Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: Gender (Page 1 of 2)

Posts related to gender

International Non-Binary People’s Day

International Non-Binary People’s Day is marked annually on the 14th July. This coincides with Non-Binary Awareness Week which this year runs from the 11th – 17th July 2022. The aim of both occasions is to celebrate Non-Binary people globally and raise awareness of the challenges members of the community face.

Non-binary flag

What is non-binary?

The LGBT Foundation have shared the following definition: Non-binary is used to describe people who feel their gender cannot be defined within the margins of gender binary. Instead, they understand their gender in a way that goes beyond simply identifying as either a man or woman. Some non-binary people may feel comfortable within trans communities and find this is a safe space to be with others who don’t identify as cis*, but this isn’t always the case.

*Cis – ‘The word “cis” comes from a Latin word meaning “the same side.” Cisgender is a term used to describe someone whose gender has not changed from the one they were given at birth’ (LGBT Foundation).

Is non-binary new?

The short answer is no!

Non-Binary and gender nonconforming identities have existed throughout history, you just need  to know where to look. Here are some handy Historic England and Britannica articles that explore this in more detail.

What is it like being non-binary in the UK?

Leading LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall explore what it means to be non-binary in the UK today in this article.

How can I be an ally to non-binary people?

Its important that we all take steps big and small to be inclusive and supportive of one another. The charity Stonewall have created a useful list of 10 things you can do to step up and be an ally of non-binary people, you can find it here.

What are we doing to support non-binary members of the KCL community?

We have developed a toolkit full useful guidance on  how to support trans & non-binary members of our university community, we have also produced a map of the gender neutral facilities that can be found across our campuses and we have a wider LGBTQ+ inclusion resource hub, you can find all of this and more here.

We are committed to protecting the dignity of members of our university community. We want a university free of bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct and hate crime. You can find advice, support and reporting procedures on our Dignity at King’s pages.

International Women’s Day – Get Involved

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London shares ways of getting involved in IWD 2022 and reflects on the underrepresentation of men in the EDI field. 


Once again it is International Women’s Day on the 8th March. I will miss this year’s festivities as I will be enjoying a much needed and long-awaited break in the US of A!

Portrait of Sarah Guerra

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London.

Their website tell us International Women’s Day is powered by the collective efforts of all. Collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes International Women’s Day impactful.

They quote Gloria Steinem:

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” – Gloria Steinem.

This year we are asked to imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

At King’s we have a variety of activity happening. Elevate, in collaboration with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team are hosting an online event on Tuesday 8th March 12:00-13:00 focusing on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – #BreakTheBias.

Add your visions of a more equal world to our International Women’s Day Padlet. Ideas from the King’s community will form the inspiration for a poem which will be recited at the event by recent King’s graduate and poet, Karen Ng.

We will also hear from Aleida Borges, Research Associate at the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, about the institute’s work, as well as her research on women’s grassroots leadership.

You can also unleash your creative side at an International Women’s Day themed Poetry Lunch & Do Session on Wednesday 2nd March, 14.00 – 15.30. Find out more information and register for attendance in person or online.

I have really enjoyed reading the Padlet and look forward to the poem. I also find my thoughts turn to address something that has been on my mind for many years. Something that President & Principal, Professor Shitij Kapur noticed when he arrived at King’s. In short

Where are the men?

On his arrival we organised several listening exercises for him to hear and learn about equality diversity and inclusion efforts and issues across the University.

One with the EDI team. A team that is diverse compared to many at King’s in terms of gender identity, sexual orientation, race and religion – but is also predominantly cis women.

One for those who hold EDI champion positions across the university i.e., chairs of EDI committees, Vice Deans etc. Again, a reasonably diverse set of people but again the vast majority women.

Finally, one with our staff network chairs – a slightly more gender balanced group but still predominantly female.

Why is this?

It is something I notice in so many EDI arenas.

I am a member of the REF equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel – vast majority women. Similarly, our internal REF EDAP was all female. This is in stark contrast to the wider REF governance bodies internally.

In truth pretty much every EDI event I ever go to is vastly majority female and has a much greater representation of black, asian, minority ethnic, queer and disabled people than in my regular everyday workplace.

How do we change this?  If (and I paraphrase Gloria here) the story of the struggle for equality belongs to no single equality activist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights. If we want to get to that gender equal world, a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.  How do we make the ’together’ part so we can forge women’s equality that includes all people – and particularly the group that is often missing and yet still holds most the world’s power – men?

I am not going to do a long spiel.  My International Women’s Day call/plea to action is to ask all who read this to give me some ideas and thoughts as to how to get men into the room when we talk EDI.

#ItStopsHere: Consent Matters

Content warning: This blog explores themes of sexual violence.

Dhara Brahmbhatt, Interim Strategic Initiatives Project Coordinator at King’s, has recently completed the Consent Matters course offered to all students & staff at King’s College London. Dhara offers her reflections on the course and encourages others to complete the online module; to better inform yourself of your rights and to support others. 


