Category Archives: Parenting

Many working and studying at Newcastle University are parents, and face prejudice and issues with progression as a result. We hope to promote equality in this area, and in particular, flexible working.

Flexible Working: Christina Halpin

Continuing with our Flexible Working blog series, to raise awareness about the benefits of flexible working and empower you to feel able to talk about it to your line manager, I spoke to Amanda Weston, who works at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, about her experiences working part time.

What role do you work part time in?

I’m a Research Associate (RA). In my current role, I’m working on a project that looks at the evolution of warning signals in insects and the design of those signals. Most of my time is spent either in the lab running experiments, or analyzing data and writing papers, but I’ve also supervised a number of postgraduates and project students over the years. I work 80% FTE over five days, on an extremely flexible schedule.

How have your hours changed over time?

I’ve been working 80% FTE since I had my son 9 years ago, to allow me to care for, and have more time with, him. Initially, when I returned from maternity leave I worked 4 days, Monday to Thursday, with Friday off. But as my son got older I changed my schedule so I was working the hours flexibly over 5 days, which I found a very easy change to make and it worked out really well.

How have you advanced your career while working part time?

I’ve never seen working part time as a hindrance to my career, or that it has stopped me achieving what I’ve wanted to achieve. After my PhD, I got my first RA role straight away, which I stayed in for 3 years before moving to an unrelated research role for a year. After that, I successfully applied for a Faculty Fellowship, which I feel has been my biggest achievement so far. Now I’ve returned to being an RA, but this was out of personal choice, and not driven by me wanting to work part time.

What advantages has working part time brought you?

For me, working part time has always been about allowing me to effectively balance my family and work life. It has allowed me to continue to pick up my son from school some days, and not have to always rely on after school- or summer clubs. Everything has worked out really well for me and I feel very lucky to have had this flexibility.

Where did you find support while working part time?

I’ve always felt supported in my decision to work part time, by both my close colleagues and my family. My supervisors have always been particularly supportive, and have made it clear that I would continue to be supported should I ever choose to decrease my hours further. I’ve also found the workshops I’ve done on grant writing and CV writing to be particularly helpful for career advancement.

What challenges did you face while working part time?

I haven’t really experienced any major challenges. Some busy weeks, I might find myself working what are essentially full time hours or longer, despite officially working 80% FTE, but I think that this is inevitable when you’re working in a research environment and running experiments. Overall, this hasn’t been a big problem for me and it has helped a lot that I’m able to be flexible with my hours from week to week, so if I work extra hours one week then I’m able to take them back in the next.

What single piece of advice would you give to others who are considering working part time?

If you’d like to work part time, you should carefully consider the flexibility of the role you’ve got and decide if it would be suitable to work in part time hours. For example, in a research role you need to be able to easily alter your schedule depending on what you’re working on. You need to think about the responsibilities you’ve got and what needs to change in order for them to fit into your proposed timeframe.

Thank you so much to Christina, and we wish her continued success working flexibly in her career!

Flexible Working: Ann Armstrong

This week is Flexible Working Week in the UK: a week that aims to raise awareness about the benefits of flexible working and empower the UK workforce to be more flexible.

To celebrate, we have a blog series around flexible working, where we will be speaking to several members of staff from all around the University to find out all about the advantages and challenges of flexible working at NU.

The first blog in this series is with FMS EDI’s very own Ann Armstrong, who talks about her experiences of working part time in her role.

What role do you work part time in?

I’m the EDI Officer for the Faculty of Medical Sciences. I’ve been in post for 18 months so far. In my role, I support the Director of EDI (Candy Rowe) in her work. I’m working to embed EDI into everything that the Faculty does and ensure that the Faculty is a good place for everyone to work and study, regardless of their background or protected characteristic.

How many hours do you work and on what schedule?

I work 2.5 days a week, which are Tuesday, Wednesday morning and Thursday. It’s been important for me to work to a regular schedule as I look after my young daughter and I am the primary carer for my elderly mother, so it’s really important for both of them to know that I’ll be there.

What would you identify as your biggest success while working part time?

I’m really proud of the work I put in to the completion and submission of the Faculty’s first silver Athena SWAN application. As there was a lot of work to do on it, I chose to work some extra hours to help out. However, there was never any demand on my time. I was able to work the extra hours that I chose very flexibly, and I felt in control of when I worked and for how long. My line managers also made sure I always knew just how much my time was truly appreciated.

What advantages or opportunities has working part time brought you?

Working part time has allowed me to have a better work life balance. As a mum to a daughter it’s been really nice to be able to show her that as a woman you are still able to have a successful career as well as having time to be at home with her.

What challenges did you face while working part time?

