NU Women Professors’ Network

NU Women Professors’ Network (NUWPN) is open to all women professors who work at the university and was set up in 2015. The network operates as a mostly online forum where they circulate events of interest, discuss aspects of university life, and input into policy development through responses to consultations and organising meetings with key staff. NUWPN is part of the NU Women’s Network.

To find out more about NU Women Professors’ Network, we chatted to Professor Karen Ross from the School of Arts and Cultures, who Chairs NUWPN.

Why did you decide to get involved?

Since I entered higher education, I have always sought out women colleagues with whom I could share experiences and establish a support network: higher education is a brilliant but also quite challenging environment in which to work for everyone, but especially women and especially when you are climbing the career ladder. Amongst academic staff in UKHE, less than 25% professors are women although women and men enter the profession in similar numbers.

When I arrived in Newcastle in 2016, I immediately joined NU Women and NUWPN as both these networks provide opportunities to share ideas, meet together and learn from each other.  When Kathryn Hollingsworth took up the chair of NU Women in 2016/17, I became chair of NUWPN.

Why is NUWPN important to its members?

The Network provides a useful means by which senior women in the university can ‘talk’ to each other online but also meet up in real time, as well as circulate information of interest.

What plans do you have for 2018/19?

Last year we ran a ‘making professor’ workshop which was attended by a wide range of women at different stages of their career, from professional services colleagues to recently graduated postdocs, all of whom were keen to hear the experiences of women professors and understand the different strategies women employ to thrive (and not simply survive) in a university environment.  We will be running a similar event in the summer term 2019.

We also have occasional brown-bag lunches to touch base on initiatives underway in the university and will continue to organise such ad hoc meetings this year.

To read more about NU Women Professional Services Network, please see this page. They also keep joint social media channels with NU Women, so you can follow them on Twitter @NU_Women or visit their blog.

NU Women

NU Women is a network open to all women who work at the University. The network provides a forum for women to meet, share ideas, provide mutual support for their career development, and to feed into the University issues of concern and interest to women members of staff.

As the 27th of October is UK National Mentoring Day, we’re highlighting NU Women and their excellent Career Conversations Scheme. This scheme offers the opportunity for members to receive career mentoring from a more experienced colleague at the University. Through the online database, NU Women members can browse profiles of mentors from across the University who are happy to spend an hour over coffee discussing career challenges and options.​

To find out more about NU Women and the other events and activities they run, we chatted to Professor Kathryn Hollingsworth, a Professor at Newcastle Law School and the Chair of NU Women.

Can you tell us a bit about how NU Women began?

NU Women was originally established in 2008 by Professor Vicky Bruce, but it was re-launched in its current form in 2014, after Candy Rowe had attended a women in higher education conference (co-organised by Durham and Newcastle) where a session was given by Sheffield University on their women’s network.

Candy loved the idea, so held an event here to see if there was interest, had Sheffield speak, and gathered together a small group to form the committee. I went to that event and joined the committee then, and went on to help establish the Women Professor’s Network as part of NU women, and I chaired that sub-committee until I took over as Chair of NU Women in 2016.

How do you feel being a member of NU Women has helped you?

I joined because I think I am committed to gender equality and I think women’s networks can really help to support other women, provide space for skills development (including in our women-only writing clubs) and it is a good way to meet other women from across the institution, not only in one’s own school/unit.

It has provided me with a real network of colleagues and friends and huge amounts of professional and personal support. It has also helped me see that difficulties I face are shared by others and has given me support, advice and help in overcoming any work challenges.

What’s been your favourite NU Women event so far?

I love the weekly writing groups. It gives me dedicated space to write, but moreover it has provided me with friends and a close knit community. They are great!

All our events are fantastic though – the imposter syndrome workshops are really popular, and this year I particularly enjoyed the talk by Maria do mar Pereira on her work on the experiences of women academics and work, knowledge and workload. It was challenging and thought-provoking.

Finally, what can we expect from NU Women this year?

We’ve continued to grow and now have about 800 members and as well as the Women Professors subgroup, we have a subcommittee for PS staff. They are fantastic and organise loads of excellent events alongside the general NU Women talks and workshops.