Did you know that 70% of female and 26% of male students and graduates surveyed have experienced sexual violence? (The Student Room Report).  If you are reading this blog, you’ve probably experienced unwanted sexual behaviour, and almost certainly observed or heard of friends who have experienced this.

Sexual violence is unacceptable and the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) team at King’s College London is aiming to prepare students to be able to act in the moment when they see an unacceptable situation, and / or to recognise when their own behaviour crosses lines of acceptability.

When I joined the EDI team to help promote the Consent Matters course, my colleague Helena Mattingley (Head of EDI) encouraged me to enroll on the online training created by Epigeum so, I could encourage others to complete the course based on my own experience of Consent Matters. The interactive course is promoted to students and available to all staff for free. To learn more and to complete the training visit our Consent Matters webpages.

Prior to taking the course I believed that consent comes with common sense. I mean, how difficult can it really be to say ‘no’? Or to hear ‘no,’ and act accordingly? But it wasn’t until I started going through the course that I recollected personal experiences where I had been in similar situations and how uncomfortable I had felt at the time. After completing the course, I feel confident and have a better understanding on not only how I can be an active bystander but also what my legal rights are and what I should have expected from support services.

The Consent Matters course is extremely informative and educates individuals on why consent is important, when consent can and can’t be given, and the legal context in which we study, work and live. It provides a foundation for acceptable behaviour in relationships, and uses stories that spoke to me which helped convey the importance of respectful relationships.

Consent Matters debunks misconceptions and teaches us how we can overcome these misconceptions and apply consent in practice.

There are a few different ways of being an active bystander, including non-confrontational options, and all which offer support. Some examples are (which the course further expands on):

  • Offer support
  • Shift the focus away from the remark or situation
  • Step in after the event
  • Talk to others
  • Confront the person directly

Finally, the course has several useful signposts and pieces of information in the ‘resource bank’, here you can find a wealth of links for different support services. These links are extremely handy to have for yourself or your friends in case of unforeseen circumstances. After all, more than half of the readers of this blog will have experienced unacceptable sexual behaviour – and knowing where support is available is so valuable.

Sexual violence unfortunately isn’t uncommon; however, this does not make it acceptable. Consent matters is a course designed by Epigeum and promoted at King’s for students and staff to take to help equip them with the tools needed if these situations were to arise in their own lives or of their friends and families. It also educates these individuals on whether their own behaviour under these circumstances is acceptable. The course addresses key factors in details regarding acceptable behaviour in relationships, misconceptions, and different manners in which one can be an active bystander. The course also highlights key links and information in the ‘resource bank’ for various support services available.

 Therefore, as the saying goes ‘knowledge is wealth’ take the course today and better inform yourself on your rights and how you can support those in need.

KCL students & staff can complete the course now, by visiting our Consent Matters pages!

 

References:

Challenging Fatphobia

As the festive period begins, Jennifer Hastings, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Projects & Partnerships Manager at King’s College London, explores our relationship with food and fatphobia. 


At this time of year my social media feeds tend to be full of advice on how to handle food and diet culture during the holiday season. In a way this is progress; growing up I was more likely to come across magazine articles listing low fat Christmas pudding options than carefully worded support for those with a difficult relationship with food. On the other hand, it does beg the question of how diet culture has managed to permeate every aspect of our lives, even the parts dedicated to rest and relaxation.

I am obsessed with food. When people were searching for Black Friday deals, I was checking if my favourite bakery was doing any discounts. Whilst I like to revel in this source of joy (there isn’t a quicker dopamine boost than a freshly baked brownie) it, unfortunately, exists against a backdrop of capitalism and fatphobia.

We receive conflicting messages around food. Food is the centre of many scenarios and indulging is often encouraged. We show someone we care by cooking for them and we have second helpings to demonstrate our gratitude. We indulge in treats that reflect the change in season and theme celebrations around communal feasts. However, when a body begins to evidence an enjoyment of food, it is suddenly seen as flawed or a disappointment (both by the person inhabiting it and onlookers). In the book ‘Gone Girl’ there’s an infamous monologue where the main character laments the existence of the ‘cool girl’ and her requirement to display a carefree attitude to food whilst maintaining a thin physique. I’m sure this quandary isn’t limited to fiction.

A person’s weight may not be a protected characteristic but being fat (by society’s standards) certainly results in differential treatment, from spaces that only accommodate smaller bodies to life threatening medical discrimination. People can be horribly cruel to those they deem too heavy, often attempting to disguise their judgment as concern for their health. Interestingly the same people conveniently ignore the fact that fat shaming is more likely to result in weight gain than weight loss.

We also know that fatphobia intersects with other forms of oppression, such as racism and misogyny. BMI (body mass index) figures are relied on in many medical settings despite being a tool developed with only white, cis men in mind.

Access to an abundance of food is certainly its own form of privilege. However, even in the UK, the type and quality of food people can access varies greatly. If you’re juggling work and childcare on a minimal budget, a cheap takeaway may well be your best option. Jack Monroe has written extensively about the realities of food poverty (content warning for suicide), highlighting the factors that contribute to someone’s dietary choices.

