slow research in the fast lane

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I’ve been posting less regularly recently, the result of a busy gword tour schedule coinciding with fevered preparations for the month-long xCHANGE festival marking International Women’s Day 2019 at Birmingham City University (of which more in my next post).

So far this month, I’ve performed the research poetry sequence Glass, in front of – or rather, amidst, 90 students at the BCU School of Jewellery and 20 staff members at the University of Birmingham.  I’ve discussed my research paper The Workplace Glassed and Gendered with 12 female staff on the Catalyst Development Programme at the Diamond Light Source research institute.  I’ve delivered the Mapping Career Workshop to 15 staff at the University of Westminster and another 12 at the University of East London – generating tantalising new ways of describing the lived experience of ‘career’. 

Each time I present and re-present my research in these different formats, I have the opportunity to revisit, to reconsider, to move beyond my initial analyses.  This is a privilege; an unexpected opportunity, to see the data through other eyes, to ask different questions of it.  Academics on the REF-treadmill are generally encouraged to capture their ‘findings’, present them and defend them,  then move on.  But through the tour (November 2018 – June 2019) I’m not only disseminating my research widely (22 stops in total), I’m also engaging in a slower, less linear, more cyclical version of research. It’s an opportunity, as proposed by MacLure to ‘risk working with the lively disappointments of wonder, and for a while at least, play with the cabinet of curiosities as a figure for analysis and representation’ (MacLure, 2006: 737).


MacLure, M. (2006b). The bone in the throat: Some uncertain thoughts on baroque method. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19(6), 729-745.

countdown

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Preparations are in full swing for the start of the g word tour – gender and graphics visiting at least 15 different sites in the UK over the next 6 months.  I’ll be delivering presentations, workshops, performances and exhibitions focused on the findings of my research project ‘Gender(s) At Work’ (Birmingham City University 2016-18) .  Universities and research institutes have been interested, not only the conventional presentation of research findings but also in  engaging with creative and participative methods to further explore the findings and the issues these raise for their own staff and gender equality agendas.

My first stop will be the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine  who are gratifyingly hosting the full Gender(s) At Work programme, including a research presentation, a participative Mapping Career Workshop and concluding with a performance of the poetry sequence ‘Glass’.  While I’ve delivered each element separately before, I’ve not delivered them consecutively and I’m fascinated to know how this will impact my own relationship with the material as well as the responses of those who attend.

I’m going to be blogging throughout the tour so keep watching this space.  Readers can also keep up with my travels and work in progress via Twitter #gendersatwork #gettinggraphic #thegwordtour.

Gender(s) At Work – on tour!

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I’m delighted to announce that I’m going to be taking the fruits of my research into gender, career and HE on tour in the form of a series of presentations and workshops suitable for a range of HE audiences:

Gender(s) At Work:
Innovative approaches to communicating research findings in gender, HE and career.  Suitable for academics in all disciplines, management teams, HR, EDI and Athena SWAN teams.

Getting Graphic:
Opportunities to explore the use of simple graphic and visual methods and techniques to work with research process, data and theory.  Suitable for academics, staff and student researchers in any discipline; research development teams.

These presentations and workshops can be delivered as standalone events, in combination and/or as part of wider equality and research events.  There is no charge for delivery of these events although a contribution to travel would be appreciated if budgets allow.

Click on the links above for more details of the programmes.

Contact me at kate.thomas@bcu.ac.uk

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g is for gender – a whistle stop tour!

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I  started this blog in March 2017 to reflect on gender from professional and personal perspectives.  The blog is a companion to my academic work in the field of gender, my work with the Athena SWAN (gender equality) charter and my own daily gendered experiences, hilarious, horrendous, hopeful… a way of recording and reflecting on my experiences as a female academic and Athena SWAN project manager in a large UK post-1992 university.  Increasingly, the blog will be reflecting on emerging findings of my current research project: Gender(s) At Work.

I meant to post weekly but in practice, posting became something I only managed to do whenever inspiration, dedication and free time coincided beyond the boundaries of my full time life!  So six months on and at the start of a new academic year, here’s a whistle stop tour of what you may have missed – and a preview of some of the topics and debates I’ll be featuring in 2017-18.

why ‘the g word’?
May 2017
I clearly remember starting in this role and encountering some colleagues’ genuine surprise that gender equality was still an issue – in the university, in the sector, in society in general. ‘Hasn’t all that been dealt with by legislation?’ they asked. …Other colleagues squirmed a bit at the mention of the ‘g’ word or rolled their eyes or even felt the need to tell a dodgy joke. see more

COMING UP:  Gender and TEF! Gender and REF!

