We run staff and post-graduate surveys every 2 years to check on how our action plan is delivering for staff, as well as monitor the changing issues that face women (and men) in their career development. We use and adapt the survey format that is recommended by http://www.ecu.ac.uk/equality-charters/athena-SWAN/about-athena-SWAN/.
To highlight one example of a clear message from staff and post-graduate surveys – both groups are worried about work-life balance in academia and maintaining careers in extremely demanding jobs. There are many aspects to the issue of work-life balance, but here are some responses that have emerged from GES:
- We ran a ‘pizza social’ on work-life balance and asked staff and postgraduates to share their experience of ‘what works’ and ‘what not to do’ and we asked for creative thinking around what the school and university could do better.
- One suggestion from this session related to reducing email traffic and so we developed a new ‘email good practice guide’, after debating the need for flexibility in how staff choose to respond to email. Download
- Other suggestions related to work itself and the need for breaks during stressful days. We thus gave staff options for walking lunchtimes, GES funds weekly YOGA classes for all staff and postgraduate students and we have commissioned mental health first aid training the school to help deal with the negative effects of workplace stress. These measures have meant ‘balance’ has become embedded in the school as something we are aware of and strive for. One member of staff took the initiative to organize ‘breathing sessions’ at lunchtime to give staff time and space to ‘balance their bodies’ at work. This wasn’t a direct Athena action, but Athena initiatives are leading to the development of new responses to being at work.
Here we profile just a selection of our activities: since we started in 2012 we have run career development events every semester (women-only and mixed gender). We have embedded our events as part of the culture of the school and we use our programme of culture-led change to enable staff and students to socialize together while also peer-learning.
An example of this is the ‘pizza socials’ that happen every semester. Pizza socials are a response to staff requests to socialize with each other in core hours. GES funds a pizza lunch for the whole school and during which we share our experience and learn about matters that impact our working lives and careers. In 2015-2016 we ran pizza socials on ‘work-life balance’ and ‘informal mentoring’.
Social & Career Development
Since 2014 for the Human Geography Research Group (HGRG) and since 2015 for the Earth Systems Research Group (ESRG), we have embedded Athena SWAN principles which are enabling career development opportunities for women and men. Both research groups make a particular effort to create opportunities for external women researchers (of all career stages) to present in their research seminar series.
Before or after formal seminars by both men and women, we arrange an ‘Athena SWAN career conversation and coffee’ event whereby postgraduates and ECRs are encouraged to attend and ask questions about being women in academia or more general queries about career paths and transitions. Both men and women attend these informal opportunities for peer learning and ‘career story telling’. Members of the SAT initially ran these events, but now they are embedded in our usual practice around seminar invitations and other staff run them.