It would be amiss not to reflect on the diet industry itself, which has the sole purpose of making a profit. Whatever euphemism we use (I believe ‘wellness’ and ‘lifestyle change’ are both currently in vogue), companies selling you weight loss products are not invested in their long-term outcomes. Not least because they want return customers.

My friend and I often say that it’s too late for us to dismantle our body image issues as we have already absorbed a series of patriarchal messages about how we should look. On an intellectual level we reject fatphobia however we have also (inadvertently) internalised it, using it as a lens through which to view our own bodies. This is why I am a fan of the body neutrality movement. There’s no quick fix to loving a body that diet companies and media outlets are intent on criticising, however we can shift our focus onto other things.

This approach does have limitations. A level of privilege is required, which makes body neutrality a luxury not extended to everyone. In her column Aubrey Gordon makes a distinction between how fat people feel about their bodies versus how they are treated by others. She says: ‘To be sure, self-love and body neutrality are powerful things. But they aren’t so powerful that they can divert or erase others’ harmful actions or make unjust systems more just.’ Sophie Hagen also talks about ‘Fat Liberation’ and the importance of targeting those that weaponize people’s bodies in the first place.

What does this mean for the festive season ahead of us? I am going to echo the advice I alluded to at the start of this blog- look after yourself. Where possible, fill your time with the things that bring you joy and, if you need to talk to someone, Beat (the eating disorder charity) has a daily helpline you can call. And if you feel able, challenge fatphobia when you witness it. In his book ‘The Promises of Giants’, Dr John Amaechi defines culture as ‘the worst behaviour that you tolerate’. Of course, we need a societal shift and systematic change but, in the meantime, we can at least stop tolerating behaviours that are complicit in the marginalisation of people’s bodies.

Ace and Agender – Turning Discomfort into Confidence

Ali Gibson (any/all pronouns) is the current Vice President Education (Health) at King’s College London, and a third-year medical student as of September. Ali’s blog talks about experiences growing up and the euphoria of finding a gender identity.


I was 16 when I first found and started using the label ‘Asexual’ to describe me, after at least two years of feeling different. Whilst my friends entered and experimented with sexual relationships, my teenage years came and went without sexual feelings and as you do, you put it down to something else; I was yet to hit puberty, or to meet the right person, when I would be magically fixed and all about the sex. It never materialised, and so I ended up internet searching ‘no sexual attraction’ and found Asexuality. Labels can be contentious but for me, finding that there was a group of people who didn’t experience sexual attractions or desires in varying forms was eye-opening. It didn’t cause a revelation of something I wasn’t already, instead it just made sense and came with a community who had all been (at least similar) boats. 

The one thing I neglected confronting as a teenager was my gender. It would be wrong to look back now and not think I have probably questioned my gender for about the same length of time as my sexuality. It’s hard to explain what it feels like as all our references come from within the binary society we live in, but I never felt like a ‘girl’, and I never felt like a ‘boy’. Nor did I really aspire to either perception I had of what that meant. As I grew up I was proud of the fact I didn’t own any make-up, skirts or dresses, things I considered feminine, and I spent most of my childhood scraping my knees on scooters, bikes and rollerblades. I was a ‘tomboy’, and proud. But that label fades and I went through puberty to find myself confronted with being a woman, with breasts and periods and a reproductive health condition to boot. I have long hated my tight curly hair, despite much adoration from others, shaving it off at 17 under the guise of raising money (which I did do, so not all selfish). I’ve had an unnecessary complex around being able to wear a baseball cap and not look like cartoon character Crystal Tips, which has bothered me for seemingly no reason. 

At the end of January just past, having bought a baseball cap on sale, I twisted my short but significant curls up onto the back of my head and (with great skill) put on the cap. I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in an immeasurable amount of time saw someone who looked like me, who looked like I want to. Full of emotion I laughed in surprise at myself and this person I saw in front of me. It followed weeks of wondering if I should change my label; I was four months into my time with KCLSU in a job where there’s a short time to get things done, nevermind having to reintroduce yourself. And I knew I wasn’t unhappy being a cisgender woman (someone born biologically a woman who also identifies as a woman) – but could I be happier and more comfortable as someone non-binary? 

Ali, KCLSU Vice-President Education (Health) and soon to be third-year medical student

I took time off at the beginning of March and came back using my new name, Ali – a name I used online which had been wholly accepted by the people I met there and felt like a name and a person I had created for myself. This was the new me, the me that university had bloomed, the me that felt I had a place. I am so thankful to all of my colleagues across KCLSU and King’s who have wholeheartedly accepted my name change, some astute colleagues even picking up on it before I formally let people know. If I had to stick a pin in it, I’d say my gender is ‘Agender’ – I have none, I just don’t feel it, and I’ll keep my hair short and wear t-shirts with television references and baseball caps as long as it feels good. Where in the past I was uncomfortable with someone drawing attention to my non-femininity (bullies would jeeringly ask me, a complete stranger, whether I was male or female, a common sentiment used by transphobic people), I now actively don’t mind what pronouns someone uses for me, and find it quite liberating when someone’s assumption differs from my biological sex.