Athena SWAN
March 2017
Time is ticking slowly away as we wait for the outcome of the university’s application for an Athena SWAN award. Since November 2016 I’ve progressed … through five post-application stages: Stage One: Utter Relief; Stage Two: Total Nonchalance; Stage Three: Niggling Thoughts; Stage Four: Studied Indifference! Now I’ve reached Stage Five: Counting the Days….Stage Six: Email Hypervigilance awaits! see more

May 2017
Collecting all the data we needed (for Athena SWAN) was an arduous process. Discovering what data we don’t collect in the first place was revealing. Presenting data which inconvertibly demonstrates the outcomes of structural embedded, tacit, unconscious gender inequality throughout the organisation has proved shocking – and constructive. This too is our starting point. see more

COMING UP!  Does Athena SWAN rely on the goodwill and free labour of female staff?

Gender(s) at Work
June 2017
As my current research gender(s) at work is revealing, little has changed in the underlying structure of the work environment of higher education. Universities and the academy in general still reflect the deeply internalised dualisms of Western thought … of academic work predicated on the absence of responsibility for others and social roles constructed masculine and feminine. see more

the glassed and gendered workplace
July 2017
In an unexpected development I’ve begun using cartooning to explore the embodiment of those  familiar metaphors – glass ceiling, glass cliff, glass escalator and twitter hashtags #glassedandgendered and #painsofglass to engage in discussion with a wider audience  see more

COMING UP!  More on performative modes of reporting and presenting research data.

doing my duty?

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Last week I attended GEA2017 – the Gender & Education Association Conference 2017 at Middlesex University. Having previously loitered primarily in academic spaces of lifelong learning and widening participation, this was a first ‘gender’ conference for me and I  admit to feeling a little apprehensive prior to arrival.  Would I be feminist ‘enough’ for this crowd?!

I’m feminist enough for most, probably never will be feminist enough for others is my conclusion! And anyway, that particular concern proved irrelevant. It was a ‘good’ conference. Academic high points included the keynote from Professor Ann Phoenix (UCL). Anyone who can hold an audience enthralled in a final keynote at 3pm on a sunny Friday afternoon has to be congratulated. In this case, it was a rare occurrence of an academic whose writing I admire turning out to be even more impressive in person and performance. A bold and inspired choice by the GEA2017 Organising Committee. Other high points included sessions by Gail Crimmons on co-authorship, Heather Laube on feminist outsider/insiders anda workshop on feminist citational practices introducing Cite Club  (the only rule of Cite Club is to talk about Cite Club!). I didn’t buy the T-shirt but now I wish I had!

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Mindy Blaise(L) and Emily Gray (R) wearing THE T shirt.

I guess I shouldn’t leave out my own paper and workshop sessions on my current research Gender(s) At Work – I’m particularly grateful to enthusiastic workshop participants who turned up to the early morning session post the conference BBQ!

Not academic – but equally crucial – high points included the food and drink – fantastic food from Steve the Chef, honestly best ever – all conferences can learn from him, and super generous supplies of prosecco plus from Taylor & Francis and University of Middlesex. The conference networking/eating/chilling space was the lovely Quad at Middlesex’s Hendon campus which protected us from last week’s 30+ degree heat and allowed plenty of space for conversation and private reflection. I liked the fact that conference delegates co-existed with university staff and students in that space – the life of the university was going on around us.

Conferences provide crucial opportunities to reconnect with colleagues and friends and this one was no different for me, despite my newbie status. Jennifer Fraser (Westminster) and I renewed our conference buddy relationship and it was good to connect again with Carol Taylor from my home city of Sheffield.

Of course I found some things problematic – repeated references to ‘favoured’ theorists, ideas – without ensuring that the audience are familiar with them; conference cliques (but then there are always conference cliques) – and the idea of ‘feminist duty’ which emerged in a workshop discussion – a phrase that leaves me cold … !!

