggle now and again with hearing things, so these systems in place are very beneficial for everybody.” 

Lucy Coombs, a first-year Medical Science student: 

“I am neurodiverse, meaning my brain processes information differently to most people. As such, I might need resources to be adapted for me. 

“For example, a document I read had words capitalised, larger, italicised, and bold at random. This was confusing to follow and a more homogenous format would allow for uninterrupted reading. 

“Large blocks of text can cause my mind to wander; shorter paragraphs are likely to increase my engagement.” 

Digital accessibility in my daily life  

“As a neurodivergent student, I can struggle with day-to-day online activities. A time I struggled recently was going onto my favourite online game and the structure and colours had completely changed. Whilst this may seem like a minor, or even a beneficial thing, the sudden change in format in something that brought me comfort unsettled me. I find that I take longer to adapt to new environments than my neurotypical peers, and this includes online.”  

Digital accessibility while I’m studying  

“When studying, I can have issues processing due to my neurodivergence. Overcrowded screens where I am forced to take in too much information at once may mean I shutdown and go into overload. I find it helpful to be able to take in content at my own pace and in multiple ways, for example videos with subtitles mean I can process auditorily and visually, increasing the likelihood the information will go in.” 

Let’s Talk About It: Cervical Screening, or “The Dreaded Smear”

Picture This/POV:

You’re 24. You stumble back through the doorway after a day at work and you notice a letter on the ground with the swirls of text forming your name. After jostling with your bag in an obviously extremely graceful manner, you reach down and pick it up and take it with you, up the stairs and to your room in the house you share with a ridiculous number of people.

Once you’ve put your things down, you open up this letter and discover it is from the NHS. Here it is: the invitation to your first cervical screening.

*slides letter slowly away*

This month, we have had wonderful events hosted by the Women@Reading Network on menopause and I found them so invaluable and I am so grateful that people have shared their experiences of the menopause so it won’t be such a shock as and when that time comes around for me. When I told my mother we had these events at work, she turned to me and said, “you are so lucky.”

I figured that cervical screening is also something that is not really talked about and so the veil of mystery it wears can make it seem scarier than it otherwise might be. So, this is what this blog post is about. It is for those of you who are seasoned pros by now with this whole screening business, and for those who, like me, are at the beginning of this journey. I like mystery as much as the next person, but not when it comes to gynaecological health.

The letter that came was accompanied by a booklet explaining what cervical screening is. You may know it by its former name, the “smear” test. According to the pamphlet, cervical screening helps prevent cervical cancer and prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths in England alone. They predict that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% could be prevented.

I was of the generation that was offered the HPV vaccination when I was at school that we colloquially called, “the cervical cancer jab”. Of course, while no vaccination is 100% guaranteed to prevent an illness, I must admit I felt pretty grateful once I started reading through the booklet for it. I also felt a bit tense. And that’s normal…and why I am writing this. If we talk about it, the reality of it becomes less scary because we can know more of what to expect and stop (or reduce) feeling ashamed or uncomfortable when talking about this real experience that we go through.

The NHS offers screening for people from 25 to 49 every three years and for people aged 50 to 64 every five years. This is because this is when most cervical cancers develop. NHS screening is for anybody who has a cervix. Cervical cancer happens, the booklet says, when cells in the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way and build up to form a lump (a tumour). Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, which causes the cells in your cervix to become abnormal.

HPV is very common and most people get it during their life. It is spread during any type of sexual activity where there is close skin to skin contact and can stay in the body for many years at low or undetectable levels. So, it may have come from a partner a long time ago. Before you panic, only some “high-risk” types of HPV can lead to cancer and the types that do cause cervical cancer do not cause any symptoms. Usually, the body can get rid of abnormal cells resulting from HPV and the cervix returns to normal. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t happen and the abnormal cells develop into cancer.

If abnormal cells are found during a cervical screening you may be referred to have a colposcopy, usually carried out in a hospital, when a small sample is taken to check any “unusual” (rude!) looking parts of the cervix. If these abnormal cells are serious then you may need treatment to remove them.

There are four outcomes from a screening that the booklet lists:

  1. HPV negative, where no further tests are conducted until your next cervical screening
  2. HPV positive: no abnormal cells, where the sample is positive and you have HPV but no abnormal cells. You will be asked to come for screening sooner than is usual to check if the immune system gets rid of the HPV itself, which happens in most cases
  3. HPV positive: abnormal cells found, where your abnormal cells will be given a ‘grade’ according to seriousness that will be explained to you in a letter. Then you will be invited for a colposcopy
  4. Inadequate result. How unsatisfying, I know. If this happens, you’ll be invited for screening again in three months’ time. The reason for this wait is so there are enough cells from which to collect another sample

Now, that’s a lot of information and, trust me, there is more in the booklet, but I figured I’d leave it there in case you’re either hyperventilating or your head hurts from the amount of info-dumping I’ve just done. What I do wish is that they would prepare you about the experience and the practicalities: will it be uncomfortable or will it be painful? If symptoms of cervical cancer can include things like bleeding between periods, can you go to a screening if you are menstruating or do you need to wait until you’re no longer bleeding? (I’ll ask these questions and get back to you! UPDATE — Here is Part Two which gives the answers to these questions).

