Category Archives: TeamTalk

What members of the FMS EDI Team have been up to and what we’re planning next.

Faculty EDI Team Awarded Spotlight Award

Ann Armstrong and Malasree Home have recently been recognised for their vital work and dedication, which was instrumental in submitting our first Faculty-wide Athena SWAN application. Ann, who is our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Officer and Malasree, our Athena SWAN Officer, were nominated by the Faculty Office to receive Spotlight Awards. These University awards are given to staff who make outstanding commitments to enhancing the student experience, demonstrate role model behaviour, go the extra mile, and enhance the Universities reputation. Both Ann and Malasree have been commended for their important work towards providing an inclusive and diverse environment for all students and staff alike by Professor David Burn, Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor:                                                                                                          

“Both Ann and Malasree have demonstrated dedication and passion in progressing our Athena SWAN application and are a credit to the Faculty and our professional services. It was an excellent application, and whatever the outcome, I know that we have a strong team that can put equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of what we do.”

The results of the Athena SWAN Silver Award application will be revealed on October 19th. Thanks to the work of Ann and Malasree in helping co-ordinate our work across the Faculty, we are proud of our application and have our fingers crossed for October!

If you have any questions about our Athena SWAN application, or any other thoughts or queries related to EDI, please contact us either through email ( , or through our Twitter (@FMSDiversityNCL)

Why make a Faculty Athena SWAN application?

We submitted our first application for a Faculty Silver Athena SWAN Award in May 2018. All our eligible schools and institutes had already engaged with Athena SWAN, and nearly three-quarters of our academic and professional staff were in units already holding Silver awards. However, rather than continue to make lots of separate awards, we decided to change our approach and move to making a single Faculty application. In this blog, we explore why we made this decision, what the benefits (and costs) are, and some reflections on the process. We welcome any comments or questions, and are more than happy to talk to any other Athena SWAN and EDI teams already taking this approach, or thinking of doing so.

Why make a Faculty Athena SWAN application?

This was the question we asked ourselves over two years ago now – should we keep making 10 or more individual Athena SWAN applications, or just make a single Faculty application? We hold 5 Bronze and 4 Silver departmental awards: with around 75% of our staff in Silver departments, was it time to make a Faculty Silver application?

It was a big question, but in the end, one that had a very easy answer.

We discussed the pros and cons widely: centrally with the VC and Dean of Diversity, internally with our Faculty Executive and EDI Committees; and also sought advice externally from other universities, and of course, the ECU. What became clear to us during all these discussions was that the potential benefits far outweighed the potential costs, and that making a single Faculty application was the right thing for us to be doing.

The five most compelling reasons for change were:

  1. We could be fully inclusive of all our staff and students. Our Faculty, like many others, is a complex place, and not all academic and professional staff sit in units that are eligible to make applications for Athena SWAN. We also have a satellite campus in Malaysia, NUMed, with staff and students moving between the two. We wanted to include all our students, wherever they are in the world, in our EDI activities.
  2. We could more easily develop a cohesive and ambitious Faculty-wide EDI vision and strategy, one that could increase visible leadership and engagement in our staff and students, and leave a lasting legacy.
  3. We could tackle those bigger issues, many which lie outside the immediate control of each unit. I’m sure anyone who has attempted to change an HR form or a central policy knows what we’re talking about here. By joining together, we have more clout and also more resources for achieving change.
  4. We could pool all our data to identify issues that can otherwise remain invisible in larger datasets. We have 1800 staff and 5500 students, meaning that we can explore intersectionality for the first time. Datasets can also be too small to be conclusively informative at departmental level, and we wanted to see how far we had come as a Faculty.
  5. We could free-up time from making multiple (and often overlapping) applications and actions plans. We could spend more time exchanging and embedding good practices and addressing joint areas of concern, and more readily expand our EDI work outside of gender equality.

Of course we also had to consider the potential costs. We were concerned that a Faculty award could reduce engagement from staff and students, and that units might lose momentum with the action plan held at Faculty level. We decided to address this by each department continuing to hold a local action plan that not only supports our joint Faculty ambition, but also identifies and addresses local cultural and discipline-specific issues based on their own data. We are also trying to make sure that staff and students are all increasingly aware of the agenda and the part they can play in creating inclusive work and study spaces.

