Thoughts

Why a Resolutions Retreat for Women in Academia?

This week Times Higher Education published an interesting article covering The University of Glasgow’s welcome decision to make ‘collegiality’ an explicit requirement in its internal professorial promotions criteria. Examples given include recommending a colleague for an award, or crediting them as Co-Investigator on a major research project.

The image THE chose to accompany this positive news – an image of men helping other men over a wall – is somewhat ironic if you’re a woman in the academic world. For, one could be forgiven for reading statistics on the overrepresentation of men in senior academic and managerial positions as evidence of the fact that academia is already working efficiently in supporting men’s collegiality with one another.

I was motivated to offer my first Women in Academia Resolutions Retreat, coming up in January 2020, to support women to take some time out to focus on themselves. It’s important to continue to challenge the imperfect structures of academia, while at the same time to work on how we can support ourselves within those imperfect structures. Anecdotes, academic research and personal experience demonstrate that women can be notoriously bad at prioritising ourselves. Some men experience this, too, of course, and they are the ones doing the ‘housework’ of the department alongside the women.

Housework might take the form of being the (implicitly-) understood ‘go to’ person for students for support, being the person always assigned programme leadership, teaching introductory core modules or given administrative tasks etc. It’s a real skill – and indeed a compliment – being the ‘safe pair of hands’ who can hold that ticking grenade safely. But holding that grenade comes at a cost – you are likely holding it for someone else whilst they are getting on with the things they want to do.

While you’re holding the grenade for someone else, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you want to achieve. After all, if you lose focus, you will drop the grenade and it will, you feel, be catastrophic for everyone!

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So, how exactly do you focus on you instead? It’s key to take some time out to reflect on where YOU want to go.

First – put down the grenade (psst – it’s not actually a grenade and it’ll be OK!!)

Now you’re more relaxed, consider what you would like to achieve and what steps you need to take logically in order to get there. It could be that you already know what you want to achieve – great!  But it could be that you need to sit back and think about what is important to you. What’s important to you aligns with your values. If you set goals in line with your values, you are going to be more motivated and likely to achieve those goals.

To use myself as an example, once I realised I was working to an agenda that was not my own in a previous situation, I had a proverbial light-bulb moment: “it’s not my goal- I’m not motivated by it”. Without realising it, I hadn’t been realistically working toward that goal; instead, I’d been procrastinating and finding distractions. It was because I was not only not bothered about achieving it but actually felt it would be pretty worthless, judged by my own value system. It was a tough lesson as I had spent many years not realising this! But I re-set things and took steps toward what I actually wanted to achieve.

We all have contexts in which we work and things we need to do that we might prefer not to (for me now I’m self-employed, that’s my accounts!). But there are ways to work within our realities.

My goal for the Resolutions Retreat is that participants leave with a clearer idea of their goals, how to achieve them and with the resolve to take action.

 

 

Events

Righting Wrongs for Women in Academia

In September 2018, I was pleased to offer a workshop at the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association  Annual conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Writing Wrongs’ and I offered a session riffing on this theme entitled ‘Righting Wrongs for Women in Academia’. The workshop was a space to share strategies, experiences and thoughts on how to shift academic organisational culture, where 1 in 4 professors are women and where BME women are particularly underrepresented.

Events

Coaching Taster workshop

 

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Institute of Fundraising conference, September 2018

At the Institute of Fundraising conference, 2018, I delivered a ‘Coaching Taster’ workshop, based on a ‘skills share’ approach.

I introduced participants to some basic coaching principles and models and then asked them to pair up to be coach and coachees with one another to test out their new skills!

The participants were fantastic and the room was ‘buzzy’ as they supported one another through some work-related issues. One participant stated she may even have found new career through the process!

It was a pleasure working with charity fundraisers who devote so much of their time to working for their charities and to allow them to spend little time on themselves.

 

Thoughts

Chance encounters

Chance Encounter 1

Earlier this year, I contacted NEBIC (North East Business and Innovation Centre) to find out about their EU-funded Boost your Business course. The BIC support people to start and to grow their businesses.

While I was meeting with one of their advisors, having spotted my line of work their HR officer came to have a chat with me about the possibility of running a workshop for their staff. The BIC are currently running a series of events on wellbeing and so I created a workshop for them, ‘Being an LGBT Ally’, which looked at supporting LGBT+ people to be themselves in the workplace. Given the BIC’s client-facing work, the workshop also focused on how the environment might ‘speak to’ LGBT+ customers.

Simple things like having visible role models, some images on the website or wearing rainbow lanyards can have a big impact on whether a person feels included. They are ‘quiet’ ways of letting a person know that they are welcome, either as a member of staff or as a client. In turn, these enhance wellbeing and sense of belonging. And of course, hosting a workshop was an excellent step on that journey to becoming an inclusive organisation.

This chance encounter resulted in a mutually beneficial arrangement – some awareness raising for staff and some business for me (the BIC clearly take the ‘Boost your Business’ ethos to heart!!)

Chance Encounter 2

A second chance encounter that emerged from my dealings with the NEBIC was when I attended the Boost your Business course itself. This is three-day residential course which gives people the opportunity to focus on their business ideas as well as providing an opportunity to network with others in similar situations.

Having arrived at the hotel for the course, my first encounter of the morning was with a fellow participant who, when I introduced myself and my work, asked me what ‘LGBT’ was. I confess I was a bit taken aback at the time and it made me reflect that I do make assumptions that people know what those letters mean. I had further pause for thought as a second person later in the day asked me the same question.

While I’m not about to alter my business cards (have had too many printed, for a start), it has made me think more about how I introduce myself and also introduce the workshops I deliver, which always entail elements of terminology but I now make that aspect more ‘up-front’.

Learning for me always involves challenging established ways of thinking. Having my own thinking challenged has helped raise my awareness and made me take less for granted.

 

photo of a notebook with a small icon of cat's face with the word 'think' printed underneath
Events

Gender and Coaching October 2017

In October 2017, I was thrilled to bring together two of my passions – gender and coaching – in one place. I created and delivered a bespoke session for coaches and HR professionals attending the Coaching Exchange, Newcastle.

The Coaching Exchange is a welcome and relatively new initiative organised by Kate Shahid of Kate Shahid Coaching and Consulting. Kate is the North East regional co-ordinator for the Association for Coaching and the Exchange offers continuing professional development for coaches and Human Resources professionals. It is a place for learning and reflection on various aspects of practice.

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Gender and Coaching workshop, for The Coaching Exchange, Newcastle

In the session on Gender and Coaching, I encouraged participants to consider various ways in which the social construction of gender may impact upon coaching practice. We discussed how we might allow and account for gender in our coaching strategies and techniques. Among the things we touched on were differences between equality and equity, on imposter syndrome and unconscious bias, the impact of language and media in influencing our perceptions and on gender in organisational cultures.

The event was attended by over 30 coaches and HR professionals from the North East region and I was energised by their contributions. I look forward to the next Coaching Exchange!