It’s kind of scary, but I at least felt a little bit better about the whole matter after reading more and after discussing it with a colleague at work who had gone through it themselves.

So, I called up to book my appointment and, after grooving to the mind-numbing hold music at Chancellor’s Way bus stop for what felt like four hours (it was only 10 minutes), I was told I could book a telephone appointment online…

“Well…” I say, “it’s for a cervical screening.”

“Oh!” says the person on the other end of the line, “that will be the nurse then, so let me check her schedule.”

And I wait again.

And then, “our nurse is away and it doesn’t say when she’ll be taking appointments again, but you can call back next week?”

I agreed to call back next week. And I will. And then I will be back with part two (UPDATE — Part Two, the experience).

I never thought I would be writing about cervical screening as part of my job, but here we are. I decided to write this because of the reasons I stated earlier, but also because not everybody has someone they feel they can talk to about their fears and concerns when it comes to gynaecological health. It has been shunned for millennia, but I believe we are moving beyond that now.

It’s okay to be worried about cervical screening, but the best thing is to get it done. As the pamphlet says, “regardless of your sexual orientation, sexual history, or whether you have had the HPV vaccination,” if you have a cervix it’s best to go to your screening. I’ll always be here to talk and hold your hand in spirit through the whole process.

If you want further support, feel free to join Women@Reading, talk to me, the Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, or someone at work you feel comfortable with. If you have any medical questions, do direct those to your local health practitioner, GP, or nurse.

Thank you for reading!

— Ceara

Allyship during LGBT+ History Month

Inspiring LGBT+ allyship amongst staff is one of the key aims of the LGBT Plus Staff Network; it is also amongst the Network’s most popular initiatives. An ally is a person who doesn’t identify as LGBT+ but believes that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people – and others who don’t fit the majority experience of gender and sexuality – should have complete equality and equity of opportunity. (We want to point out that an ally can also be someone who is already in the LGBT+ community but wants to be an ally to people from other/all parts of the LGBT+ spectrum—allies are a broad collective!) Allyship can help to create a safe and supportive environment where LGBT+ staff and students feel valued and included.  

The training 

With all of this in mind, LGBT+ History Month was the perfect opportunity to expand the reach and ally membership of the LGBT Plus Staff Network (these members of the networks are known “LGBT Plus Allies” and are invited to partake in the Network’s regular activities). So, in the last week of February, we ran two online workshops aimed at introducing allyship and talking through some ways staff can become effective allies for LGBT+ colleagues at the University of Reading. The workshops were one-hour in length, were discussion-based and explored the following topics: 

  • What is an LGBT+ ally  
  • The case for LGBT+ allyship at Reading and in the United Kingdom 
  • Strategies for how you can be an effective ally 
  • How to get involved in events, activities and projects to promote diversity and inclusion at Reading 

The sessions were advertised to staff who are new to LGBT+ allyship or are interested in beginning their allyship journey. We had around 20 attendees over the two workshops.  

During the workshops, participants contribute to three activities. The first two are aimed at stimulating thoughts around what an ally is and what that means to people and the second asks what allies should actively do. Below you can see some of the words that were produced in the word clouds in response to the activities: 

This image has the question 'What is an ally?' at the top and below it are words that workshop participants submitted via Menti, a polling software. The larger the words appear, the more they have been submitted by people. The biggest words in response to the question, "What is an ally?" include: understanding, supporting, and advocate.

Image 1: The result of a Mentimeter poll in response to the question, “What is an ally?” asked during the Introduction to LGBT+ Allyship workshop. 

The larger the words appear on a word cloud correspond to how many times they were submitted. So, a larger word would have been submitted multiple times by different respondents. The most popular responses to the question “What is an ally?” in one of the sessions were: understanding, supportive, and advocate. Friendship was also a popular response, as was the sentiment of being non-judgemental. 

The second question asked, “What does an ally do?” and people were encouraged to think of which activities allies might do to support LGBT+ people: 

This image has the question 'What does an ally do?' at the top and below it are a collection of words that workshop participants submitted via Menti, a polling software. The larger the words appear, the more they have been submitted by people. The biggest words in response to the question, "What does an ally do?" include: question and educate.

Image 2: The result of a Mentimeter poll in response to the question, “What does an ally do?” asked during the Introduction to LGBT+ Allyship workshop. 

The most common things that people felt allies do were to: question, educate, and support. There was also an active element to allyship evident in respondents’ answers around being active in creating a safe environment for LGBT+ people and calling out negative behaviour. 

The session then went on to explore key issues faced by LGBT+ people in the workplace and how this could impact their mental health to stress the imperative of why we talk about LGBT+ allyship at work. Then, participants are introduced to a method of challenging inappropriate behaviour or language towards LGBT+ people and provided with resources to take their allyship forward. 