GEA2017 also provided material for my forthcoming cartoon collection which will be featured here on the g word. Aimed at conference novices and old hands alike, this series will feature essential topics such as how to accessorise, the conference ‘sleb and the art of notworking … watch this space!  Hmmm … perhaps this is how I’m fulfilling my feminist duty – handing down the art of Conferencing With Confidence!

a world WITH women

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I’ve been re-reading Doreen Massey‘s work on Cambridge high-tech science parks (1998), ‘the workplace constructed as a highly specialised envelope of space-time’, reflecting deep rooted dualisms of gender and science.  Massey argues that these overwhelmingly male-dominated spaces reflect and provide a material basis for a particular form of masculinity; for the production of knowledge abstracted from the real world.  These spaces are part of a long lineage of what Noble calls ‘a world without women’ (1992); enclosed masculine societies such as ancient monasteries and early universities, engaged in ‘capturing … the kind of knowledge production which was to receive the highest social valuation’ (Massey 1998).

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Our contemporary academy shares this lineage and despite two decades of rapid change, continues to reflect key characteristics of the late 20th century Cambridge science park.  Like high-tech industry, academia is a highly competitive knowledge-based market in which employees must ‘continue to reproduce and enhance the value of their own labour power by keeping up with the literature, going to conferences, maintaining the performance of networking’ (ibid).  Marketisation, communications technology and the REF have only intensified such pressures on individual academics in the last two decades.  A long hours culture is the norm, sustained in part of course, by academics’ intrinsic interest in and commitment to their subject.

The most significant difference between the contemporary academy and its forebears is that today’s universities most definitely constitute a world with women, albeit under-represented in particular disciplinary spaces and in the higher echelons of management. However, as my current research Gender(s) At Work is revealing, little has changed in the underlying structure of the work environment. Universities and the academy in general still reflect the deeply internalised dualisms of Western thought, of reason and science as abstracted from daily life; of academic work predicated on the absence of responsibility for others and of social roles constructed masculine and feminine.

In the daily experience of working in the academy this plays out on the hostile border between work and home.  Massey’s (male) research participants rely on (female) partners to maintain the domestic sphere; some attempt to protect their home life by not taking work home or insisting on regular start and finish times each day.  For the majority of women in this world, it is a matter of negotiating the work/home boundary from a different position.  Academic women frequently combine their paid workload with overall responsibility for domestic management and care and do so in the context of instant and continuous electronic communications.  My research is revealing multiple ways which individuals occupy this highly complex territory.

My re-reading of Massey coincided with an article in THE by Joanna Read on the art of hiring female leaders.  Moving from the arts sector to the academy, Read has been shocked by the lack of progress in promoting women to senior management roles and in the lack of opportunities to perform senior management roles on a job-share and part-time basis. She identifies a need for culture change from University Board level in order to encourage greater diversity in decision-making bodies.  Throughout the organisation she argues, women should be actively encouraged to go for promotion and to take up leadership roles, not least those who may feel constrained by the ‘glass ceiling’  and those returning from maternity leave.

It’s fascinating to consider Read’s article through Massey’s ‘scipark’ lens.  Is her pragmatic solution a sign of shifting boundaries between the spheres of work and home, of recognising the incompatibility of the traditional academic identity with the reality of gendered social relations?  Or does part-time and job share leadership simply reinforce the dualism of work and home without essentially disrupting the polarised structures of those spaces themselves?

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Massey, D. (1998) ‘Blurring the binaries? High tech in Cambridge’ in R. Ainley (ed) New Frontiers of Space, Bodies and Gender, London: Routledge.
Noble, D. (1992) A World without Women: The Christian Clerical Culture of Western Science, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

glassed and gendered

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Setting the scene for a new, interactive cartoon series: the glassed and gendered (HE) workplace…

The view from my post-1992 desk has changed utterly in 18 months, the sky now confined to a small corner, elbowed out by multi-story contemporary student learning and living spaces.  ‘Universities, ever more on edge about their performance in the National Student Survey and league tables, have responded by investing heavily in “student friendly” facilities (Scott 2015).  Glass features prominently.  Glass walls, windows and roofs, letting the light in, transparent, reflective …

Glass features too, if metaphorically, in the literature on gender and the workplace.  There’s the glass ceiling constraining women’s career progression (compounded by the sticky floor); the phenomenon of the glass cliff – describing the greater likelihood of women being put in leadership roles when the chance of failure is highest;  the glass escalator on which male staff ascend organisational hierarchies more speedily and smoothly than their female counterparts and the glass closet – in which John (Lord) Browne spent the majority of his otherwise successful corporate career.

So not just HE.  But the existence of this ‘hidden’ structural furniture contradicts those glass walled commons and spaces.  Starting this weekend, I’ll be introducing you to four inhabitants of our glassed and gendered HE workplaces – and asking you to send me your experiences to inform a new series of cartoons.

 

 

 

and the winner is … ?

