Category Archives: LGBT+

Issues facing the LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual plus) community and what we are doing at Newcastle University to tackle them.

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.

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:


Worrying about words: is language a barrier to talking about equality and inclusion?

This week, I attended the first of three workshops on the language we might use to talk about equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues, organised by staff from our School of Psychology. Whilst I was secretly hoping for a clear steer around what terms I should (and shouldn’t) be using, I got a lot more from the talks and discussions we actually had.

The idea for the workshops stemmed from some first-hand experiences: it is easy for even well-meaning staff to upset students with the words they use without even realising it. And when acceptable language can change quite quickly, it can be particularly challenging for people to always use the right words in a particular situation.

The workshop had three fantastic speakers, all with their own perspectives and approaches to the importance of language around EDI. The first speaker was a young researcher from our Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Katie Markham. Katie eloquently talked through some recent examples of where things said on social media had dramatically gone wrong. Through exploring these, what I learned was the importance of listening to the complaint if we use the wrong language: it is OK to feel the sting of criticism, but so important to learn from it.

Our second speaker, Nadeem Ahmad, who has worked in a number of EDI advisory roles and is a Trustee of Show Racism the Red Card, directly addressed whether there should be a list of “dos and don’ts” in the language that we use. Whilst I was hoping there would be an easy “yes” answer to this, his answer was, “no, there shouldn’t”. That’s because when we become prescriptive about what can and can’t be said, it opens up the opportunity for people to argue that there is nothing wrong about certain words being used under particular circumstances. Instead, he suggested that we should all have a list of words we try to avoid, and that we should be asking ourselves, “Do I need to use that word?”. This seems a much more pragmatic solution, and one to keep in mind.

Our final speaker was Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle (Central), who spoke about some of her personal experiences of growing up in Newcastle, and the importance of discussing the language we use. She spoke powerfully about the problems she has with the use of the term ‘political correctness’: my personal feeling is that this term can be used to mute criticism from those affected by what is perceived to be insensitive language. But surely we need to be making sure that we don’t cause offence to people unintentionally, not defending language deemed to be inappropriate?

My take-home message was, that whilst it is clearly worth putting in some work to understand what words are offensive or acceptable (and the University will be producing some guidance on that shortly), interpretation of language depends upon the context that it is used. But when people are offended unintentionally, the key response is to listen, understand, and learn for next time. I’m sure that other people will have different points of view, but we are all individuals, with our own views, and our own ways of expressing them. The key thing is to make sure that what we say, whatever the situation, is respectful and as considerate as we can be. And if we are challenged on the words we’ve used, listen carefully, and think about whether there might be a better way to say it next time.

Candy Rowe, Director of EDI (FMS)

There are two more workshops: 10th October 4-6pm with a focus on mental health and disability, and 17th October 4-6pm with a focus on trans and non-binary language the legalities of what we can and can’t say. All sessions are held in the Atrium with an afternoon tea provided. Book here.


Rainbow@ncl is a newly-established staff and PGR network, which aims to challenge heteronormativity, support LGBT+ staff and students, and promote inclusion of people of diverse genders, sexualities, and relationships.

Today (28th September) 12-2pm, they are having a celebratory launch event in the Reception Rooms of the Armstrong Building. If you would like to come along, please register here.

To find out a little bit more about Rainbow@ncl ahead of their launch event, I spoke to Dr Gareth Longstaff, a lecturer in Media and Culture Studies and the Chair of Rainbow@ncl.

Why did you decide to start the network?

Before the inception of Rainbow@ncl, there had been an informal, socially-focused LGBT+ staff network called Mosaic. About a year ago, Kate Chedgzoy (EDI lead in HaSS) and I met with the hope of forming something new that was still a support network, but was also able to feed into broader issues across the University and within Higher Education.

The first scoping event happened the week after Induction Week in 2017, and since then we’ve made a huge amount of progress in forming a steering group and setting up the network.

What do you think the network means to its members?

I believe Rainbow@ncl means a great deal to its members. It provides staff with a strong support network at work, and, for many, it provides the first opportunity they’ve had to meet with likeminded people in an open, inclusive space to discuss the issues they’re facing. It lets people know that their thoughts and feelings are valid, and that they are understood by others.

The network is intended to be inclusive to all staff who identify as LGBT+, regardless of their background or position within the University. Everything we do is decided collectively, even down to small details such as the timings and locations of events. We hope to make the network even more diverse than it already is, and to focus on intersectionality and work with other EDI networks across the University.

Where you might see the network going in the future?

We feel as though we’ve never had as much institutional support as we do at the moment, so it’s really important for us to keep up this momentum and make ourselves a visible, sustainable and embedded presence within the University.

We are working to increase our prominence, through initiatives such as the distribution of over 2000 lanyards, raising the LGBT+ flag at key points of the year, developing a front facing webpage for the Network, as well as by working with other networks, such as NU Women and BAME, to promote intersectionality. We want everyone in the University to have a sense of what we do, by embedding ourselves into the culture, politics and policy of the University, whilst still retaining our autonomy as a network.

We also hope to work as a critical ally to senior management groups, to affect policy development, such as Trans policy and gender neutrality in documentation. We also want to ensure policy is consistently reviewed to make it as transparent and inclusive as possible.

If you’d like to find out more about Rainbow@ncl and how to get involved, come along to their launch event 12-2pm today (28th September). Alternatively, click here to read more about them.

Do you want a Rainbow Lanyard? 

A few weeks ago, as part of Newcastle University’s Pride celebrations, a small number of rainbow lanyards were distributed around the Faculty and University. The response to them was overwhelming, so we’ve ordered a lot more! Over 2000 of these colourful rainbow lanyards are now being distributed, so keep an eye out across the campus to make sure you get one!

However, these aren’t just a fashion accessory: wearing one shows your support for our LGBT+ staff and students across the University. We admit that they are very pretty and the colours are certainly striking, but they also have meaning: the lanyards sport the six colours of the rainbow flag, with the addition of brown and black to promote inclusion of Black and Asian members of the LGBT+ community. Wearing a rainbow lanyard signifies your commitment to provide a working and study environment where our LGBT+ staff and students feel safe, comfortable and included.  

The lanyards were designed by our new Rainbow@ncl Network to raise awareness around LGBT+ issues, and we will be working closely with them over the coming year to make our Faculty more inclusive.

If you would like to know more about what the rainbow flag represents, and why it’s important to take pride in wearing a rainbow lanyard, you can read an earlier post or see our flyer.

If you have any further questions about the rainbow lanyards or our Faculty’s work around LGBT+ inclusion, please don’t hesitate to contact our Faculty EDI Team. And if you want to join the Rainbow@ncl Network, contact

And make sure you get your hands on a rainbow lanyard as soon as they arrive, as there are only 2000 to go around!