Gender equality activities were scattered across the institution and usually took place as isolated activities led by individuals often uninformed by academic research and evidence-based approaches. Gender equality structures need to be developed to coordinate and oversee activities, to ensure better awareness and embeddedness across the university and to facilitate sharing of best practice.
Creation of institutional gender equality structures: a Gender Task Force
To lead, coordinate and embed gender equality and diversity actions at university level based on an evidence based, academic research-led approach. To facilitate sharing of best practice across the institution. To ensure financial and human resources are provided to ensure an expert focal point and an advisory source to Departments is available.
After initial discussions (see below) it was decided that the institution needed both an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team as part of HR or central university services and a TaskForce, supported by the HR team, involving academic and professional staff to address this issue.
In addition the following were needed:
- Gender experts to guide the initial meetings to provide relevant up to date knowledge of research on gender equality issues
- Discipline experts who understand the different academic environments and are committed to taking action
- Members of the Taskforce recognised for their participation (allocated time in the workload)
- Convenient space for meetings
- Senior leadership
- Administrative support
- Representative membership – departments, career grades, academic and professional staff
Creation of the Gender Taskforce. The Taskforce is comprised of individuals at different academic and administrative grades across different departments at the University. The taskforce meets twice every term (6 times per year), it has administrative support (minutes), and is led by senior academic staff member. The HR administrative team provide continuity and support to the academic community between meetings.
The governance bodies, key actors and decision-makers
Type of action
Creation of structures
University of Warwick
Higher education institution
Action level of implementation
Departments, staff, students
The Gender Taskforce at Warwick was established following 2 workshops on ‘Women in academia’ which was initiated by the Pro-Vice Chancellor and Provost which produced a Gender Statement of Intent. The PLOTINA project and the consequent availability of a relevant expert has been key in its establishment. Its membership was based on an open call for staff members to express interest in taking an active role. Each applicant had to submit an application as to why they should be selected as members of the Taskforce.
The Gender Taskforce aims to develop a strategy with a five-year plan, building on the Gender Statement of Intent and to take a multi-faceted approach to implementation, being mindful of existing initiatives in the University, including Athena SWAN activity. Any actions are developed in consultation with other members of the University and following scrutiny of data on gender in the academy to ensure.
The Gender Taskforce was established in October 2017 and meets twice termly, with its members acting as a communication channel with the wider Warwick community.
Terms of Reference and membership
Membership of the Gender Taskforce consists of 15 core members, and includes various levels of seniority of both academic and professional/support staff. The Taskforce is led by an Associate Professor in the department of Engineering.
The Taskforce is responsible for the following: Developing a gender strategy and taking a multi-faceted approach to implementation, being mindful of existing initiatives in the University, including the PLOTINA GEP and Athena SWAN. In particular it:
➢ Monitors and reviews gender data to identify areas of concern where action may be required to enhance gender equality in the working environment;
➢ Considers issues of strategic relevance;
➢ Plans how best to address issues of concern and how best to optimise and disseminate current good practice, including, but not limited to, drawing on the existing research being undertaken at Warwick;
➢ Supports the achievement of the University’s equality objectives, by raising awareness of gender equality and acting as a body of expertise on gender issues;
➢ Produces regular reports to the Equality and Diversity Committee, the Senior Executive Committee, and other strategic University Committees on the work of the Gender Taskforce.
The PLOTINA team has been working very closely with the taskforce on the following actions: how different data systems at the university can ‘talk to each other’ more efficiently so that data on gender and intersectionality can be extracted more easily; a dual career couple project; and a project on reviewing promotions.
The members of the Taskforce come from different disciplinary backgrounds and despite initial efforts there is still different understandings about gender and gender equality. In addition, quite a number of issues have been identified as important and there is confusion as to what should be prioritised.
In order to address the above-mentioned challenges, there were a few meetings where issues were discussed, and the responsibilities and activities of the Taskforce clarified. The PLOTINA project team has been instrumental in raising and addressing some of these issues and identifying synergies between the teams. We have managed to connect PLOTINA goals with the Taskforce mission, informing other actions being implemented by the PLOTINA team and contributing to the Taskforce activities. This is a good model for ensuring complementarity of effort rather than competition or repetition.
Tips/strategies – Lessons learnt
- Be clear about the aims of the committee, who it reports to, and what its responsibilities are.
- Due to diverse membership, allocate time in initial meetings to agree definitions and what is meant when we talk about gender, sex, gender equality and state of art research
More detailed Outcomes/Impact
In its first year of operation, work by the Gender Taskforce included input to the gender pay gap reporting process (March 2018), and detailed recommendations to support revision of the academic promotions process (to be implemented in 2018/19).
In February 2019, the Gender Taskforce team published a Statement with regards to an incident that took place in Warwick University, which included sexist comments.
Reflection/what we would do differently
Be even clearer about how to manage the different levels of knowledge, understanding and experience about gender equality issues within a team. Emphasise the roles of gender experts (e.g. ensuring data and research driven actions) and concerned discipline experts (e.g. understanding the cultures and issues of different disciplines) to ensure actions are implemented.
A very positive unintended consequence is that Taskforce’s work has already being embedded in university activities for example, the annual gender pay gap report is sent every year to the Taskforce in advance for feedback/consultation.
The Gender Taskforce was seen by senior management as good practice and subsequently other Taskforces have been developed to cover other protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, such as: LGBTUA+, Race, Disability and Chaplaincy Reference Group.
‘Introduction of ‘Springboard’, the female personal and professional development programme for PSS staff at grades 3-5’.