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The news is in and the news is good! The Equality Challenge Unit has awarded Birmingham City University an Athena SWAN* institutional Bronze Award, signifying the university’s commitment to the advancement of gender equality and an inclusive workplace culture. Success at our first application and under Athena SWAN’s expanded gender equality framework is no mean feat. As the University’s Athena SWAN Project Manager, I am delighted for the university, its staff and for all those who have worked hard towards this outcome, in whatever capacity.

Any institution that has been through the Athena SWAN process knows how much work and how many individuals are involved. In preparing the application I’ve worked with staff across the university: the Vice-Chancellor, senior management, academics, professional services, support staff, HR partners, data analysts, outreach, media relations, the unions … and more. The phrase ‘gender equality is everyone’s business’ is a cliché but happens to be true – theoretically and practically.

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Prof Maxine Lintern (l) and Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas (r) Athena SWAN Chair and Project Manager respectively.

I’ve had this day in my sights since taking up the post in July 2015 and I’ll admit, it feels strange to finally reach this point. A Bronze Award is actually a beginning – of the doing rather than the saying, putting all the analysis and planning into action. But I’m taking a moment here not only to enjoy our achievement, but to reflect on why it matters.

 

Throughout the process, a number of individuals around the University voiced concerns that the Athena SWAN awards are simply a tick box exercise to make senior management look good; a version of what Sarah Ahmed calls institutional speech acts … which do not go beyond pluralist understandings of diversity and are non-performative in the sense that they fail to deliver what they have promised.** As a fellow sceptic, I understand colleagues’ caution, but I beg to differ. Others have labelled my work ‘politically correct’, ‘pointless’ or even ‘petty’. I beg to differ with them too!

I clearly remember starting in this role and encountering some colleagues’ genuine surprise that gender equality was still an issue – in the university, in the sector, in society in general. ‘Hasn’t that all been dealt with by legislation?’ they asked. ‘There are female VCs aren’t there?’ As ECU 2016 statistics show, progress has been glacially slow. Other colleagues squirmed a bit at the mention of ‘the g word’, or rolled their eyes, or even felt the need to tell a dodgy joke! Gender – it quickly became apparent – is something many simply don’t ‘see’; or only associate with female disadvantage (rather than male privilege) or think is something to do with maternity leave… Still others, far too many others, told me of daily, difficult, sometimes distressing experiences of sexism and discrimination in the workplace. I did a lot of listening in those first months.

In any Athena SWAN application, the data’s the thing! Not in its raw state, but analysed, reflected upon, selectively presented (NOT in pink and blue!). In working towards a Bronze Award, the quantitative data has become my friend (and I say this as a fully-paid up qualitative researcher!). Collecting all the data we needed was an arduous process. Discovering what data we don’t collect in the first place was revealing. Presenting data which incontrovertibly demonstrates the outcomes of structural, embedded, tacit, unconscious gender inequality throughout the organisation has proved shocking – and constructive. This too, is our starting point.

However, Athena SWAN is about more than data – and certainly much more than maternity leave! In requiring institutions to pay attention to their organisational culture, to intersectionality, to the gender profiles of, for example, REF submission and senior decision-making committees, Athena SWAN tackles gender and gender equality in a holistic way, acknowledging its complexity. Alongside my Athena SWAN work, I have begun a qualitative institutional research project Gender(s) at Work aimed at capturing this complexity in terms of experiences at work and career trajectories in HE for women, men and for those identifying as gender non-binary.

It’s fantastic to get a Bronze Award! Colleagues are already talking about Silver but at this moment I’m more interested in doing Bronze well. The proof of the University’s commitment to the advancement of gender equality and an inclusive workplace culture will be in our performance from this point on. I’m confident that this University has the people and the desire to make this happen.

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*Athena SWAN is the national gender equality charter mark for higher education in the UK and Ireland.
**Ahmed, S., 2006. The nonperformativity of antiracism. Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, 7 (1), 104-126.

the real me

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I’m not a big fan of Radio 4’s @BBCWomansHour.  I’m definitely not a fan of Jenni Murray’s often condescending and sometimes hectoring tone and I’ll admit I was ready to completely disagree with her Sunday Times article on trans women, published to mild outrage a couple of weeks ago.  In fact, I think it’s a thoughtful piece, well argued in places.  I even agree with some of it!