It’s taken me five, maybe seven years to get here, but meeting people who are transgender, non-binary and gender diverse has shown me the alternative, and is one of those things I wish 14-year-old me had been exposed to. Because it’s only when we break out of the binary, and share with our young people the vibrancy and inclusivity the LGBTQ+ community has to offer, that we can turn discomfort into confidence. 

Ali Gibson (any/all pronouns) is the current Vice President Education (Health) at King’s College London, and a third-year medical student as of September. Ali’s blog talks about experiences growing up and the euphoria of finding a gender identity.

Seven steps towards Transforming Women’s Leadership in our Business Schools

Writing for the Chartered Association of Business Schools,  in this blog, Professor Sally Everett proposes steps to make female leadership more equal across business schools.


I was in tears on Saturday 7 November – moved by emotion, excitement and sheer relief. Watching the first woman ever to be elected to the office of Vice President of the United States of America was to me, one of the most momentous and important historic events I have witnessed in my lifetime. As Kamala Harris spoke, it gave me hope for women and the future of leadership (in all its forms) everywhere:

“Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before“ (Kamala Harris, 7/11/20)

photo of kamala harris

Kamala Harris, who was recently elected as the first ever black, Asian, and female Vice-President of the United States of America.

It got me thinking; what might this ‘dreaming with ambition’ look like for women (and especially women of colour) seeking leadership in our business schools? How might women be able to lead with conviction and pave the way for future female academic leaders, history makers and ultimately help realise equity and genuine diversity within our leadership communities?

As a member of the Chartered ABS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee it seems an opportune moment to suggest some actions that might deliver improved female representation and diversity across all levels of leadership. At the time of writing, 43 business schools have a female Dean/Director (out of 120 Chartered ABS member business schools) and although 35.8% is perhaps a more encouraging statistic than some other faculties and schools, it hides some glaring inequalities in terms of equality of pay, opportunity, and recognition as reported in a Chartered ABS research reflection on HESA data and Hewitt for HEPI (2020).

I propose we consider seven areas of action that could make a positive difference and shift the dial towards greater female representation in all forms and levels of business school leadership. For ease, I have summarised these as ‘Seven Ts’ for transforming women’s leadership in business schools. I am most grateful to the Plus Alliance working group and work of the Chartered ABS EDI Committee for planting seeds in me; seeds and shoots that will continue to grow over time and inform my entire career.

I offer seven steps to gender equity in our schools: tone, transform, talk, togetherness, transparent, talent, and targets.

  1. TONE: We need the ‘tone from the top’ and be convinced that our leaders care about this agenda and are prepared to act. Not because of how it might look, or that it might help secure research funding, but because they ‘get it’, understand the urgency of it and want to champion gender equity for the sake of the whole community. University and faculty leaders must set the tone through their actions, their language, and their policies. We look to our leaders for guidance and inspiration. Much like we know gender parity will not happen on its own in the boardroom (Thorne and Konigsburg writing in HBR 2020), leaders at the top of our institutions need to actively and visibly empower women. Who are they appointing to the executive council and board? Are they our school’s/university’s equality and diversity champions? Are they sponsoring female colleagues?
  2. TRANSFORM: In reframing leadership we need to ensure invisible work (often unhelpfully called ‘admin’ or ‘service’) is valued. For many, academic leadership has become synonymous with invisible administration, long hours and under appreciation. Schools need to foster a culture where academic citizenship is rewarded and recognised in probation, promotion and professorial criteria. Female faculty will often take on a disproportionate amount of this work (see Guarino and Borden, 2017 who found women took on 30 more minutes per week of service than men and 1.5 more service activities per year than men). How are Business Schools complicit in this? For example, student support interventions at programme level that retain students can be worth millions of pounds in fee income, or the development of a new course can secure significant sums of recruitment income, yet an external research grant worth a fraction of this is often more openly celebrated and regarded as more critical for promotion. We also need to ensure there is parity in how we treat research and teaching – when a colleague secures a research fellowship or sabbatical, someone covers their teaching. Who covers someone’s research when they secure a teaching fellowship?
  3. TALK: as we have seen in the recent Black Lives Matter movement, we recognise that silence is compliance. We all have a duty to champion our colleagues and ensure we call out sexism, address gender inequality, and expose misogyny where and when we see it. Many of us have seen committee papers and research written by female colleagues skilfully repurposed to remove their input; we need to expose such behaviour and start talking to others when and where this happens. It cannot be left unsaid. We need to be the cheerleaders of our female colleagues in our business school meetings.
  4. TOGETHERNESS: we need to create ties and come together in networks. In developing a growth mindset where we bring each other along (and elevate up) leaders become navigators to those seeking guidance and support. Echoing Granovetter’s groundbreaking sociological study ‘Strength of Weak Ties’ work (1973), we know women generally develop deeper relationships and less ‘loose ties’. We need to develop communities of practice where we nurture links, share experiences, and build a sense of belonging. In my own business school, I was struck by some of the career isolation many of female colleagues shared with me, so developed ‘Women@KBS’ as a network of sharing ideas, support and reflections. It has become a place of nurturing and empowerment.
  5. TRANSPARENCY: we need to reward and recognise where the work is happening and hold our schools to account by publishing data about equality performance. We need to go beyond traditional measures of leadership and be more transparent in what is measured, why and by whom. For example, perhaps we should openly acknowledge who is at the table in terms of equality and diversity at the start of our meetings, and report the number of women and faculty from under-represented groups in our annual reports and in our committee minutes.
  6. TALENT: we need to identify talent, create a talent pool and sponsor the development of colleagues. How might we expose female colleagues to ‘doing’ leadership through vertical shadowing, peer mentoring, and bring women to the executive table as part of succession planning? The recent Chartered ABS mentoring scheme was an important step in this direction. By creating explicit pathways to leadership and recognising work with titles for their CV e.g. Director of X, Lead of Y we create opportunities for those around us to emerge and to excel. Consider having female colleagues shadow the Dean for a period of time in rotation, or think about what role titles could be used for colleagues involved in academic administration tasks that fall within the cracks of an ineffective workload model, e.g. Academic Lead for Community Engagement.
  7. TARGETS: ensure equity-based KPIs are woven into performance reviews. Peter Drucker famously said, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. We need to be transparent in how we use data and be ambitious in the targets we set ourselves and our schools. We need to measure impact quantitatively and publish data at school level (as we see in the Athena Swan approach), but also ensure we capture impact qualitatively through personal stories, lived experiences and people’s reflections.

