All posts by Candy

Demystifying Leadership: Why be the Director of EDI?

In the first of our Demystifying Leadership Series, which will look at what some of our senior leaders get up to and what they get out of their roles, we talk to Prof Candy Rowe, our Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for the Faculty. As she steps down from being Director and the Faculty looks for a replacement, we ask what being Director of EDI was like, what she got out of leading on EDI for the Faculty, and why she would recommend it as a leadership opportunity.

Why did you apply to be Director of EDI for the Faculty?

I’d actually told myself that I definitely wouldn’t apply! I had been the academic lead for the successful Institute of Neuroscience Athena SWAN Silver Award, and also chaired the NU Women staff network. These roles took time, and I felt that I should perhaps be concentrating on my research profile to further my career. But in the end, the opportunity seemed too good to ignore. What changed my mind? I wanted a role where I could lead positive change for people, and have the opportunity to do so at a larger scale than I had before.

What does an average day look like for you?

I’m sure you’ll talk to anyone in a leadership role – there is no ‘average day’. What have I done today? I’ve chaired the Faculty EDI Committee, and for the first time had the EDI Leads from NU Med, our Malaysian campus, joining us via teleconference.

We also heard more about race equality from Vijaya Kotur (the University’s Race Equality Officer) and discussed how we could embed EDI more into some of the changes within the Faculty. I then had a catch-up with the fab Faculty EDI team, Ann Armstrong and Malasree Home, just to discuss challenges, clarify and prioritise workload and exchange ideas. I went straight into another meeting about a project being led in the Faculty by one of our Postgraduate team, Karolien Jordens, on experiences of international students here at Newcastle, and how we can improve the support we offer to our postgraduates. Following lunch, I met with colleagues from our Dental School who have won some funding for a project to diversify their student reps. This sounds like a great project, and I always enjoy chatting to people who have identified an EDI issue in their school or institute and are taking steps to address it. I always try to help if I can. In between all this, I’ve been progressing a host of other things – setting up a phone call with an EDI lead at another university to discuss Athena SWAN, helping finalise our International Women’s Day event on Friday, discussing the promotion of a new peer mentoring network for student parents, and tweeting the VC. And now it’s 3pm, and I’m writing this before I need to go and pick up my son at 4pm so he can get his homework done before he goes to a club!

What do you get out of being Director of EDI?

The capacity to change things for the better by empowering people and changing policies and practices that support people and the institution. I enjoy having a broad view of the Faculty and the Institution, which many people at my level don’t have. Working with diverse people, and building teams to deliver change – I love it that I can’t walk across campus without seeing someone I know and stopping for a catch-up.

What has been your biggest achievement?

There is no doubt that bringing everyone together to get our first Faculty Athena SWAN Award has been mine and the team’s biggest achievement. But I am also proud of other things I’ve done and been involved with. Most recently, I enjoyed working with LGBT+ reps and other colleagues to buy and raise the rainbow flag on campus for the first time, and seeing the positive impact of that. I think staff are becoming more aware of the importance of EDI: we’ve been working hard on our comms, including our blog and new Equality Matters email circular, as well as our EDI Week and Bitesize events – a lot of people have given ideas and time to make these work. And of course, all the work we did surveying the experiences of staff and student parents, and getting the institutional commitment through the ‘For Families’ project to make Newcastle University more family friendly by 2020. It’s an exciting time to be an EDI lead.

Who do you talk to about challenges or when the going feels tough?

Oh, all sorts of people – depends on the challenge! Like any job, it has its ups and downs, its successes and frustrations. David Burn, the PVC, is often someone who I turn to for support on advancing key issues for the Faculty – he’s always supportive, especially in times of need. But I also have a network of academic colleagues to talk about more personal career challenges, and a fantastic EDI team, both here in the Faculty and across the institution. I found a lot of people to be very supportive and offer me help and advice when I need it.

What have you learned through this role?

Lots. As I move into a new university-wide role, I can see that having been involved in strategic planning and delivery of projects makes a difference to my confidence in taking on a new position. For the first time, a leadership role feels quite do-able (maybe I’m not stretching myself enough!). I’ve learned a huge amount from the professional staff I’ve worked with, including the value of visualising processes, managing projects, and delivering change. I’ve also learned how to work strategically on decision-making committees, and the value of my own contributions to discussions and decisions. I’ve learned that I enjoy leadership roles, especially those that are new and that give ample opportunity to build something from scratch. And reading this, maybe I am starting to overcome my Imposter Syndrome too…

Have you enjoyed it – would you recommend it as a leadership role?

Definitely – I’ve met some brilliant people in this role, and been lucky to work with some great staff and students on EDI projects. It has been a lot of fun, and in fact, I’m going to miss the team I work with, and the opportunities to improve working cultures in the Faculty. Having said that, I’m not abandoning EDI entirely, I will still be leading on EDI issues in my new role as NUAcT Director, and remain co-Chair of the For Families project. If you’re thinking that this sounds like a fun job and one you’d be interested in doing, I’d definitely go for it. You’ll learn a lot about how the Faculty and Institution works, and your own abilities – you’ll be empowering yourself as well as the people around you.

The job description and details of how to apply have been sent to academic staff in the Faculty. If you think you would like to apply, please send a CV and covering letter to Marian Phillipson by 18th March 2019. Informal enquiries can be made directly to Prof David Burn, Pro-Vice Chancellor of FMS.

FMS EDI Week 21st-25th January – save the date!

FMS will be holding its very first EDI Week from the 21st – 25th of January – why not get involved?