The main challenge of working part time is that work doesn’t stop when I’m not here. There’s always things going on all the time, and that can sometimes leave you feeling as though you’re missing out on things when you’re not here. To address this, I have a formal catchup with the rest of the EDI team on the first day I’m back every week. This gives me a much greater awareness of what’s going on and allows me to do my job better.

Where did you find support while working part time?

My line managers have both been really supportive, flexible and understanding. They always encourage me to take any training opportunities I get. In particular, Katharine Rogers, the Director of Faculty Operations is really good at helping with career development and she regularly sends out opportunities for secondments, which makes me feel really encouraged to develop and gain skills.

What would you do differently if you had your time again?

If I had my time again I would definitely still choose to be part time. I don’t regret it at all and really value the chance it’s given me to spend time with my daughter. However, I would tell myself not to feel guilty about it. At the beginning, I felt like by only being there half the time I wasn’t pulling my weight, even though I knew I was. So if I had my time again, I would tell myself to be confident in my decision and trust that I’m doing a good job.

What single piece of advice would you give to others who want to/are considering working part time?

If it suits your lifestyle, you should go for it! You will be supported in your choice. Even though it can be challenging at times, the enormous benefits it’s given me in my family life definitely outweigh the difficulties. I would also recommend that you’re prepared to make the most of all opportunities that you’re offered and try to have a flexible, open outlook.

Thank you so much to Ann for speaking to us, and we hope she’s inspired you to request flexible working if you feel it’s something that will benefit you!

Over the next few weeks there will be more blogs from others who are working flexibly at the moment.

Or, if you currently work part time at NU, for whatever reason, and would be interested in taking part in the series, we want to hear from you! To take part, please get in contact with Georgia Spencer.

FMS EDI Week Programme: 21st-25th January 2019

FMS is holding its very first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week – why not come along and get involved?

We are holding the Faculty’s first EDI Week for our staff and students to celebrate our recent Athena SWAN Silver Award for our work towards gender equality. There will be a range of activities and events that not only reflect on our recent achievement, but consider where we go from here in order to provide more inclusive work and study environments that give everyone equal opportunity to succeed.

Take a look at what is on, and book early! We hope to see you at one of our events!

#FMSEDIWeek19


21st January:

  • Why does EDI matter? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    We launch the week by hearing from members of the senior leadership team about why EDI is important to our Faculty and the people who work and study here. Read more and register.
    X
  • EDI and TechNET – 1-2pm, The Boardroom
    Members of our technicians network talk about how EDI is central to the work that they do both in the Faculty and across the University. Read more and register.
    X
  • How to embed EDI in the Professional Pathway? – 2-3pm, The Boardroom
    Our Director of Faculty Operations, Katharine Rogers, will talk about the new professional pathway and how EDI is being embedded into its development. Read more and register.

22nd January:

  • EDI at NUMed Malaysia – 10-11am, Leech L2.9
    Come and meet Chris Baldwin, CEO and Provost at NUMed, to find out more about their approach to EDI in Malaysia. Read more and register.
    X
  • Mindfulness – 12.30-1.30pm, Leech L2.8
    An introductory session led by our very own Michael Atkinson. Read more and register.
    X
  • EDI Bites: What is Athena SWAN? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    Our EDI Team explains what Athena SWAN is, what our Silver Award means, and what our plans are for progressing gender equality over the next four years. Read more and register.
  • Athena SWAN: An institutional perspective – 3-4pm, The Boardroom
    Judith Rankin, the Dean of EDI, will talk about the university’s application for a Silver Award renewal, which will be submitted in April. Read more and register.

23rd January:

  • EDI design principles for FMS  – 12-2pm, Colin Ingram Seminar Room (IoN)
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team hold an interactive session to hear your views about how EDI should guide FMS in the future. Read more and register.
    X
  • Why should we become conscious of our Unconscious Biases? – 2-3pm, Leech L2.2
    Tom Smulders and the IoN EDI Team run an introductory session about unconscious bias and how to combat it. Read more and register.

24th January:

  • EDI Lunchtime Fair – 12-2pm, the Atrium/Entrance to the Medical School
    For staff and postgraduates to find out more about different networks, mentoring schemes, support for wellbeing, and get a chance to speak to EDI representatives. Light bites provided. Please register your interest for catering purposes.
    X
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – 12.45, Entrance to the Medical School
    The Pro-Vice Chancellor of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award to mark the achievement that the award represents.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10.30am-12pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents to launch NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on its progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions. Read more and register.
    X
  • Friday Fizz and Feedback – 4-5pm, The Atrium
    Join the Faculty EDI team for a glass of celebratory fizz and tell us what you thought of our first EDI Week, or what you’d like to see next year at EDI Week 2020! Bucks fizz and non-alcoholic sparkling provided. Register your interest for catering purposes here.

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.
    X
  • 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.
    X
  • 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.
    X
  • 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.
    X
  • 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.

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.