Supergen COP26 Cross Hub Conference – EDI session

The equality diversity and inclusion session at the Supergen COP26 conference involved 7 high profile colleagues who are actively undertaking interventions to improve equality diversity and inclusion.

The first speaker, Dr Sara Walker from Newcastle University, spoke about a joint survey to Supergen members from across 7 Supergen investments. The survey investigated the impact of the COVID pandemic on the Supergen community. As a result of this work some key recommendations have been delivered to the Supergen hubs. For example, results indicated that increased child care during the pandemic was more significant for part time colleagues. This could disproportionately affect their career progression.

The second speaker was Dr Zaffie Cox from EPSRC. She spoke about engendering a positive equality diversity and inclusion culture through decisions on investments, on ways in which peer review is carried out, and in ensuring research addresses issues such as energy justice. Zaffie went on to talk about a call, which is active at present, for an EDI network plus.

Prof Rachel Oliver of Cambridge University presented work by the group The Inclusion Group for Equity in Research in STEMM (TIGERinSTEMM). Rachel talked about her campaign to highlight the need for data on research funding broken down by protected characteristics. This was supported by government prior to the most recent general election. Progress had been made, with some data released by EPSRC, and Rachel showed an example where awards of large grants were significantly higher for male principle investigators than female principal investigators. Rachel suggested the culture change needed across the funding landscape requires major intervention. She also suggested some personal actions that could be taken, for example asking about equality diversity and inclusion when agreeing to take on tasks such as speaking at events.

Dr Leda Blackwood of Bath University presented work on an Inclusion Matters (EPSRC funded) project ‘Reimagining Recruitment’. In depth surveys were undertaken to better understand experiences of early career researchers, to better understand what influences colleagues to stay in academia and in STEM subjects. Key factors related to being on an academic contract and being on an open contract. Opportunities were seen as very important but that these need to positively shape the view of the workplace and of the self. Procedural fairness was overwhelmingly seen as low across respondents. Questions about perceptions about the self identified that females felt less able to be authentic and this could lead to feelings of being less psychologically safe in the workplace. Leda also commented on deficit models which are used more often i.e. women need to be more positive or more confident, but this is not necessarily appropriate.

Prof Belinda Colston of the University of Lincoln talked about the Inclusion Matters (EPSRC funded) ‘ASPIRE’ project. This is a change model, with eight themes used to define the makeup of an inclusive research environment. For each of these eight themes, Belinda and the team are considering appropriate interventions and ways of measuring their success or impact. This project is at an early stage and not yet complete.

Prof Louise Mullany of Nottingham University talked about Inclusion Matters (EPSRC funded) ‘STEMM Change’ project. She focused on two pieces of work. One was around recruitment, and work done to analyse recruitment language. The project has identified 12 recommendations to improve recruitment language and to increase diversity in applicants as a result. The project team also undertook a survey of technicians with a focus on COVID-19 issues. Some of the issues identified were similar to that of the work of Dr Sara Walker and the Supergen hubs. Significantly, technicians considered themselves to be lacking visibility opportunities, since they were rarely named on proposals and on research outputs.

Emma Pinchbeck, CEO of EnergyUK, talked about the need to have diverse representation within organisations because this visually shows the organisation’s values. Diversity is not just about representation however, it’s about diversity of voices, diversity of views, which better enable organisations to reflect their customer base or reflect society in general. In building for net zero we need to think about how that approach will meet the needs of all. And to think about the impacts on minority communities. Therefore all sectors of society need representation and need a voice. Emma talked about some practical approaches which her company is taking. For example they have signed up to the 50:50 commitment initiated by the BBC, where at least 50% of speakers at events are women. Her organisation supports ‘Switch’ which is a list of diverse speakers for events in the energy sector. Emma mentioned the importance of networking and building safe spaces for discussion. She mentioned EWiRE, PowerfulWOMEN, and the EDI conference which EnergyUK has held. She talked about the need to have a mix of events, such as small events, hybrid events, and inviting speakers from sectors outside of energy to get diverse voices in the energy sector as well. And within organisations she talked about the need for safe spaces, for staff working groups to be informal and protected, confidential from senior management. Emma also spoke about practical things which individuals can take, such as requesting their employer allow individuals to have time to do EDI initiatives, or to enable a better home-work life balance.

The range of initiatives and the passion of the individuals were really motivating to me as the chair at this event and I look forward to putting into practise some of the suggestions made by colleagues at this event. By taking positive action, we as the Supergen Hubs can be allies to colleagues across our communities, across protected characteristic groups, across academia industry public sector and third sector. Together we can create opportunities for positive change across the energy space to ensure diversity is valued, opportunity is equal, and individuals feel included in our community.

Speaker bios: Cross Hub Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Session – Supergen Energy Networks Hub – Newcastle University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.