From designing Lara Croft to managing the Master of Education programme … never stop chasing your dreams

with Kristi Herd

This is a photo of Kristi Herd

We welcomed Kristi Herd, Programmes Manager in the School of Education and Social Work as our seminar guest recently.

Some of the people who have been inspirational in Kristi’s life include her Mum, who believed in her and encouraged her in all that she did, and her Dad who encouraged her love of photography and her creativity. Inspirational work colleagues include Grainne Barr, Neil Bowie, Di Cantali and Natalie Lafferty. Jon Bon Jovi was also inspirational with wise words about their perception of success being that you fall over nine times but you get up ten times.

Kristi also talked about the importance of being determined and focused, and of needing to work hard to progress in her career. Kristi’s early career was in game design where she was part of the team which developed the Lara Croft character, and she came into academia 14 years ago via retail management. In all her jobs, she has developed resilience and skills e.g. customer service, managing tricky situations. She has approached all her careers with creativity and believes that no matter what your role, bringing creativity helps you to see ways over and around barriers, and to find solutions to problems. She commented that having an open way of thinking about people’s potential and contributions they can make to an organisation is positive, and that with this ‘growth mindset’ we can accept all that colleagues bring to their roles.

Kristi believes that effective equality, diversity and inclusion is in everyone being able to be who they want to be and overcoming their fears. Inequalities make us stronger, as do fighting for our rights and standing up for ourselves and others. There is a change in that there are more opportunities for women in the workplace, but it will take generations to change people’s mindsets before society and culture really sees systemic and long-lasting change.

Finally, Kristi’s advice to her 20 year old self would be to have a hobby that makes you happy, invest wisely, never stop chasing your dreams, and inspire the next generation to be the best that they can be.

Blog post authored by Dr Seemab Farooqi and Di Cantali

Leading with love… why values-based leadership in education works

with Audrey May

Photo credit: Audrey May & Dundee City Council

We were delighted to welcome Audrey May, Interim Executive Director for Children and Families, Dundee City Council, as a seminar guest recently.

One of Audrey’s first teaching roles was in a Marist secondary school, where the underlying ethos was that to teach children, you had to love them first; and to love them, you had to treat them all equally. Audrey spoke of how this ethos influenced her teaching and her view of equality and equity, as some children needed more love than others. She explained that she learned that it was important to treat children in the way that they needed, to support them to reach their full potential. She believes that education is a route out of poverty and that we have a responsibility as teachers to improve the outcomes and lives of the learners in our care.

Audrey discussed how values-based leadership is a cornerstone of her practice, and how being listened to and valued, no matter what your role in an organisation, influences this. She spoke of her long teaching career and the values with which she has always approached the various roles that she has undertaken, viewing leadership of schools and education settings as being a privilege. Leading with your core values requires you to have humility and to recognise that you will always have things to learn. It is also about recognising those who saw your potential and helped you along the way and ensuring that you recognise this in others. Audrey also talked about how she has been inspired by pupils and colleagues throughout her career.

This blog began with discussion of teaching with love, and it will end in a similar way. Audrey shared a lovely anecdote of how P1 pupils in a school where she was Headteacher told the incoming P1 children through a display about the various staff members and their roles, commenting ‘This is Mrs May. She is our Headteacher and she loves us.’ A great example of values-based leadership in action.

Blog post written by Dr Seemab Farooqi and Di Cantali

Making progress in equalities work … with Bernadette Malone

This is a photo of Bernadette Malone

Blog post authored by Dr Seemab Farooqi and Di Cantali

We welcomed Bernadette Malone as a seminar guest recently. Bernadette reflected on her career journey and expressed her view that, as a society, we’re far more progressive now than we were 40 years ago. The university has made really good progress in terms of Athena Swan and there’s a good understanding of the whole equalities’ agenda. However, it’s important that we know whether policies have been put into practice, and continuous self-assessment is necessary to ensure organisations evolve and improve.  It’s important to not see this as box ticking but rather having effective policies in place. For example, understanding the barriers that women are facing in their careers. For this reason, every organization needs to continue to reflect on their practice. 

Bernadette went on to speak about the role of Coaching and Buddying systems. These can help build confidence and a network where we support, nurture, and encourage colleagues. Positive validation goes a long way.   Looking for allies, solidarity, sisterhood, is key, both in terms of helping to prepare for something, encouragement, and positive reinforcement, and then offering support to others. We all have a responsibility to speak out if we witness unacceptable behaviour.  Also, it’s important to use our voice and to express our views on relevant issues, because in doing so we can be role models for others.  We can reflect our values, express who we are, which in turn may encourage other women to express their views.

