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.

Women in STEMM: Ana-Madalina Ion

Earlier this week, the University joined WISE’s #1ofTheMillion Day campaign to celebrate over 1 million women working in STEMM roles in the UK for the first time ever. On our Twitter we shared insights from some women in the Faculty about working in STEMM, including from PhD student Ana-Madalina Ion. Ana wrote this blog about a special woman who inspired her to pursue a career in STEMM…

Hello! My name is Ana Madalina Ion (on the right) and I am a final year PhD student in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Mitochondria Research Group. I come from Romania. I have a bachelors in Biochemistry from the University of Bucharest, and a masters of research from Radboud University, Nijmegen (Molecular Mechanisms of Disease). I did my master thesis in Bordeaux as an Erasmus student, on mitochondria protein degradation, and I liked mitochondria so much that I decided to pursue a PhD in this area.
I would like to introduce you to my inspiring woman in STEMM.

This photo was taken last year in the city of Suceava, Romania. Behind us is the Romanian flag and the statue of our 16th century king Stephan the Great.

The STEMM woman who has inspired me the most and has always encouraged me when I was feeling down is my mother (on the left). Her name is Carmen Angela Ion and she is an aeronautical engineer. She graduated from the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, the Faculty of Aeronautical Engineering, the specialization engines. She graduated in 1986, at a time when my country was still communist, and when the number of graduates was strictly correlated with the number of open positions. People were not allowed to go abroad and there were no private companies where to find jobs, so one could only work in the public sector. Therefore, each year, only a small number of students were accepted in a faculty, a number approximately equal to the number of opening positions. So, not many students were accepted at a faculty each year, and even fewer of them graduated.

My mother was one of them. She went for a ”men-oriented” university, and chose an even more ”men-oriented” specialization: engines. She recalls how when she would go to classes, she would count how many women she could see. My mother always loved maths, so when she went to the university, people advised her to go study mathematics and become a teacher. They would say that teaching is a more female-friendly job, that gives you more time for kids and a family; engineering was too tough for a woman. 

My mum didn’t care. I wish I could say I am proud of her, but as I have no contribution to her graduation, I can only say I am happy she did. It was tough, very tough, but she made it. She didn’t give up, she graduated, and now she works as an aeronautic inspector at the Romanian Civil Aeronautic Authority from Bucharest.

She did take a break to raise me and my sister. She started working again when I was 15. Being a mum at home was another fight for her, because everyone was expecting that she start working immediately after her maternity leave was over. She was judged for not giving me to be raised by my grandparents, for deciding to have another baby even if she didn’t have a salary. She didn’t care.

She was also praised by some intellectual women, which did not help me. One teacher from secondary school told me how grateful I should be to my mum, because she sacrificed her career for me and my sister. My teacher’s words haunted me a long while, because it implied that a woman can only choose one of the two: career or children. Growing up, I struggled understanding that women can have both. And when I grew up enough to talk to my mum about her choice, she told me that she simply didn’t want to miss us growing up. It was never a sacrifice, she never regretted it. She became a full-time mum for 15 years because she decided to.

My mum didn’t follow patterns that others have created for her. She did not give up when she was judged.  And that is very inspiring.  

As a funny ending, I would like to share with you a story. My mum has a female friend from the university, an aeronautical engineer in another city. One night, her friend was called in at her home because one of the passenger planes had a fault and she and her team had to go repair it. When she arrived close to the plane, the flight attendant lady, seeing a woman, asked her, “Oh, are you the catering?” (apparently the flight attendant had ordered some food). “No, madam”, my mum’s friend replied amused, “I am the aeronautical engineer. I came to repair your plane.”

I hope this made you smile. Women in STEMM are strong, smart and stubborn. Very, very stubborn. Thank you for reading.

Thank you to Ana for sharing her wonderful story with us – if you have a story to tell about an inspirational person in your life, we’d love to share it! Get in touch at fms.diversity@newcastle.ac.uk.

FMS EDI WEEK PROGRAMME: 24th-28TH febrUARY 2020

It’s back – FMS is holding its second Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week, and we hope to see you there!

After last year’s success including the celebration of our Athena SWAN Silver Award, we are holding the Faculty’s second EDI Week for staff and students! We have a range of events lined up and listed below so that you can hear about the progress and ongoing work around EDI, and learn more about current issues that might be relevant to you.

Don’t miss out – take a look at what we’ve got lined up and book yourself in! We hope to see you at one of our events!

#FMSEDIWeek2020


Monday 24th February:

  • The EDI Strategy & Our Day-to-day Roles – 10-11.30am, FMS Boardroom
    To launch the week we’ll be hearing from a number of panellists within the Faculty and beyond, talking about how they would like to interpret and translate our EDI strategy in their day-to-day roles. Read more and register.
  • Multicultural Event – 12:30-2pm, David Shaw Foyer
    Organised by the Dental School, this event aims to celebrate our staff/student community by sharing presentations about the various cultures, faiths, traditions and foods within FMS. All are welcome to attend!

Tuesday 25th February:

  • Imposter Syndrome with Rachel Tobbell – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4
    This interactive workshop will explore the experiences of ‘Imposter Syndrome’: how it affects us, how societal pressures can exacerbate the problem, how such internal doubts impact on our lives and what we can do to manage those feelings. Read more and register.

Wednesday 26th February:

  • LGBT Lives – 12-2pm, Ridley Building 2, Room 1.58
    As part of celebrations for LGBTQ+ History month as well as EDI Week, come along and listen to a panel discussion with members of the Rainbow LGBTQ+ staff network as they delve into the day-to-day experiences of working and being LGBTQ+ at Newcastle and in HE. Read more and register.

Thursday 27th February:

  • Breakfast with Athene Donald – 9.30-10.30am, FMS Boardroom
    Join the Master of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, Athene Donald for this session, aimed primarily at ECRs and Fellows, in which you can discuss reconciling the risks of a contract-based research career with a long term vision of making a difference in academia. Breakfast included! Read more and register here.
  • Plenary with Athene Donald: The Art of Survival – 12.30-2.00pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre
    As a longstanding champion of women in academia, Athene Donald will talk about her experiences and strategies developed during her career to help her succeed, and the value of passing on such knowledge to help others survive within institutions. Read more and register here.

Friday 28th February:

  • Personal Resilience: A taster session, with Lisa Rippingale – 12-2pm, Leech L2.4
    This workshop aims to provide participants with a range of tools and techniques to develop their personal resilience. Read more and register here.

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.