Candy Rowe is leading on our development of a ‘network of networks’ with other women’s networks in other universities, and we will continue to respond to our members in terms of events and writing space etc. This year, we will also look at how we might work with our colleagues in the other employee networks to deliver joint events.

If you’d like to find out more about NU Women, or either of their subcommittees, please click here. You can also keep up to date with what they’re doing on their blog, or by following them on Twitter @NU_Women.


MentoringWe’re encouraging everyone in the Faculty to get more involved with mentoring. Would you like a mentor? Or can you be a mentor for a more junior member of staff or a postgraduate student?

We often come to a crossroads where we need to make some decisions about our careers and want to talk it over with someone else. You may just feel like you need a one-off career conversation with someone, or you may be looking for a longer term mentoring relationship. This person might have experience you lack, or just be an independent ear to listen to your situation. This is especially the case for people early in their careers, but can be useful for any of us.

In order to facilitate such conversations, a few years ago, we launched the Early Careers Mentoring Network (ECMN) database. Our database has a long list of people (including our own academics and professional staff, as well as people in other careers outside the University) who are willing to be contacted for a one-off conversation (or more) about their career.  You can search this list on a range of different characteristics which you might be looking for in a potential mentor.

What are the benefits to having a mentor?

One of the benefits to having a mentor is that you can learn a lot from their experience, and get a fresh perspective on your current challenges. You can also get access to support and resources which you may not know about, or get feedback on your career aspirations, which might help you achieve your goals more quickly. And a good mentor can also motivate you and help increase your confidence or self-esteem, enabling you to resolve challenges and move on in the longer term.

If you want to find a mentor and start a conversation, you can do search the database any time:

Why become a mentor?

A successful scheme needs good mentors, who are willing to give something back and support people at an earlier career stage. We are always looking for people to join our mentoring schemes. Mentoring passes on your knowledge and values to the next generation to accelerate their careers, but can also benefit you. The benefits of being a mentor can include: improved confidence, enhanced communication skills (especially listening), a broader view, and an enhanced ability to manage people.

Why not sign up to be a mentor today? Our database is directly linked to similar schemes run by NU Women and the BAME network for their members, so when you sign up as a mentor for our scheme, you can also choose to be a mentor for these schemes too – just tick the relevant boxes once you log in. To sign up (or update your profile if you have on already), please go into the database:

If you have an queries about our Early Careers Mentoring Scheme, please contact Tom Smulders. All other queries to the Faculty EDI Team

Organisational Development also runs the NU Mentoring scheme for all staff. It is currently closed, but will be open its annual call for mentees in January. You can register your interest here.

NU Parents’ Network

NU Parents’ Network is a network for all parents at Newcastle University, including students. They aim to build and oversee an interactive and supportive network for parents and to be a voice for parents with children of all ages at institutional level.

I spoke to Helen Elliott, a Project and Programme Coordinator and Chair of NU Parents’ Network, to find out more about why the network is important.

How did the Parents’ Network first come about?

The network was first founded in 2015, but was recently reinvigorated based on the Parenting and Childcare Review which the University is in the process of undertaking. The Review showed a clear desire for a network to support parents and share information with each other. These findings motivated us to build up the network and make it a real presence within the University.

Last year, we appointed a brand new steering group, with male and female representatives, to shape and run the network. We also had a large relaunch event and set out a great program of activities which begin this September.

Why do you feel the network is important?

I found returning to work from maternity leave really daunting and wanted a place where I was able share information with other parents (such as information about childcare vouchers) and make connections with parents going through similar experiences. I hope this is what the network will be for its members, and that it will provide all parents, irrespective of age or gender, with a sense of solidarity and support.

What have you got planned for the upcoming year?

We’ve got a lot of exciting events and activities planned, including:

  • A Q&A about childcare scheme. We will compare the government scheme (represented by a member of the local council) with the University voucher scheme, to help parents understand the differences.
  • An applying for schools talk. This is to try and make the process less daunting and confusing for parents. A representative from the local council will come in and talk to parents about the process of applying to a school, how to appeal a decision, and our members will be able to share their own experiences.
  • First aid course. To inform and train parents in infant and child first aid. We’ll be offering a discounted rate for our members.