As previously said policies are a good place to start in raising awareness of equalities and human rights; perceived unfairness and inequalities; and impact of behaviour on others. Of significance though, is the role of leadership at every level in ensuring effective implementation of policies at a practical level.   In many organisations and indeed in wider society, there are still many challenges to be addressed such as attitudes, mindset, organisational culture, and leadership.    In the context of the University, the leadership have a key responsibility to make sure the culture is right for women, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure people experience equalities and fair treatment.    

Womens’ Support Networks with Dr Sarah Halliday and Dr Jenni Harvey

This is a photo of Dr Jenni Harvey This is a photo of Dr Sarah Halliday

Blog post authored by Dr Seemab Farooqi and Di Cantali

We were joined for a seminar focusing on women supporting women through support networks by Dr Sarah Halliday | University of Dundee and Dr Jenni Harvey | University of Dundee

Talking about the gender gap in senior positions and challenges associated with it, Dr Sarah Halliday | University of Dundee, EDI lead for the School of Social Sciences, discussed their EDI workshops outcomes and highlighted the importance of procedural transparency, policy clarification, the criteria and University culture in the application success.  Adding to the debate on how to improve gender equality reflecting on their School’s efforts, she suggested that mid-career staff were particularly feeling a lack of mentorship and opportunities to develop connections and support, which led to their Women’s Staff Support Network being set up.

Reflecting on her journey, Dr Jenni Harvey | University of Dundee, said that when she was an ECR around 25 years ago, Neuroscience was a very male dominated area of research. There has been a clear shift in terms of perception and expectation, with many more women now entering this field. Talking about career progression and imposter syndrome, she suggested that there is a need for more workshops specifically focused on women, and case studies showcasing different women in academia, to empower women and build their confidence. Mentoring can open up informal spaces, with the opportunity to make those connections needed for support. We need to do a lot more work supporting our professional services staff as well, and to develop a more inclusive culture within the University. Reflecting on the role that Women’s Support Networks play in their Schools, both commented they provide a welcoming safe, space where staff can look to support each other and also a place for networking opportunities. Sarah added, “It’s really for the women within our school to take it forward and to hopefully get something positive. You could always argue that the pace of change is not fast enough, we are at least starting to make some forward momentum in these spaces.”

This is a photo of Prof Divya Jindal-Snape

Awareness is not enough… standing up for our collective rights with Prof Divya Jindal-Snape

This is a photo of Prof Divya Jindal-Snape

Professor Divya Jindal-Snape | University of Dundee, reflected on the progress within academia. She has seen changes in policies etc. in terms of getting it right. Educating people and helping them understanding of what their rights are and where those rights help in raising awareness, however, awareness is one thing. Alongside the awareness people need to feel strong and able to stand up for their rights. That strength comes from feeling independent emotionally and psychologically, and in being economically independent. As a society, we need to be able to provide a platform where people can then actually be able to ask for their rights, not just be aware of them. It’s really important that we speak up for those who don’t feel able to assert their rights, a point emphasised by Professor Divya Jindal-Snape | University of Dundee. Continuing the conversation, she reinforced the importance of open communication, being open minded and listening to each other and respectfully listening to them and have open conversations. One example is in the organizing of these seminars, as a way that we might start opening more discussions.

Blog post written by Dr Seemab Farooqi and Di Cantali

Interdisciplinary working with Prof. Niamh Nic Daeid

This is a photo of Prof Niamh Nic Daeid

Our first speaker, Professor Niamh Nic Daeid | University of Dundee, described the approach to interdisciplinary working that is followed within her research centre.  The Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science has communication and engagement at the heart of its work.  It brings together interdisciplinary teams of forensic scientists, judges, police, crime scene investigators and people outside of the criminal justice system including the public to work together to discuss the challenges that the criminal justice system faces and develop innovative and creative solutions.  At the heart of the centre is its multicultural and interdisciplinary staff where everyone’s perspective, experience and input is truly valued.

Blog post written by Dr Seemab Farooqi and Di Cantali

Welcome to the blog!

This blog will run alongside the seminar series ‘Celebrating Gender Equality for a Sustainable Future’ and will feature blogs about each of our guest speakers’ talks.

If you would like to contribute a blog post about your work related to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, please either send it to Seemab or Di, or contact them to discuss your ideas.

Blog post written by Dr Seemab Farooqi and Di Cantali