And of course, being a medical faculty, there were concerns about us losing our Silver Athena SWAN status, and the immediate impact that could have on funding success. Not holding a Silver award would also potentially mean that the institution could not apply for its Silver renewal in April 2019. This is where talking to ECU really helped us to identify a workable solution. They listened to what we had to say and, acknowledging the benefits and the potential challenges and risks, have offered us two bites of the cherry. If we don’t get our Faculty Silver award at first attempt, we can keep our current departmental awards and apply again next April. Fingers crossed we don’t have to do that given all the work involved, but this arrangement encouraged us to take the plunge.

At the end of the application process, whatever the result on October 19th, we feel we have made the right decision. We may not have got everything right yet, and we acknowledge that this is just one step in our journey, but we are certainly moving in the right direction towards becoming fully inclusive.

Faculty EDI Team,

You’re invited to our Athena SWAN Roadshows

Come and see our first FMS Athena SWAN application, and discuss it with our EDI Team.

The Faculty is submitting its first application for a faculty-wide Silver Athena SWAN Award, and we want to hear what our staff and students think about it.

Athena SWAN is a national scheme that accredits Universities for their commitment and work towards achieving gender equality. Silver Awards are given to institutions, faculties and departments that can demonstrate that they have tackled relevant issues, and provide evidence of progress.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that addressing gender equality is just ‘all about women’, because it’s not. The application also considers gender equality issues from a male perspective, and explores how race can affect the career progression of both male and female staff. The application includes all our students (UG, PGT and PGR) and staff (academic and professional), including those at NU Med. So, whoever you are, you are part of our application, and our future action plan is about where you work or study.

We will be holding a series of four Athena SWAN Roadshows across FMS, and are inviting all our staff or students to come along and find out more about our work around gender equality, and what we have already achieved. We will have hard copies of the different sections of the application from to look at, and members of the EDI Team will be on hand to discuss any questions or ideas you might have. There’ll also be coffee and biscuits, so what would stop you? Come and join the conversation, and book your place now:

We look forward to seeing you there!


TeamTalk: Let’s blog again like we did last summer…

A New Year and a new start to our FMS EDI blog! Having launched it last year, we became consumed by preparing our first Faculty Athena SWAN application, due for submission in April 2018 (more about that in another post). But now we have analysed most of our data, have sections in draft form, and are starting to have conversations about the colour schemes of the graphs, we can return to some of our other projects.

One of our aims for this year is to increase communications around our work in equality, diversity and inclusion, and we think that the blog is a great way to get the word out, and allow more staff and students to see how to get involved. Over the coming months, we want to tell you more about we’re up to and what we’re working on, and what it is we’re trying to change about our working practices and cultures across the Faculty to become more inclusive. We will also be sharing our experiences and perspectives on issues that affect us and drive our work. We want to tell you more about why our EDI work is important for the Faculty, and how it benefits all of us. If you keep an eye on our blog this year, you’ll find out why we do what we do, and why it matters to our staff and students.

We also want to use the blog to highlight and support our own staff and students. This might be through increasing the visibility of role models, celebrating successes around equality and diversity issues, or it might be highlighting schemes, activities or networks that you might want to be involved with. We want to use it to review our events – maybe if you missed out, you’d like to come along next time!

Finally, we want to use the blog as a way of starting conversations, both within the Faculty, and beyond. We need conversations with our staff and students to learn about what we are doing well, and where we can work to improve things. We also need conversations with other EDI teams across the University, to help us see where we can link up and work together, and what good practices we can readily share. We also want to talk with other EDI teams across the sector – we want to tell you about what works for us, but also what we struggle with – it would be great if you could help! And we hope to reach beyond the sector – there is so much to learn from the private sector about equality and inclusion in the workplace, and we hope that our blog can help us link up.

We will be tweeting about our blogs @FMSDiversityNCL so why not follow us and keep in touch? And if you have an idea for a post, contact us:

“What’s in a blog?”


Welcome to the new Equality & Diversity blog! Over the coming year, this will be where we highlight and showcase our E&D programme, invite guest bloggers, discuss E&D issues and provide an interactive forum for the issues that matter to you.

Our vision is in creating an environment across FMS where everyone feels included in the E&D strategy. We really believe it’s something that affects everyone. We want to use this blog to outline and share the salient and topical challenges and successes-To provide a virtual medium that runs in parallel with our interactive events programme.

We hope you will enjoy reading and would like to share or even contribute to our pages. More information can be found on the ‘What we’re about’ page.