What I absolutely disagree with is Murray’s use of the phrase ‘real woman’.  For Murray a ‘real’ woman is an individual born with female sex characteristics who grows to be a woman and experiences a lifetime of pressure to become the socially constructed idea of what a woman should be.  So what’s not to like?  I fall into Murray’s ‘real’ category – but also into (self-defined) categories of Tomboy 50+, Dress Free, Make-up Free, Childfree … the list goes on.  Am I still real Jenni?

Sometimes I doubt it when I get shocked expressions from other women when I walk into the Ladies (roll on gender neutral toilets!).  Once a woman actually screamed!  Another time I had to get my breasts out to convince a woman in Bath that I was entitled to be there. I may be a real woman but TERFs please note, not all women-only spaces feel safe to all women ‘real’ or otherwise.

The thing is Jenni, we’re all real and we are all, depending on context, other.  It’s too easy to resort to media shorthand and throw contested terms like ‘real’ around, just like those  throwaway Women’s Hour lines such as ‘We all love a new lipstick don’t we!’. (No).  The the fierce defence of territory, of building walls (!) around identity rather than facing up to its fluid realities, is one reason prejudice and inequalities remain so intractable.

Seeing Through The Glass Cliff

Its week 3 of the xChange Festival, and it has bought another amazing seminar with Professor Michelle Ryan who came and spoke about The Glass Cliff which is an addition to the Glass Ceiling. The Glass Cliff is what happens once women have broken through The Glass Ceiling.

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The Glass Cliff is a term coined by Professor Michelle Ryan and Professor Alexander Haslam, which is used to describe women in leadership roles who are appointed at times of crisis or at risky periods. This can span over corporates, justice system and politics where the risk of failure is higher.

“The Times looked at that data (from the Female FTSE index) and what they found was of the companies that were at the top, with the most women on their boards, six out of ten of those were underperforming, so their annual average share price was lower than to be expected” Professor Ryan speaking about an article in The Times, front page of the business section in the UK, November 2003. Starting their research.

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Professor Ryan went through their research into how they found this pattern using critical thinking and practical research. First, she showed some examples of The Glass Cliff taking place: Marissa Mayer who took on the ‘sinking ship’ Yahoo; Mary Barra who took over the company when a major recall had to be done; and Teresa May who has the huge task of Brexit.

“Correlation does not equal causation, so just because you have two things that are related to each other doesn’t mean that one necessarily causes the other, and we certainly don’t know what direction that happens,” Professor Ryan says about the statistics of women performing badly in board room positions.

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This can also apply to other industries, for example, Kathleen Kennedy who was appointed President of Lucasfilm by Disney. Following on from the failed Star Wars prequels, this was a risky position to take. She is often compared to Kevin Feige who has run a very successful franchise, Marvel. Surprisingly both owned by Disney, run by CEO Robert Iger.

This point, though, brings up the idea that Professor Ryan says is one of many possibilities as to why women are more likely to be appointed in these roles. It has been shown in practical research people from all ages, class, race, and gender tend to choose women to ‘clean up the mess’ due to stereotypes we have developed.

Another reason could be that women take any kind of promotion they can get, as well as not being told all the facts about the position, meaning men step back from going for that position.

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But of course it’s not only just women, but there is also research that shows the BAME and LGBTQ communities are in the same position. Using the film industry as an example, another struggling franchise is the DC cinematic universe which very recently appointed a new president, Walter Hamada. While being a male, Hamada is of Japanese descent. It is interesting seeing these patterns in all different areas of business.

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This, of course, doesn’t mean these women, BAME or LGBTQ appointed leaders fail, but it does affect the statistics that show how these communities perform within business when compared to a high percentage of men who are appointed when the company is doing well.

There is much more to this theory and research and can be found online through Google Scholar and other websites.

Diversity and Cultural Leadership in Creative Industries

The xChange festival continued on the 14th of March with ‘Gender and Ethnic Diversity in Creative and Cultural Industries.’ Bringing intelligent and successful women together to discuss the findings of research and their own experience.

 

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Hosted by Dr Annette Naudin and Dr Karen Patel, both in Media and Culture at Birmingham City University, they were joined by Indy Hunjan who founded KalaPhool and is the Cultural Programmes Consultant at the National Trust; and Dr Yemisi Akinbobola who is the course director of MA Global Media Management at Birmingham City University and founder of African Women in Media.

Prompted by the research of Dr Patel and Dr Naudin on diversity and cultural leadership in the West Midlands they came together to have a critical and open discussion about data collecting, use of specific words when discussing diversity in industries and how we can move forward. The full report can be found here: ‘Diversity and Cultural Leadership in the West Midlands‘ by Dr Karen Patel and Dr Annette Naudin.