Equality in our business schools will not happen by chance –We need to be pro-active and fill the spaces where decisions happen in our schools with a dialogue of diversity and inclusion. As a Vice Dean of a business school I have a strong sense of responsibility to pay it forward and to create a ripple effect. We know that everyone benefits when women are included. It will be about evolution not revolution, but we need to commit to the the legacy we wish to build, and start now. As we look at female leadership, I am inspired by global figures like Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Jacinda Ardern who have sought to advance others through strength and empathy and lead others through kindness, decency and respect.

‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made’ (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

 

References

Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American journal of sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380. Available from : https://www.cse.wustl.edu/~m.neumann/fl2017/cse316/materials/strength_of_weak_ties.pdf

Guarino, C.M., and Borden, V.M.H. (2017) Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family?. Research in Higher Education 58672–694 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-017-9454-2

Hewitt, R. (2020) Mind the gap: gender differences in higher education, HEPI Report 2020. Available from:  https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2020/03/07/mind-the-gap-gender-differences-in-higher-education/

Thorne, S. and Konigsburgh, D. (2020) Gender Parity in the Boardroom Won’t Happen on Its Own in Harvard Business Review 12 February 2020. Available from: https://hbr.org/2020/02/gender-parity-in-the-boardroom-wont-happen-on-its-own

World Economic Forum (2020) Mind the 100 Year Gap. Available from: https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality


Professor Sally Everett is a Professor of Business Education, and Vice Dean (Education) at King’s Business School, where she leads on the development, implementation and promotion of the King’s Business School’s education strategy.

International Women’s Day: I Believe Her!

For International Women’s Day, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Director, Sarah Guerra, pens a blog about the Netflix series, Unbelievable, and the way it navigates sexual assault and related traumas. 


CW: sexual violence, suicide 

One of the areas of work facing me when I first arrived at King’s was to tackle sexual misconduct effectivelyAs a rape and multiple sexual assault victim/survivor, this issue is something I personally know the importance of and take very seriously.  

A principle of our work in the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team has been to center victim/survivors and to take a traumainformed approach to tackling sexual misconduct. This approach recognises the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved in the system; it fully integrates knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and, most importantly, actively seeks to resist re-traumatisation. The act of reporting shouldn’t be worse or as bad as the original experience. 

Watching the recent Netflix series Unbelievable was difficult but ultimately very affirming. The series dramatises the real life story of Marie Adler and other victim-survivors of a serial rapist. Unlike many dramas examining this subject, Unbelievable doesn’t glorify or dwell on explicit scenes of violence or victims suffering during the crimesMuch of the misery is instead relayed in flashbacks and tiny excerpts, most clearly showing how the horror and violation that victims feel impacts on their daytoday lives after the assault. 

A major narrative arc in Unbelievable examines the way ‘the system’ works: how the (mostly male) police, press, courts, social services all interact (or not as the case may be) to meet or fail to meet women’s needs. There are many heart-breaking aspects to the story. Some made me cry and others made me scream and shout with anger and frustration: seeing vulnerable 18-year-old woman who has been raped face suspicion from the (male) detectives who are supposed to be helping her; watching the hours after Marie’s rape where she is forced to recount the attack repeatedly in cold, harsh environments totally lacking in comfort;  watching the male, and clearly untrained, police detectives find minor inconsistencies in her story, leading them to suggest that she made the whole thing up; ultimately, leading the traumatised young woman to question herself and lose faith in the idea that she is worthy of support, and to feel life would be easier if she just acquiesced and withdrew her claim. 

