Equality, diversity and inclusion projects win funding support

Two new University of Glasgow projects aimed at improving equality, diversity and inclusion within engineering and the physical sciences have received funding support from by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

One project, led by the University, will work to redress disadvantages faced by women as they progress from early-career researchers to lecturers. The second project, led by Queen’s University Belfast and supported by the Universities of Glasgow and Warwick, will aim to change attitudes to gender equality initiatives.

The projects are among a total of 11 to share in 5.5 million from EPSRC via the Inclusion Matters call, the first initiative of its kind which has been launched as part of the collective approach by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

The University of Glasgow-led project, which received 395,000 in funding support, is named ‘VisNET: Virtual in situ networking to reinvent the rules of international collaborations and reduce gender differences in academic careers’.

The project unites Glasgow academics with academics from the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde, and industry partners from NXP Semiconductors Ltd, Nokia UK Ltd, CGI IT UK Ltd, Atkins Ltd, Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering and Thales UK Ltd.

Co-Programme Directors Dr Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay and Dr Helen Mulvana, both lecturers in the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, said: “VisNET aims to understand and fundamentally transform the mechanisms of networking and collaboration in academia. Focusing on the dominant leak in the academic pipeline, the post-doctoral researcher-to-lecturer transition, we seek to remove the disadvantage women experience in building their international reputation, an important measure of academic esteem. Ultimately, our outcomes will help to redress the under-representation of women in STEM academia by establishing equality of opportunity when competing for research funding and academic promotion.

“Barriers for women to participate equally in the international scientific conversation are multi-fold. Among these, gender bias means that women are less likely to be invited to speak at conferences or take part in opinion panels - both critical networking opportunities. They are also more likely to have primary caring responsibilities, restricting their freedom to travel.

“The growth in technologies enabling remote working offers us an exciting opportunity to redefine networking practices by making them less reliant on frequent travel. Working closely with our partners, we will develop, integrate and advocate for new strategies that remove gender bias and allow women to influence the new rules, thus challenging the persistence of male networks.”

The second project, led by Queen’s University Belfast with support from the University of Glasgow, is named ‘Inclusion Really Does Matter: Improving Reactions to Gender Equality Initiatives Amongst Academics in Engineering and Physical Sciences’. The project will aim to understand academics’ potentially negative or indifferent attitudes towards gender equality initiatives and build training tools aimed at improving their reception.

Dr Alison Wall, EPSRC’s Associate Director, Building Leadership, said: “The Inclusion Matters call projects display ambition, creativity and a commitment to addressing the pressing equality and diversity issues facing engineering and the physical sciences.

“Through new research, innovative approaches and a broadening of activities, they will inform and shape significant cultural change across institutions and share their learning with the whole sector. By furthering equality, diversity and inclusion we want to ensure that researchers from all groups are able to fulfil their talent and ambitions.”