The question was raised whether data collecting, quantitative or qualitative, is an authentic way of representing ethnic and cultural diversity in society differed among the room. Does it fully represent all people or is it generalising groups within society and ‘ticking boxes.’ “Data can be really useful, or lack of data can at least raise questions for us,” Dr Naudin said.

“The first thing that came to my head was, I’m not a part of this (data), I have a disconnect with the UK’s cultural industry. Whether I am included in this data… I don’t see how my activities gets captured in all this data collection,” Dr Akinbobola said about research in the UK.

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While the opinion differed from data not being authentic enough to create proper discussion to the importance of data to bring forward the holes of diversity in our society it prompted the idea of leadership, role models and mentors. The role of women and ethnic diversity in leadership and cultural roles, while using the right words was brought up in making sense of women and ethnic people’s role in society.

“Calling oneself a leader is very difficult, because I’ve had to carve my own path my way over the years and I’ve not gotten here without loads of help and loads of advocacy…the term leadership I find really challenging,” Indy Hanjan said about considering herself a leader.

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While women are slowly moving into more powerful and influential positions, the panel discussed how leadership roles that they look up to and people who inspire them are all male. Male dominated leadership roles are the only type women have to look up to in certain industries and while it isn’t intentional it shows the need for more women in leadership type positions and taking responsibility for themselves to lead the way.

“In that moment I realised I was the only non-white female lecturer on the stage and then looking at the audience and the diversity of the students… I felt that I was the representation, that responsibility to live up to that representation…to help someone else who sees themselves on stage then I’ve got that responsibility,” Dr Akinbobola said about being comfortable with being a leader and calling yourself a leader.

 

Woman think, feel and work differently, as do other ethnicities, so why not adjust the rules that have been set up and look at how we should do things that work to those strengths. Whether it is collecting data or personal interaction, the skills and strengths from more diversity and women in positions that have control of cultural status and education are important for our future.

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Strong Women Leading The Way for Equality and Diversity in Media.

While equality and diversity have come a long way there is still much to be done in our media industries.

The xChange festival brought us four very successful and diverse women to speak about their experiences working in what was “a man’s world” of radio, television and print journalism and what they hope to see change for the future. Each one had their own struggles whether it was for being a woman, being of colour or being homosexual. They each had to compromise themselves at one stage or another to adjust to sexist, racist and homophobic surroundings.

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Each panelist has a wide and varied career path. The host of the event Marverine Cole, who was born in Birmingham has worked in Television and Radio as a Journalist. She’s worked for BBC and ITV just to name a few and also lecturers up and coming journalists. Roz Laws was brought up in Rugby and is now a freelance journalist. Previously writing for the Birmingham Post and Mail she fell into writing entertainment articles.

Raj Ford originally hailing from Portsmouth is a senior broadcast journalist at the BBC Midlands Today. She also had a career in Coventry where she worked in radio. The final panelist was Sacha Brooks. Coming from a family of DJ’s in Nottingham, Sacha has had a long successful career in radio playing music in the top slots of the day. She also lived in Japan for three years as a DJ before coming home to Birmingham and rekindling her love for radio.

“I think I was in there to tick a few boxes, and I tick quite a few. Now, I’ve started my own academy and I’m choosing who I’m working with… I want to be able to focus on a handful of people and empower them. Always be accessible.” Sacha said.

Research done in December 2018 from Diamond Creative and Diversity Network (found here) shows there is still a long way to go before minorities are represented equally in the media. While Females are equally represented on and off-screen at around 54%, the BAME and LGBQ representation is much different. The BAME community is represented more on-screen at 23.2%, while off-screen they only represent 11.6%. For the LGBTQ population, it is the opposite with on-screen, 11.6% and off-screen at 13.3%. Not only just underrepresented in race or gender but age and sexuality.

“A lot of journalists who are women of colour tend to be on-air rather than off-air and I think the decision making and the managerial side of it need to be brought up so for me I didn’t really want to be in front of the camera.” Raj Ford said about her observations and choices.

While there still needs to be work done on creating more diversity in the media and journalism, there has been change and it will continue to do so with women like this in the industry and the future generations who take time to go to these panels and learn how to change things for the better.

“I think we are in the position as senior people (in the industry) and as educators to push the agenda and change things… And the next generation (of journalists) can also be the change.” Marverine said about being positive about the future of the industry.

The Big Read on the Big Day!

International Women’s Day was on the 8th of March and The Big Read returned for its second year for day five of the xChange festival.