The week is firstly to celebrate our successes so far, with the unveiling of our Athena SWAN silver award, which recognises our achievements in promoting and progressing gender equality for all staff and students. However, as well as reflecting how far we have come, we will also be thinking about what we would like to achieve, and will be running a number of events and activities that staff and students can get involved with.

Although we are still confirming some events (final programme to be announced early January), we have some already pencilled in and you can get the times into your diary now!

21st January:

  • Launch Event – 12-1pm,
    “Why does EDI matter?” – hear from staff about why EDI matters to them.
  • EDI and the Professional Pathway – 2-3pm,
    Katherine Rogers, Director of Faculty Operations

22nd January:

  • EDI Bitesize: “What is Athena SWAN?” – 2-3pm
    Candy Rowe, Director of EDI for FMS will explain what Athena SWAN is and what it means for the Faculty.
  • Athena SWAN Silver for Newcastle University – 3-4pm
    Judith Rankin, Dean of Diversity will talk about the work currently going on to renew the University’s institutional Silver Athena SWAN Award.
  • Wellbeing Session – lunchtime (TBC)
    Session hosted by Michael Atkinson on mindfulness.

23rd January:

  • EDI Design Principles for FMS  – 12-2pm
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team will run a session about embedding EDI into faculty working in the future.

24th January:

  • EDI Fair – 12-2pm
    A fair to showcase information and get a chance to speak to the EDI Team, representatives from different staff/PGR networks, and the ECR Mentoring Scheme.
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – lunchtime (TBC)
    PVC of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award and celebrate the incredible work and achievement the award symbolises.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10am – 12pm
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents. It will provide information on NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions.


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.

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:


Meet Vijaya Kotur, our Race Equality Advisor

October is Black History Month in the UK, and like many other institutions, the University is hosting a number of events to recognise the history, experiences and accomplishments of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and to promote race equality more broadly. In this post, we talk to Vijaya Kotur, our University Race Equality Advisor, about her work and what staff and students can get involved with this month.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role?  

My key responsibility is to work with everyone from across the University to support the organisation’s commitment to race equality. That means that I work with Professional Services and Academic staff, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students. Based on the data and evidence available I’ll be ensuring that race equality is implemented in the University’s culture, policies and operations by measuring equality impact of race alongside other protected characteristics.

Our University has reached a lot through promoting and achieving various Athena SWAN awards. However, there are still inequities in areas, where people from diverse backgrounds have not reached their full potential or benefited equitably from the opportunities our University provides. Hence, my role will involve working with you all to raise awareness, challenging relevant issues and promoting the need to move away from the deficit model of race equality that has been around for generations.

What might an average day look like for you? 

Each day is different and that’s what makes my job so interesting. I have to read a lot to keep myself abreast of any relevant changes in legislation and whatever is new out there. As the only person in this role, I get to meet interesting people from all over the University. I enjoy meeting with students as their enthusiasm is contagious and gives me more inspiration to work on race and equality matters.

An average day is: having a few meetings; acting on actions from meetings attended; writing up certain process or guidance that needs to be addressed; and researching new ideas that can be used to raise awareness on race equality within our University. But on some days, I might be running around like a headless chicken whilst responding to the demands of my day-to-day responsibilities!

What events have been organised around the University for Black History Month, and is there one that you are particularly looking forward to? 

‘Black History Month’ means different things to everyone and pride for this month is expressed in a variety of different ways. For many, ‘Black History Month’ is a way of reflecting on the diverse histories of those from African and Caribbean descent, taking note of the achievements and contributions to the social, political, economic and cultural development of the UK. There are many events planned in and around the University by and for both staff and students, including:

I am looking forward to promoting ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ as it will mark a commitment from our University that we stand against Racism in all its forms, and that we respect, celebrate and cherish our diverse communities represented within our University.

You’re running some Race Equality Awareness Workshops this month and early next year, can you tell us more about those? 

These workshops are designed to support staff to strengthen their understanding of race equality and highlight the skills required for effective culture change. It introduces participants to key concepts within the field of race equality with the aim of improving knowledge and understanding about race and racism within a safe and reflective space.

These sessions should make an individual aware of what contributes to racial inequalities, their own privileges and how to challenge certain behaviours like micro-aggression, which knowingly or unknowingly happen all the time around us at the workplace. I am hoping that the sessions will enable staff to begin engaging with conversations on race equality much more freely.

What do you see as some of the major challenges in the HE sector around race equality

The biggest challenge I find is that people within the HE sector find it very uncomfortable to talk about race. Any change takes time. We need resources to implement race equality in such a diverse and complex institution. We also need to ensure that the work life experiences of all staff are fulfilling, and students’ experiences at University will be measured by their attainment level by ethnicity.

Diversifying the curriculum will also be a major part of promoting race equality within HE, and that will be quite challenging. However, there are some fantastic people within our University who are committed, and with their backing I am positive that these challenges will become a bit easier.

Some universities holds Race Equality Charter awards for their work towards race equality, is Newcastle University aiming for this type of award? 

Newcastle University is also working towards applying to be a member of Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter. Once we become a member, we are committed to applying to get a Bronze Award within three years. So we all need to start cracking on our work on Race Equality!

Looking for something to read for #BHM2018?

If our staff and students wanted to learn more about black history or race equality in the UK, is there anything that you would recommend they read? 

One of the best books I would recommend for everyone to read is: ‘Why I’m no longer talking to white people about Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. It’s an easy-read and relevant to the UK.

For any queries about the Race Equality Charter or the University’s work towards race equality, contact Vijaya.