Unbelievable clearly contrasts Marie’s experience with the trained, empathetic approach used by the women detectives. These detectives sensitively, patiently and carefully engage with the victim/survivors, weigh each interaction for necessity and at every juncture seek to prioritise sensitivity over speed. It was a stark demonstration of how important it is to understand the issues facing victim/survivors and their potential reactions. It reinforced to me why a traumainformed approach is so important: the victim/survivor’s welfare must always be a paramount consideration.  

You don’t sound crazy to me. You sound like someone who’s been through a trauma and is looking for a way to feel safe again and in control. And there is nothing crazy about that.” 

The series puts the impact on Marie of being disbelieved and, as a result, recanting her statement into crushing focus. She loses friends, risks losing her sheltered housing, is vilified in news reports and can no longer count on the few adults she trusts. She attempts suicide. She is even charged and convicted of filing a false report and has to borrow money to pay the fineMeanwhilethe rapist is shown to be free and raping other women, ruining more lives. 

As the story unfolds, we find Marie’s initial account had been devastatingly true. I found myself furious that she couldn’t receive the due care and attention every human being in distress and pain deserves, and incensed that more women were raped because of the inherent sexism and incompetence of the first police team and the overall systemhope that other viewers felt the same. 

The producers of Unbelievable have performed a public service: vividly bringing to life what is expected of victim/survivors of sexual assault and the long term impact it has on their lives. 

One rape victim-survivor says “They say that routine makes you vulnerable, so anything routine, I just stopped doing.” 

The portrayal is unflinching in its examination of how badly things can go, how poor criminal justice systems and processes are and how easy it is to be unsympathetic to victim/survivors. The original police officer’s devastation and personal questioning when he realises his mistakes is palpable.  

Detective Parker :I mean, I’ve been trying to figure out how I could have been so off. I wish I had an answer. I don’t. I’d do anything to go back and redo the whole thing. To just start all over and do right by you. I really would. 

I take heart in this production relating this awful story in a sensitive and informed way and really showing the difference that can be made when people understand the core issues related to a subject, choose to empathise and are willing to put in the effort to work something out properly. The two lead female investigators, Detective Stacy Galbraith and Sergeant Edna Hendershot, have gone firmly into my hero bank. Every so often when my own resilience is low, I will bring them to mind and re-energise myself.  

Puede decir las verdades más profundas con las mentiras de ficción

I’m a woman of varied interests and responsibilities – including being a TV addict and a mother. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to find a way of combining these particular facets of my being.

Over the last few years, my daughters Kaela and Lyra and I have tackled (by which I mean seriously binge-watched) various TV series including; Once Upon a Time (preposterous, fun and heartfelt), Pretty Little Liars (initially intriguing, ultimately vacuous) and Gilmore Girls (a perfect mother-daughter watch). At some point in the last year Kaela urged me to watch Jane the Virgin, which she loved.  With so many seasons, I was unconvinced. I dragged my way through a few episodes, and with Kaela’s lobbying I persisted. Oh my word, how glad am I that I did?

JTV, an adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela, follows a teenage Latina girl, Jane, who is accidentally impregnated via artificial insemination. The plot thickens when she falls for the super-gorgeous, wealthy, biological father. There is a hilarious ‘Latin-lover’ narrator who constantly reminds the audience “Just like a telenovela, right?”, bringing the genre right into the American/UK millennial milieu, hashtags and all.

The show is the ultimate cultural crossover, not just of this very popular Latin American artform, with arch villains and love triangles, but also as it touches on genres that traditionally tell women’s stories; the soap, the rom-com, the romance novel and reality television. The nature of the show provides so many televisual devices that it may be dismissed by some (as it was initially by me) as idiotic nonsense.

Jane is a massive Isabel Allende fan (she makes the odd cameo appearance too) and my title today ‘you can tell the deepest truths with the lies of fiction’ perfectly captures the heart of JTV. It is one of the most feminist and meaningful shows I have ever watched (and I have watched A LOT!). It tells the individual and interlinked stories of three generations of Latina women, their relationship with religion, age and gender roles. The show explores the nature of relationships and love in all its forms, the value that society and individuals place on virginity, as well as the difference between sex, love and meaningful relationships. As a mother of four daughters, two currently in their teens, it has been a great vehicle for conversation – both serious and silly.

Telenovelas have a long tradition as transmitters of social messages; in Mexico, the government used hit shows to advocate for family planning. JTV examined Latino immigration, undocumented workers, and took a deep dive on topics like on women’s health, breast feeding, breast cancer, abortion and even orgasms.

One of the truly ground-breaking things , was that a substantial part of the dialogue took place in Spanish. Rather than erasing the protagonist’s culture or pandering to English speaking audiences, it normalises and celebrates Latina culture. And here (as the narrator might say) is the link; in late November, I attended a King’s event that for the first time ever, took the same approach. The launch of the report Representation, engagement and participation: Latinx students in higher education, where all the content was provided in three languages.