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From 9:30 am to 5:00 pm participants read an excerpt from their favourite female authors. With a new person reading every 15 minutes throughout the day, each wearing the ‘Votes for Women’ sash.

With a total of 25 participating, they shared their most inspirational and diverse female authors. With each one bringing something new, there was a lot to take away with you.

The first to read was Rosemarie Short with a non-fiction novel called “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf. A compelling read for any woman and man to understand the potentially toxic nature of the pursuit of beauty in the lives of women.

Kathleen Maitland went on to read an excerpt from an autobiography about a man transitioning into a female and the rewarding but difficult journey. The novel, “Unashamedly Me” by Teraina E. Hird shows a different side to what International Women’s Day can represent.

Further into the readings, a different kind of novel again, with a book called “All City Queens” by Syrup. Being an insight into female Mexican graffiti artists, talking about their lives in a male-dominated industry. Emma Love who read the excerpt spoke of her love of the book.

“There are lots written by men, not women,” said Emma Love.

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A more recently published novel “The Five” by Hallie Rubenhold was read by Diane Kemp. This novel is about the five women killed by Jack the Ripper; their lives, stories, and struggles. Surprisingly, this novel is the first of its kind to speak of the women killed in a compassionate way.

“They were not just victims, it’s about how they lived and that they were not just five prostitutes,” Said Diane Kemp about the dismissal history put on these women.

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Roshni Paul brought poetry into the mix with three American female poets; “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver, “Travelling Onion” by Naomi Nye, and “Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon. Roshni spoke of the poems inspiring her with their subtlety and simplicity.

“None of us think of these little things, do we? We only blame it for causing tears, but it was worshipped,” Roshni said, talking about the poem “The Travelling Onion” and how onions originated in India and worshipped in Egypt.

A classic or two also made the list with Martin Drury reading from “Cat’s Eye” by Margeret Atwood and Gemma Jennison read from “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery.

While there was so many more read during the day, these were just a few to show the diversity of novels and poems that had enough impact of the participants that they wanted to share it with everyone. The Big Read is open to everyone to participate in the reading or just to listen and jot down the next book to buy.

Here is the list that was read for The Big Read 2019:

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

Unashamedly Me by Teraina E. Hird

All City Queens  by Syrup

By Candlelight by Sylvia Path

The White Album by Joan Didion

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
Travelling Onion by Naomi Nye
Otherwise by Jane Kenyon

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year by Sue Townsend

Let Them Drown by Naomi Klein

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Attwood

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Housework Issue (The Other One) by Cath Holland from Know Your Place

Términos Teroriás Y Transiciones En La Peosía Afrocolombiana by Patricia Rodríguez-Martínez-Jones

The Women’s Room by Marilyn French

The Emperor’s Babe by Bernardine Evaristo

Extracts from her own work Analysis – A One Woman Show.

Grey is the Colour of Hope by Irina Ratushinskaya

The Golden Notebook  by Doris Lessing

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki

The Power  by Naomi Alderman

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Hey Alexa, what is the Feminist Internet?

“To advance internet equalities for women and other marginalised groups through creative and critical practice,” The Feminist Internet’s mission statement.

 

The Feminist Internet says, “There is no feminism, only possible feminisms and there is no internet, only possible internets.” Their work focusses on changing the inequalities that the internet has developed socially and technologically.

Day two of the xChange Festival brings us the presentation of the Feminist Internet with guest speakers Georgina Capdevila, creator and producer and Conor Rigby, designer for the Feminist Internet. The room full of eager listeners watched as Georgina and Conor introduced us to why there needs to be a Feminist Internet.

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 “It’s better to be punchy and a bit more divisive than non-descriptive at all,” Georgina Capdevila speaking of their choice in naming it the ‘Feminist’ Internet.

 

The Feminist Internet was a project born out of the University of Arts London (UAL), a year and a half ago. Since the project begun the Feminist Internet team has produced a manifesto, series of workshops, a gallery exhibition, and currently working towards a podcast and producing a feminist Alexa.

“One of our main goals this year is to build a feminist chatbot,” Conor Rigby, speaking of just one of the future goals of the Feminist Internet.

 

The Feminist Alexa project was chosen by the UAL’s Creative Computing Institute fellowship to create workshops into the research of how to create a feminist Alexa.

“Imagining and trying to create what feminist Alexa would be like, what values would it have and what voice it should have… What purpose would they have,” Said Georgina Capdevila about the workshops to create the chatbot.

