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Key committees to have 30% women members by 2020

Sir David Bell


Today, the University is announcing new targets to promote stronger gender and racial representation on all key decision-making committees.* 

Our annual Diversity & Inclusion Reports, in relation to our staff and students, show progress but significant, stubborn challenges remain and we fall short of being a fully inclusive institution. To become such a place is a professional and personal priority for me as it is, I am sure, for everyone who works and studies at the University of Reading.

I am clear we cannot be complacent nor find excuses about this being a sector-wide, rather than a Reading-only problem. I have also been honest that an all-male, all-white University Executive Board (UEB), along with the lack of gender and racial balance on other decision-making committees, sends out the wrong message about our values and ambition. Real culture change starts at the top.

The appointment of Professor Ellie Highwood and Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde to be Deans for Diversity and Inclusion in the autumn was a strong first step. I am very pleased to say they have brought energy and focus to our efforts, building upon the good work done by Professor Dianne Berry and the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group. Clearly, Ellie and Simon will help to drive the next phase of our work but, crucially, success depends on all of us playing a part.

On gender, our targets for 2020 are to:

  • have at least 30% of either gender in all key University committees and boards, including the University Executive Board (UEB);
  • maintain the current baseline of at least 45% of either gender in the overall University Leadership Group – including UEB, Deans, Assistant Deans, Heads of School and Heads of Function;
  • have a gender-balanced professoriate, with at least 40% of professors of either gender. Current baseline is 30%;
  • reduce the pay gap that exists at senior (professorial and Grade 9) levels. Current baseline is 11% (there is no significant pay gap at other levels currently); and
  • achieve University-wide Athena SWAN Gender Charter Mark Silver level recognition, with all STEM Schools holding awards and all other Schools working towards Gender Equality Charter Mark  recognition.

On race and ethnicity, our targets for 2020 are for:

  • all key university committees to match academic staff BAME representation by 2020;
  • Council and its sub-committees to set targets for BAME representation on their committees consistent with national census baseline for BAME;
  • a minimum of 15% in each of grades 1-5 non-academic staff and 12% in grades 6-9 non-academic staff to be BAME by 2020. Current baseline across all non-academic staff is 8% - levels set by local and national census data respectively;
  • a minimum of 14% of academic staff in grades 7 and above to be BAME by 2020. Current baseline is 11%; and
  • the University to attain Bronze Race Equality Charter Mark before 2018 and be working towards silver by 2021.

On sexual orientation, our targets are:

  • over 70% of UK-based staff to have declared their sexual orientation through employee self-service by 2018 and 95% by 2020. In 2013-14, the figure was 32%; and
  • to improve the position on the Stonewall Workplace Index, aspiring to be in top 50 by 2020. Current position is 204.

We want to be the place where an individual can fulfil their full potential, irrespective of who they are and where they come from. We want to be the place that attracts the best students and staff and then provides them with the right environment in which to flourish.

It makes good business sense too. Growing evidence from a range of leading universities points to the positive impact of supporting and promoting diversity and inclusion – including improved overall performance, teams that take balanced decisions and develop sound strategies, the ability to attract high-quality staff and students and improved widening participation outcomes.

Some colleagues may be uncomfortable with the use of targets at all in the area of diversity and inclusion. To be clear, the University does not believe mandatory quotas are the right approach. The most sustainable change, as we are all aware, involves putting in place a system that identifies, recruits and develops talented individuals and creates opportunities for them to achieve their potential. In that context, tough, transparent and achievable targets provide a helpful focus.

A lot of this is about making small changes that deliver a big impact. Changes to the way we identify and advertise vacancies. Changes to where we advertise our vacancies. Changes to how we shortlist and interview candidates. Changes to how we develop individuals and manage their pathways to career progression in the University. Changes to our ways of working so that we promote creativity, flexibility and innovation.

I would like to highlight two important commitments that we have already made. From 2016-17 session, all Schools will be reimbursed for the full cost of staff going on parental leave, with 25% of the funds being ring-fenced to aid the individual in returning to work. From 2017-2018, this will be extended to staff in the Functions. We are doing this because we recognise the impact that parental leave has on the career development of individuals, and on the teams around them. Secondly, we will be piloting anonymous applications for grades 1-5 with a view to extending this if it is successful in raising BAME representation at these grades. 

There is a huge amount of knowledge, experience and insight across the University. We need to draw upon it to identify changes that promote equality of opportunity and create an inclusive environment – not just at our campuses in the United Kingdom but in our campuses around the world. So please contribute your ideas and send your thoughts to Ellie and Simon. We also need to know more about our community in order to get the initiatives right. To help us do that, I would encourage you to complete or update your declaration data on the Employee Self-Service (ESS) system.

Ellie and Simon will be sharing their more detailed plans for achieving the Diversity and Inclusion targets over the next few weeks. Their immediate priority is the Athena SWAN University Level Bronze Award submission, which is due in April 2016.

Real change will not happen overnight. It requires cultural and operational change. Rest assured that my colleagues and I on the Executive Board are absolutely determined to lead by example. In the end though, it will take all of us working together to make Reading an exemplar university when it comes to diversity and inclusion. I look forward to working with you to achieve that end.




*Council, University Executive Board, Strategy and Finance Committee, Senate, University Board for Teaching and Learning, University Board for Research and Innovation, Global Engagement Committee, Staff Committee, Promotions and Rewarding Committees at all levels, Appointments Committees and Remuneration Committees of Council. Estates and Facilities Committee should also aspire to these targets.

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