To find out more about these events, please sign up for our mailing list here.

Where do you hope to see NU Parents’ Network going in the future?

We all really want the network to be something that people are excited about and really want to be a part of. We want to provide a space our members can turn to for support. It’s also really important to us that everyone has a say and that we have as much collaboration and feedback as possible on events.

In the future, we’re hoping to develop subnetworks, which will group parents with similar aged children, to offer greater support and understanding. We’re also looking at potentially creating a parenting calendar, to share events at the University and in the local community that would be of interest to parents, such as half-term activities like the coding for children event run by the School of Computer Science. Finally, we’re looking to develop a system of benefits for our members, such as retail discounts.

If you think all this sounds exciting, click here to find out more about how to get involved with what NU Parent’ Network has got coming up.

Our Faculty now has a Silver Athena SWAN Award!

We are celebrating this week after hearing that we have been awarded a Faculty Silver Athena SWAN award from AdvanceHE!

The award recognises not just our commitment to advancing gender equality in the Faculty, but also our achievements in supporting the career aspirations and progression of our staff and students. Whilst many of our schools and institutes have held individual awards, our work now extends to all academic and professional staff, including those who sit outside academic units. This award is for everyone in the Faculty, both in Newcastle and at NU Med Malaysia. It is an immense achievement, and one that we are hugely proud of.

“Being recognised for an Athena SWAN Silver award is a tremendous achievement and represents an important milestone on our Faculty journey towards having a truly sector-leading approach to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.  We cannot and should not rest on our laurels, as there is much still to be done in reaching this goal. But I would like to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful EDI team – Candy Rowe, Ann Armstrong and Malasree Home – for their efforts, as well as all those people in the Faculty who have contributed along the way to creating such a strong submission.” – Prof David Burn, Pro-Vice Chancellor, FMS.

The award marks a step-change in our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), which now aims to be fully inclusive of all our staff and students, not just those in our Schools and Institutes in Newcastle. Working together as a Faculty, rather than as separate units, will enable us to be more ambitious, and tackle bigger issues with more resource.

“Two years ago, we decided that we should make one single Faculty application, rather than 11 separate ones. There are so many advantages to this approach. I believe that the work we have still to do around gender equality, and equality and diversity more broadly, will be better tackled as a Faculty, and this award demonstrates what we can achieve through that approach.” – Prof Candy Rowe, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for FMS.

FMS is the only faculty or department in the University to currently hold a Silver award. Our key achievements include: improved progression of women into fellowships, improved gender balance of academic staff, and increasing numbers of women professors.Over the next four years, some of the areas that we will be working on will be: improving the support for staff and student parents, addressing issues around career progression of professional staff, and improving career support for post-doctoral researchers. This will involve working with a large network of staff both inside and outside the Faculty.

“The success of a faculty level silver Athena SWAN award is an exceptional achievement resulting from the commitment and hard work of many people from across FMS. This is a real opportunity for FMS to become sector leading and I know that some of the existing initiatives are already considered beacons of good practice, and are being shared  inside and outside the University. This is a collective success for all staff and students as we progress our ambition of being a fully inclusive global community, which actively seeks to recruit, support and retain staff and students from all sectors of society equally.” – Prof Judith Rankin, Dean of EDI.

The journey to get us to this point has truly been a team effort, not just from our EDI teams, but from a whole host of individuals who helped us prepare the application, and who continue to be champions for equality, diversity and inclusion. We really appreciate all your work and passionate support. We plan to invite everyone to a celebration once we have collected our award.

What’s important now is to keep up all the good work and the ambition: after all, what’s to stop us going for a Gold award in a few years’ time?

Our Faculty Athena SWAN application and 4-year action plan is available to view and download on the intranet. Please note that all schools and institutes will have their own action plans to address discipline-specific and local cultural issues, and that these will be made available by the end of the year. Queries and feedback to: