Tag Archives: Staff Networks

The Disability Interest Group (DIG)

The Disability Interest Group (DIG) is for anyone who wants to help promote a positive, safe and respectful environment for disabled students, staff and visitors. It’s a joint network, open to all disabled and non-disabled staff and students at Newcastle University.

Today (22nd of November) marks the first day of UK Disability History Month, which focuses on the history of people with disability’s struggle for equality and human rights in the UK. This month includes International Day of People with Disabilities (3rd of December), which is the day that the DIG is hosting their celebratory event, to highlight and celebrate the successes of this year and to update people on what is coming up in 2019. The event will also include a talk by Liam Isaac, NUSU¹s Inclusive Sport Officer about his great work in improving access and inclusion in University sport. The event will run 12-2pm in the courtyard, and lunch will be provided. Please book here.

To find out more about the DIG and the work they’ve been doing, I spoke to Richard Boggie, Assistant Director for HR strategy and member of the DIG committee.

Why was the DIG formed?

The network was relaunched in October 2017, with Jackie Leach Scully as Chair. We were inspired by the success of other networks, such as NU Women, and by the increased interest across the board in staff networks and EDI in general. We wanted to ensure disability issues weren’t going to be forgotten or left behind in this shift, and so we relaunched the DIG. Importantly, as part of this relaunch, we redesigned the network to be not just for people with disabilities, but also for allies.

Why did you join the DIG?

I’ve always been involved with the DIG before it was relaunched. I wanted to use my background in HR to help affect change, and from a professional point of view, I wanted to know if things weren’t working for those with disabilities. But also, from the point of view of a disabled person, I wanted to feel as though the University is doing all it can to make the experience inclusive and accessible for everyone.

For me, the network is about having a safe space to discuss openly the issues affecting me, so that I can seek help, as well as helping others facing similar issues.

What do you feel the DIG is important?

Above all, we want the DIG to be a safe, supportive environment. For many of our members, they are the only disabled person working in a unit or in their peer group, which can be a lonely experience. The DIG helps these people to feel as though they are not alone, and to talk to others who’ve had similar experiences and have worked out how best to deal with them. For this reason, a large part of our network is based around signposting to access support and advice.

Although our membership represents a large range of disabilities, we often have similar experiences, so are able to have a joke as well as share what is troubling us, because it’s a safe environment. It is also good to bring together a range of different disabilities, to learn about them and highlight common issues.

Finally, we’re also a resource for others. If individuals or departments want help with disability issues, we have members that can advise them. We can also talk directly to University services to make changes. For example, if we’re informed something is going wrong in an area such as estates, we can go directly to them to talk about it.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the things the network has been doing this year?

The work we’re probably most proud of this year is the adjustments we’ve helped make to the recruitment and induction process for staff, as it will benefit so many staff members. We feel this was done in a really inclusive way, by holding workshops and focus groups with our members, in which we looked at their experiences and what they hoped the process would look like to develop actions to improve the experiences of staff joining the University in future.

We have also felt extremely supported by the University this year. We secured funding from the EDI Fund and from Student Wellbeing for a live captioning service for University events and talks, which is currently being trialled. One of our committee also bid for some money to create some more representative images of staff and student diversity at NU for use on University communications and the website. If you’d like to volunteer to participate in this photography, please contact Becca Wilson.

We’ve also been able to take forward issues raised by our members to the committees we sit on and make important changes, such as ensuring all accessible toilets have working emergency cords.

Where you might see the network going in the future?

This year, we’re hoping to build on the success of our first year by growing our membership and running more events for all members to attend. In particular, we’d like to focus on running more positive, celebratory events. So far, we’ve done a lot which looks at what we can improve and change within the University, so now we’d like to think about what has been successful and celebrate this. This is what we intend our event on the 3rd of December to be.

I also hope that DIG will be able to influence University policy properly, in particular on recruitment and induction, and on accessibility at events. We’re also looking to work with the student disability society (Disability and Neurodiversity Society) to influence student issues.

If you’re staff or student with a disability, or an ally, and you’re interested in getting involved with the DIG, visit our intranet page to find out more about them. You can also follow them on Twitter, or join their mailing list. Their celebratory event will be hosted on the 3rd of December, so sign up to come along! 

NU Women Professors’ Network

NU Women Professors’ Network (NUWPN) is open to all women professors who work at the university and was set up in 2015. The network operates as a mostly online forum where they circulate events of interest, discuss aspects of university life, and input into policy development through responses to consultations and organising meetings with key staff. NUWPN is part of the NU Women’s Network.

To find out more about NU Women Professors’ Network, we chatted to Professor Karen Ross from the School of Arts and Cultures, who Chairs NUWPN.

Why did you decide to get involved?

Since I entered higher education, I have always sought out women colleagues with whom I could share experiences and establish a support network: higher education is a brilliant but also quite challenging environment in which to work for everyone, but especially women and especially when you are climbing the career ladder. Amongst academic staff in UKHE, less than 25% professors are women although women and men enter the profession in similar numbers.

When I arrived in Newcastle in 2016, I immediately joined NU Women and NUWPN as both these networks provide opportunities to share ideas, meet together and learn from each other.  When Kathryn Hollingsworth took up the chair of NU Women in 2016/17, I became chair of NUWPN.

Why is NUWPN important to its members?

The Network provides a useful means by which senior women in the university can ‘talk’ to each other online but also meet up in real time, as well as circulate information of interest.

What plans do you have for 2018/19?

Last year we ran a ‘making professor’ workshop which was attended by a wide range of women at different stages of their career, from professional services colleagues to recently graduated postdocs, all of whom were keen to hear the experiences of women professors and understand the different strategies women employ to thrive (and not simply survive) in a university environment.  We will be running a similar event in the summer term 2019.

We also have occasional brown-bag lunches to touch base on initiatives underway in the university and will continue to organise such ad hoc meetings this year.

To read more about NU Women Professional Services Network, please see this page. They also keep joint social media channels with NU Women, so you can follow them on Twitter @NU_Women or visit their blog.

NU Women

NU Women is a network open to all women who work at the University. The network provides a forum for women to meet, share ideas, provide mutual support for their career development, and to feed into the University issues of concern and interest to women members of staff.

As the 27th of October is UK National Mentoring Day, we’re highlighting NU Women and their excellent Career Conversations Scheme. This scheme offers the opportunity for members to receive career mentoring from a more experienced colleague at the University. Through the online database, NU Women members can browse profiles of mentors from across the University who are happy to spend an hour over coffee discussing career challenges and options.​

To find out more about NU Women and the other events and activities they run, we chatted to Professor Kathryn Hollingsworth, a Professor at Newcastle Law School and the Chair of NU Women.

Can you tell us a bit about how NU Women began?

NU Women was originally established in 2008 by Professor Vicky Bruce, but it was re-launched in its current form in 2014, after Candy Rowe had attended a women in higher education conference (co-organised by Durham and Newcastle) where a session was given by Sheffield University on their women’s network.

Candy loved the idea, so held an event here to see if there was interest, had Sheffield speak, and gathered together a small group to form the committee. I went to that event and joined the committee then, and went on to help establish the Women Professor’s Network as part of NU women, and I chaired that sub-committee until I took over as Chair of NU Women in 2016.

How do you feel being a member of NU Women has helped you?

I joined because I think I am committed to gender equality and I think women’s networks can really help to support other women, provide space for skills development (including in our women-only writing clubs) and it is a good way to meet other women from across the institution, not only in one’s own school/unit.

It has provided me with a real network of colleagues and friends and huge amounts of professional and personal support. It has also helped me see that difficulties I face are shared by others and has given me support, advice and help in overcoming any work challenges.

What’s been your favourite NU Women event so far?

I love the weekly writing groups. It gives me dedicated space to write, but moreover it has provided me with friends and a close knit community. They are great!

All our events are fantastic though – the imposter syndrome workshops are really popular, and this year I particularly enjoyed the talk by Maria do mar Pereira on her work on the experiences of women academics and work, knowledge and workload. It was challenging and thought-provoking.

Finally, what can we expect from NU Women this year?

We’ve continued to grow and now have about 800 members and as well as the Women Professors subgroup, we have a subcommittee for PS staff. They are fantastic and organise loads of excellent events alongside the general NU Women talks and workshops.

Candy Rowe is leading on our development of a ‘network of networks’ with other women’s networks in other universities, and we will continue to respond to our members in terms of events and writing space etc. This year, we will also look at how we might work with our colleagues in the other employee networks to deliver joint events.

If you’d like to find out more about NU Women, or either of their subcommittees, please click here. You can also keep up to date with what they’re doing on their blog, or by following them on Twitter @NU_Women.

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.

NU Women Professional Services Network

The NU Women Professional Services Network (NUWPSN) is a subcommittee of NU Women. It’s a supportive community of and for women professional staff at Newcastle University. It was established in November 2016, due to demand from professional staff within NU Women for activity more targeted and tailored for them.

I spoke to Hilary Noone, a School Research Administrator at Newcastle University Business School and Chair of NUWPSN, to find out more about why you should become a member of NUWPSN.

Why did you decide to join NUWPSN?

I joined NU Women a number of years ago on the suggestion of my line manager at the time. I attended one of the career conversation events and found the honesty and insights brilliant. I was amongst a number of volunteers who to help set up NUWPSN, as I wanted to use my passion for gender equality to create opportunities for Professional Services (PS) women to connect and address issues in the productive way the NU Women group had for academic colleagues.

Since then, the network has helped me to meet lots of colleagues across the University and learn that we are all facing similar challenges, which without this knowledge and the community that’s out there, can feel like you’re the only one. Personally, it has given me a sense of belonging to a great community with great purpose where everyone is valued. It’s also given me insights and perspectives on challenges or opportunities I might never have otherwise come across. It’s exciting to be part of a community dedicated to women during such dynamic point in society; playing a small role in an important movement.

What has been your favourite NUWPSN event so far?

Personally, one of the most striking events has been the workshop developed by the NU Women PS committee, led by Nicola Dolman and the North Leadership Centre, on the ‘good manager’, which explored matters such as delegation and difficult conversations. We had heard this had become particularly hard for many female managers, due to increased pressure on PS resources and restructuring and tension between the two.

Afterwards, I bumped into a colleague coming back from one of the sessions, who they told me the workshops were so well timed. Before the session, they had felt like they were ready to give up their role, but the guidance and peer support had given them the motivation to carry on. It really hit home how important the support the network offers is and the positive impact it can have, most importantly to an individual, but also to their colleagues and the University.

What would you tell someone who was looking to get involved with the network?

The network is a community and so you can get involved in so many ways. Engage by sharing experience and insights, suggest topics for future events, raise issues which the committee can help address, volunteer on the steering committee to organises the events and activities, and champion each other in the workplace.

NUWPSN often ask for volunteers to help with events by sharing their experiences with others. This has been key in the success of their graded round table discussions, which allowed the opportunity to ask burning questions on how someone got to a particular grade, the work life balance, can it be done part time, and how they manage the day-to-day personal and professional responsibilities with career progression. This offers an informal opportunity to reality check aspects which may be important to career development decisions.

Where you might see the network going in the future?

I’m excited about the future for NU Women Professional. At the end of last academic year we replenished our steering committee with representation across all areas and grades and the perspectives and energy feels like this will really be a great year for the community. We’re especially looking forward to working closer with our EDI networks and groups to develop an even wider community.

Events planned for this year include a careers drop in for support with CV’s and applications, and a joint session with NU Women on the latest concepts which can support workplace wellbeing.​​

Plans are also underway for NU Women and NU Women Professional to become part of developing regional and national networks for women in Higher Education. The opportunities these will create for gender and community members are exciting.

To read more about NU Women Professional Services Network, please see this page. They also keep joint social media channels with NU Women, so you can follow them on Twitter @NU_Women or visit their blog.