Latinx is a gender-neutral term for people of Latin American descent. Latinx includes Spanish or Portuguese first language speakers from the Central and South American geographical regions.

The report looks at how, despite high levels of education and employment, the Latinx community in England is overrepresented in low-paid and low-skilled jobs. It explores the barriers to HE access and outcomes for Latinx students in the UK and tries to identify what challenges Latinx young people and their families face in UK education:

  • Lack of knowledge of the UK education system, which can hinder Latinx pupils’ access to school places and limit parents’ ability to provide support
  • Lack of awareness of how citizenship status affects eligibility for funding such as student loans, or liability for increased student fees
  • Young people acting as ‘linguistic brokers’ facilitating interaction between parents and their school
  • Reliance on community-based support networks, which is more difficult where networks are weak
  • The school admissions system’s slow pace and reluctance to admit pupils who speak English as an additional language, which can ‘lock’ Latinx young people out

Drawn up in collaboration with students, teachers, community representatives and academics, the report presents six recommendations for driving positive change:

  • Support Latinx pupils to secure and declare their citizenship status;
  • Address language barriers;
  • Go beyond access: HEIs should involve students in this support, providing resources and logistical support for peer mentoring between existing students and new, or prospective students, both on- and off-campus;
  • Work with key community brokers to establish strong, long-term partnerships between HEIs and Latinx groups;
  • Call on the ONS and UCAS to officially recognise Latinx students;
  • Ensure Latinx people are visible in a variety of roles within HE: This will help to demonstrate the many, key roles Latinx people play in the day-to-day life of higher education in the UK.

This event (which you can read more about here) really underlined for me one of JTV’s  key messages around language and inclusivity.  A casual glance would mean missing how JTV is provocative and challenging television – forcing us to think about our norms about women and representation. It can be no coincidence that my daughter and I, both with Venezuelan heritage and brown skin, found a home with Jane and her family. We can see ourselves in them. When I finished the final (sixth) season, I was distraught and especially so while watching the penultimate episode, which presented the cast reflecting on the show, its originality and its achievements. I felt like I was losing some of my best friends.

So, in closing, whatever kind of TV floats your boat, it’s worth taking a moment to think about how TV as a medium can challenge what you think, or work to reinforce old stereotypes. And with that I bid you adios.

Glass ceilings and Glass Escalators: The Paradox of Gender Equality in Nursing & Midwifery

Dr Emma Briggs is the Diversity & Inclusion Committee co-chair and Athena SWAN lead for Nursing & Midwifery in the Florence Nightingale Faculty if Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative care. Here she reflects on the paradox of gender equality in nursing and midwifery and the launch of a national network to promote change.


The Nursing and midwifery sector suffers greatly from gender stereotyping – just search Google Images for a nurse or midwife. Or ask a school-aged child what a nurse does or wears. Even the Guinness Book of Records struggled with accepting that Jessica Anderson was wearing a nurse’s uniform when she ran the London Marathon in the fastest time (it should have been a dress, pinafore and cap, tights were optional, she was advised initially).

 

 We need to be more diverse

  • Just 0.3% of midwives and 11.4% of nurses identify as male
  • 6% identify as a different gender than their sex registered at birth (NMC 2019)

We need to be more gender diverse. Attracting men into the professions is an important challenge to address and has included the We are the NHS campaign, a BBC articles and Higher Education England campaign (featuring a King’s midwifery student), and university level projects such as #MenDoCare (Dundee) and Men in Nursing Together – MINT (Sheffield Hallam). But is seems we need to tackle those gender stereotypes much, much earlier. In research involving over 700 7-11year olds, 7 out of 10 children picked an image of a woman when asked to identify the children’s nurse. Most of the girls (80%) and boys (72%) in this cohort chose the image of a man when asked to identify the surgeon. A gender neutral uniform for children is just one of the ways we are trying to change the deep rooted stereotypes around midwifery and nursing.

Glass Ceilings and Glass Escalators

A double whammy – women may experience the glass ceiling while male colleagues get to ride the glass escalator. A recent international report into nursing leadership highlights how these two experiences co-exist. The glass ceiling is a familiar metaphor for invisible barriers to career progression but the glass escalator is associated with feminised professions. Here, men experience advantages and are elevated to leadership positions. UK research has also shown a higher percentage of men in senior nursing positions and it takes fewer years to get there.

In academia, our pipeline is still leaky, and the glass escalator may exist – 64% of professors are women. This is not as dramatic as other STEM subjects (contrast chemistry where 10% of professors are women) but it needs addressing.

So, therein lies the paradox; a predominantly female profession that needs to attract more men but needs to deconstruct its glass structures so there is equity in career progression. We need to work together on this.

Collaborating for Change

On 4th November, we excitedly launched the Athena SWAN Network for Nursing and Midwifery (@SwanNursing) at King’s. The idea emerged from a collaboration between nursing faculties at King’s College London and Queen’s University, Belfast. We realised that we faced the same challenges. The new committee with five national leads, worked on the launch for a year. On the day, 32 delegates attended from 22 universities from the UK and Ireland and what a day we had.