They put together two lots of workshops over six months, which were 3 days long. All together the workshops have 40 students from across all different skill types.

“We wanted the workshop to be accessible to as many of the students as possible whether they were or were not from a technologically based course,” Said Conor on making the workshop as open and available to everyone.

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The presentation overall brought a lot of questions about the use of the word feminism, how the media sensor female bodies and how women are portrayed in modern technology such as Alexa. While the name is Feminist Internet their motivations to change the internet are broad. Creating a safe internet for women and ethnic minorities, abolishing negative gender stereotypes and changing the algorithms that create the racial and gender biases that the internet currently use.

In the future they hope to continue to produce creative workshops which motivates these discussions, they hope to campaign more to change the practices and the future of the internet.

“Because we are a group of artist and designers, we think it makes it very special and unique from other kinds of feminist groups,” Georgina said about the Feminist Internet.

 

xChange Festival is Officially Open!

But don’t forget your passport.

The xChange festivals grand opening at the Birmingham City University’s Conservatoire welcomed the busy month ahead with 40 events over March. Dr. Kate Carruthers Thomas’s hard work has commenced with recognition from staff and students as Prof. Alison Honour cut the ribbon alongside the first event ‘Ain’t I a Women’ exhibition to kick start the festival.

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“There are no other UK university that have really, I think, put something like this on the map,” Prof. Alison Honour.

 

The xChange festival is in celebration of International Women’s day which is on the 8th of March this year. With the xChange Passport designed by Birmingham City University Visual Communication students, you can keep track of every event.

The events include panels like “Gender Equality and Ethnic Diversity in Media” with Marverine Duffy, Raj Ford, Sacha Brooks, and Roz Laws; and “Gender and Ethnic Diversity in the Creative Industries” with Karen Patel. And what will be an amazing talk by Helen Pankhurst, a descendant of the powerful leaders of the British Suffragette movement, just to name a few.

“(I am) really grateful people are passionate enough and committed enough to do stuff like panels and presentations and seminars and exhibitions and performances,” Dr. Caruthers Thomas said about the staff, students and participants in the xChange festival.

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Prof. Alison Honour wearing the ‘Votes for Women’ sash created by Sharlea Sykes, presented the opening of the festival speaking of her background and experience as a woman in the arts and education profession.

“I’m a qualified welder, I’m also a mum, I’ve got three children, I’m an academic, I’m a professor, I have done research… I love teaching and that’s always very much a part of what I’ve done.” Prof. Alison Honour said, but it wasn’t always easy and free of prejudice.

Prof. Alison Honour reflects on her experience as a sculpting student, when her male lecturer spoke about their work on female identities, “the only reason I think that women make work about themselves is because they haven’t got anything else worth saying”. Gasps were heard throughout the room.

“Thank goodness we’ve actually moved on. Now, the fact that I actually instigated a strike around the fact that we had no female lecturers had nothing to do with that, the following week.” Prof. Alison Honours jokingly said, but perfectly sums up the enthusiasm of the xChange festival.

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“We are celebrating women’s day because we already have the rights, but there are women who don’t have education,” Jade, an ‘Ain’t I a Women’ exhibitor.

 

The launch event, ‘Ain’t I a Women’ exhibition was a creation by Toni Mayner with the Jewellery & Objects students. The exhibition shows 12 out of 52 students work of what they thought of International Women’s Day and what it means to them. Through research, sketchbooks, processes and critical awareness the students created meaningful objects that are not only beautiful but motivate discussion.

“My conclusion was what makes a woman is limitless and endless and a woman is a woman because she feels like a woman. So my lenses are a comment of how we see the world through different lenses,” Said Hannah a Jewellery and Objects student, about her process creating one of the exhibited pieces called, Gendered Lenses.

The ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ exhibition will run right through till the 31st of March in the Birmingham City University’s Conservatoire.

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The xChange festival is only just beginning and with your passport, in hand, you can go to as many events as possible, and don’t forget to get your official xChange stamp to keep track of all the events you attend. This festival looks to enhance on International Women’s Day and promote discussion, broaden minds and celebrate women for longer than one day.

on tour … on film!

I’m grateful to the Wellcome Sanger Institute  and http://www.paulfennfilms.com/ for filming a great piece about the #gwordtour and #Glass on my recent visit to the Genome Campus. It gives a neat overview of my #research into #gender#career#HigherEducation and ways in which I’m disseminating my research through multiple methods including poetry and graphics. Click below.

Interview at Sanger Institute 21 January 2019