Reflections from Participants

“I thought the training was very good – for me, I’ve always considered myself an LGBT ally, but I had never joined the LGBT Teams site. I want to support my colleagues but was worried if I joined the site I would somehow be invading a ‘safe space’ for them that hadn’t been set up with me in mind. However, following the training I have joined the LGBT Teams site so that I can find out more about events/issues etc and am glad that you [Ceara] and Michael made it clear that the site was open to allies as well as LGBT staff.” 

  • Tasha Easton, Governance Office  

“Thank you to Ceara and Michael for an engaging and informative session! The training provided lots of practical advice on how to be an LGBT+ ally, both at work and outside of it.  I recommend this session to all staff at the University, as everybody can benefit from learning about the ways they can contribute towards creating a safe and inclusive space for everyone.”

  • Phoebe Homer, Student Communications

Reflections from the Diversity and Inclusion Advisor 

Being new to the University of Reading, delivering these sessions for me was a really good way to see how confident people who self-select into these trainings feel about their ability to be effective allies. The threats that LGBTQIA+ people face in the workplace are real and for me makes it fundamental to pursue active allyship where I can which, in my case, means being able to co-deliver these workshop sessions with the Lead Ally, Michael Kilmister. 

I am so grateful to those who came and participated in these allyship workshops through your reflections and contributions. As with most workshops of this kind, it is usually people who are already interested in the challenges LGBTQIA+ people face that attend. My focus for future workshops will be encouraging those who are less familiar with the struggles of LGBTQIA+ people and the impacts of these struggles at work to come along to the sessions. Hopefully, this can be one way of embedding the knowledge of LGBTQIA+ people’s challenges and the approaches of effective allyship for inclusion and justice more comprehensively across the University. 

Reflections from the Lead Ally 

This is not the first allyship session I have had the pleasure of facilitating, but these latest sessions incorporated a few key changes that moved the focus from information to discussion and action. The word cloud activities provided a low risk barrier for people to get involved in the session and begin to orientate themselves with key allyship concepts and activities. It was also reassuring for participants, reaffirming they were already carrying out allyship in their contexts; they just did not necessarily know it! The final activity we asked participants to engage in – setting a goal for the next 12 months – hopefully gave participants a sense of purpose. We suggested this could be highlighting they are an LGBT+ ally in their email signature or attending and volunteering at events. For me, performing allyship values – i.e., actively engaging in the task of making our contexts and communities inclusive environments where diversity and difference are celebrated – is at the core of allyship. (For the record, my nominated goal was writing for #DiverseReading; a goal I’ve met with this blog post!) 

Where to next? 

Are you hoping to become a better ally? One of our attendees and colleagues, Phoebe Homer from Student Communications, has written a fantastic blog post on how to be an LGBT+ ally, covering terminology and what to do if you make a mistake, what you can do to become an ally, and resource for support for LGBTQIA+ people at the University. 

If you would like to join the LGBT+ Staff Network as an Ally or would like to request a workshop for your area, please contact Lead Ally Michael Kilmister or Ruvi Ziegler, LGBT+ Staff Network Chair. 

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. 


Lunar New Year Festival – 8 Feb 2023

An image of a flyer for Chinese New Year 2023, listing activities to be hosted at the festival event.

The University of Reading will host a Lunar New Year festival on 8 February 2023. This festival is open to all and we hope to see you there!

Below are some words from Dr. Cong Xia Li, who is organising the festival this year and images from previous Lunar New Year celebrations:

Having taught Chinese at the University of Reading for over 15 years, I have been keen to run the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities to allow everyone on campus to experience the rich culture and traditions involved. I was delighted to see so many students and staff  alike take part in the interactive activities such as 剪纸 (paper cutting), 书法(calligraphy), and Mahjong, which all have deep roots in Chinese culture and philosophy.

A photograph of students sat around a table filled with calligraphy as part of activities for Chinese New YearA photograph of a man bent over and doing some paper cutting on a table as part of activities for Chinese New Year

剪纸 (paper-cutting) is a folk art that appeared in the Han dynasty in the 4th century AD, originating from cutting patterns for rich Chinese embroideries. It even has a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage designation due to its long-standing 1500 years of practice.

Mahjong, a strategy-based tile game among four players, was developed in the 19th century in China and has spread throughout the world since the early 20th century. Through playing Mahjong, one can understand the relationship between chance and necessity. The philosophy behind the game is, using the American actress Julia Robert’s words, “to create orders out of randomly drawn tiles”.

This year, the annual Chinese New Year celebration is scheduled for 8 Feb 13:00 – 16:00 in the Palmer building. There will be lots of interactive activities like chopstick challenges, Chinese music and art, solving riddles, as well as aforementioned paper cutting, calligraphy, and mahjong. There will be lots of prizes to be won! I look forward to seeing you then.

A photograph of a variety of items made during activities for Chinese New Year, including paper cutting and calligraphy