And just like that, the teaching year is over. I don’t have any MSc projects to supervise so once I get my marking done, I’ll be putting the lecture material aside for a couple of months and focus on all the other aspects of the job.
Speaking of which, my mother asked me the other day…
How many work pies do you have your fingers in?
So I started counting. And when I got to 10, I stopped. What I noticed about these ten items is that all but one of them (teaching) are almost entirely collaborative…no wonder I’m so exhausted all the time! Also, about four of them are EDI- / mentoring-related. And it got me thinking…why me? I mean yes I’m passionate about these things and I like the notion that doing them helps make my workplace better for all, but why only me?
It got me thinking about the extra pressure placed on academics with protected characteristics to ensure that an institution isn’t placing extra pressure on academics with protected characteristics (yes, exactly). This THE article from February last year highlighted pretty much the same thing, lamenting that engaging with EDI initiatives was merely seen as ‘good citizenship’ (so where’s that ‘good citizenship’ expectation of academics without protected characteristics, huh?). And if you’re still not convinced, this BBC Workplace article from September last year suggested that it’s an issue even beyond academia, and beyond the UK. And if you need even more proof from within academia, this 2017 report to HEFCE by the Equality Challenge Unit on “Sector-leading and innovative practice in advancing equality and diversity” stated:
“…initiatives to ensure Black and minority ethnic (BME) representation on recruitment panels are likely to be viable in institutions that have an existing pool of BME staff. In institutions with few BME staff, such an initiative is likely to overburden existing BME staff.”
Include gender in your focus and the added burden on female academics from minority ethnic backgrounds is clear. Or maybe it isn’t? I mean that report is from 2017, and it’s 2021 now with no visible change.
Most of the articles I’ve linked to champion remuneration and workload recognition for staff involved in EDI initiatives. Whilst yes that would solve the immediate issue of the cost of such initiatives going unnoticed, I don’t think it does anything to change the status quo. And it definitely doesn’t enable affected colleagues to achieve their career aspirations at the same rate as those without such responsibilities.
So what would be a better approach? Well to make sure that EDI isn’t only a concern for poorly represented groups, all staff need to be expected to engage with EDI initiatives. Now most institutions employ mandatory training as a means of achieving this, but to me this is just another box ticking exercise that looks good on the surface but doesn’t translate into anything meaningful. So here’s what I’d like to see in addition:
- Academics are given proper practical training on how to support staff (and students) with protected characteristics (so no more of this “I don’t know how to mentor female students” nonsense).
- Academics are required to reflect on their working habits and identify something they can do to foster a healthy working environment (so no more of this “it’s a societal problem, there’s nothing I can do to fix it” nonsense).
- Engagement with the above is made an expectation of all academics (so no more of this “I’m far too busy to do things that don’t result in research output” nonsense).
I’m not saying this is a quick fix that’ll solve all our problems, but as I see it the only way to have a more inclusive workplace is to include everyone in making it a reality. Otherwise it’ll just fall on those of us who tick the minority boxes to do all the heavy lifting because it’s the right thing to do, while everyone else just quietly gets ahead in their careers.
Anyway, back to the ten pies. Number 11 isn’t actually work-related, but it’s something that’s been neglected because of work. Last weekend was the first in a long time that I didn’t spend preparing lecture material, so I decided to revisit it. And so, I leave you with my third youtube cover (or you can watch the original). Hopefully it won’t take me another 5 months to do the next one!