L to R: Dr Angela Flynn, Dr Rosie Stenhouse, Dr Emma Briggs, Dr Susan Clarke, Dr Maurice O’Brien

 

ASNNaM committee: (L-R) Dr Rosie Stenhouse, Dr Maurice O’Brien, Dr Susan Clarke, Dr Emma Briggs

Prof Dame Athene Donald (@AtheneDonald; Professor of Physics, Cambridge University & Gender Equality Champion) provided an inspirational keynote address entitled ‘Thinking Positively, Acting Concretely.’ We also got to explore issues such as Men in Nursing & Midwifery (with Dr Maurice O’brien, Cardiff University), Gender Fluidity & Trans Matters (with Dr Rosie Stenhouse, University of Edinburgh), Barriers to Women in Academia (with Dr Susan Clarke, Queen’s University Belfast) and I presented on the Gender Pay Gap. Dr Angela Flynn (University College, Cork) facilitated our discussions on the aims of the network as well as tweeting furiously some of the key points and photos from the day (@SwanNursing for some absolute gems).

Where do we go from here? Sharing practices, comparing and collecting data and identifying solutions are important if we are going to address our gender equality issues. We are established on Knowledge Hub – a public service platform for collaboration so we can continue to build our community and make progress together. We will hold an annual networking and learning event for members and are excited about what can be achieved.  We also are acutely aware that while gender equality is a significant issue, it is just one characteristic and as a network, we too call for research and data on the intersect of other axes of diversity. We need to address all stereotypes and barriers where they occur. We need to work beyond our university walls to challenge stereotypes early on. We need to collaborate for change.

Geography’s Athena SWAN Bronze Reflections

The Athena SWAN charter recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in higher education across teaching, research and professional services, and supporting trans staff and students. The charter recognises work undertaken to address gender equality broadly and takes an intersectional approach to inclusion. 

Geography have been awarded a Bronze award at the first attempt, and SAT co-chairs Professor Cathy McIlwaine and Sabrina Fernandez reflect on the self-assessment process. 


Halfway through our submission process, a colleague sent us the wonderful report authored by Alana Harris and Abigail Woods from King’s History Department with the link to the Athena SWAN Gender Equality Snakes and Ladders. It mirrored almost directly our own experiences of working as a Self Assessment Team. We had started with an optimistic view that it would not be that difficult, especially if we organised ourselves carefully into working groups who would be responsible for each section. It would write itself! Or so we thought. Not surprisingly, this was not the case. It took far longer and was much more challenging than we anticipated. Yet, there were also rewards and surprises along the way.

One of the key factors in our successful submission was to make Athena SWAN a specific project within the department with a budget, a project manager from professional services (Anna Laverty) and two SAT co-chairs – one an academic (Cathy McIlwaine) and another from professional services (Sabrina Fernandez), both of us senior. As has been widely reported elsewhere, this process should not be passed to a female (or male) junior member of staff to carry out as part of what is often deemed to be a small administrative job. In addition, a strong relationship between academic staff and professional services is also crucial. Without regular meetings as a small group of professional services and academic staff who ended-up writing the document, we would never have submitted!

The challenges we faced were also common in terms of gathering data. Some of the local level data required broken down by gender, was ultimately impossible to find in some cases; but we managed to use what we did have as illustrative. The gathering and analysis of the major quantitative data sets would have been impossible without the data lead (Bruce Malamud) and our other data people on the SAT (Daniel Schillereff on the academic side and Georgina Lonergan from professional services). These roles are crucial and unless there is data expertise on the SAT, submission would be extremely difficult. Despite real frustrations around the data when at times we thought we would never be able to present a quantitative picture of the department in terms of staff and students, in the end, it was a revelation to see the data plotted in really accessible ways. It was so satisfying to identify where we had a positive story to tell but also where we needed to focus our attention.

Another issue was that we under-estimated was the buy-in required among the SAT team. We had a whole-hearted commitment in theory to working on diversity and inclusion and on the importance of Athena SWAN, but less concrete contributions. Of course, this is understandable in light of multiple demands on people’s time, but we were surprised by those who ended-up giving more or less to the process. Yet we had full support from our Head of Department (Mark Mulligan) who was open to proposals in theory and practice; he also found the budget to be able to commit to several initiatives.

Our survey and focus group work were also really revealing but also a challenge; with hindsight, we would organise a more streamlined staff and PhD survey and conduct it at the beginning and at the end of the process. One of the most interesting data gathering exercises we carried out was around departmental descriptors – asking staff (and separately, PhD students) to assess how they felt about the department (welcoming, friendly, competitive, collegiate, hostile, supportive, ambitious, challenging) with largely positive results .

It was a huge relief to discover that we had been awarded a Bronze award, as we felt that our hard work and trials and tribulations along the way had been worth it. We are now looking forward to implementing our Action Plan and to working beyond just gender with other axes of diversity in a more intersectional way as well as with other important issues related to diversity and inclusion that are not included within the Athena SWAN process.

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