In this blog, we spoke to Co-Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS) Dr Anna Pachol. After joining Queen Mary University of London in 2016, Dr Pachol discusses the committee’s achievements and aspirations.
30 May 2019
Why did you decide to get involved in the SBCS EDI committee?
It started quite naturally because as a woman in science, I was already interested in issues of gender equality. Even before moving to the UK and working at Queen Mary, I read many articles and reports around equality and diversity and shared these on my personal website. When I joined Queen Mary in 2016, originally in the School of Mathematical Sciences, I joined their EDI committee as a postdoctoral researcher representative. It was great to know that I could actively get involved in EDI issues and make a difference. After moving to SBCS I was very happy to join as Co-Chair of the EDI committee. It’s a great way for me to contribute to the School and implement actions that can improve issues around women in science, equality and inclusion.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen since you became Co-Chair?
Before I took on the role, members of the committee including Dr Chris Duffy and Dr Kristin Hadfield were working on improving the ease of access to information about Queen Mary and SBCS policies for parents in addition to undertaking staff surveys, and it’s great that these initiatives have been put in place. Since I started Co-Chairing the committee, one of the first things I did was liaise with Advance HE & Ortus Research so the School could participate in research on the impact of Athena SWAN policies.
As a Committee we also created the Menopause guidelines and arranged the first ever Menopause meet-up here at Queen Mary, so staff members could become more aware of its impact and discuss what more could be done around this issue. The guidelines have been identified by the Institute of Health Sciences and Education (IHSE) at Queen Mary and shared with their staff, which is an important first step towards introducing the new policy across the University.
In addition, we have reviewed PhD recruitment guidelines in order to avoid bias in the hiring process. It was important that we reviewed the whole process from the way a PhD advertisement is written to diverse representation within interview panels. Finally, we have introduced a panel for flexible working applications for academic staff, and we are now looking to improve the transparency of the process for professional services staff.
What plans does the SBCS EDI committee have for the future?
I would like to create a regular newsletter focussing on EDI-related news and topics. From our surveys, it became quite clear that not many staff members are aware of the initiatives the committee is working on and the large number of events the University is running on equality and diversity.
Dr Christoph Engl, who is lead for the Culture Working Group, is currently working on improving the visual representation of the diversity of SBCS staff, which aims to inspire our students and staff by showing the achievements of people in various roles within the School.
For parental leave, the recent survey has shown that staff who have not taken parental leave have a more negative impression of its potential career impact than those that have taken the leave. We plan to improve the perception of staff regarding parental leave, provide a platform for sharing parental leave experiences and make these policies more accessible.
We are also approaching the deadline for our Athena SWAN application so most of our efforts in the coming months will be going into the preparation for its submission. In the long term, we are working on many actions needed to improve the gender and BAME imbalance within our undergraduate and postgraduate student and staff population.