Category / Women’s Academic Network

Qualitative comments: How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 4)

Over the last two weeks we (Dr Luciana Esteves, Professor Ann Hemingway and I) have been giving the BU community a blog update of the findings from our opportunistic, cross-faculty survey focusing on the work-life balance of academics within and beyond BU. The previous blogs, Part 2 and Part 3 , have provided data detailing participant responses on the difficulties, or otherwise, of managing a work-life balance during the current pandemic lockdown.

Today’s update puts some additional qualitative flesh on the bones of statistical data. Thematic analysis of the qualitative comments provided some very important insights into the impact of lockdown restrictions; and here we found a broad consensus on certain issues, although these were strongly split between negative and positive viewpoints. It should be noted again that the gender balance of respondents was weighted heavily towards women academics over male respondents; and given these demographics a body of findings carried clear gendered overtones in the survey comments, in terms of the experienced ramifications of lockdown.

While some responses applied to both sexes any gender differences in survey responses appear to be strongly foregrounded by normative, but often overlooked, social constructions pertaining to gendered roles, which are being reinforced, or perhaps more likely, glaringly highlighted, by the material conditions under which lockdown is being enacted. The impact on the publication output of female academics during this period, compared to that of male colleagues, has already been highlighted in the Guardian newspaper, in addition to a recent article in the Times Higher Education regarding the marginalisation and muting of women STEM experts working on Covid-19, in comparison with a dominant male presence occupying the media stage, whether experts on the virus or otherwise.

Returning to the findings of the BU survey, in terms of positive aspects caused by lockdown academia, there were many responses referring to the benefits of working at home as a rule, rather than as a tolerated exception. One of the strongest points concerned the end of travel to the office. This was a significant plus for those commuting from some distance, while for others just the daily struggle of negotiating traffic, the ever-present anxiety of finding a vacant parking space (a particular concern on the Lansdowne campus), together with the exhausting morning rush of organising families prior to getting into work, was felt to be a real boon. Hours were magically freed up for many people and while the financial savings were appreciated, it was certainly not less than the warm feeling of being able to do something really positive in the fight against the climate crisis.

This new, novel freedom to work from home was managed in different ways and for several people could be fitted into a personally tailored and structured day; one with the added benefits of being not only better paced, but healthier as well in terms of improved nutrition, regular exercise, protection from Covid-19 exposure, reduced stress and physical wear-and-tear, as noted in these responses:

‘Freedom to engage with workload at times to suit me and my household. Online meetings were at first a positive as it highlighted to all that in future this could be a way forward instead of travelling up and down the M27 to attend meetings at our campus in xxx. Thus reducing our travelling costs, petrol consumption, stress free and reducing the carbon footprint on the environment.’

‘During lockdown I now do yoga and another form of exercise everyday- and my stress levels are reduced. I save money from the costs of the commute to work and exorbitant childcare costs.’

However, these positive accounts were balanced by those referring to high levels of stress and physical exhaustion, which for many, had been greatly exacerbated by lockdown. This was where gendered distinctions came strongly to the fore. Women academics were now suddenly out of the office outfit and back into the pinafore, overloaded by the typical gendered ‘double-shift’ of balancing waged work commitments and unpaid domestic labour and childcare – a clear case of ‘having none of it’ rather than the clichéd ‘having it all’, as this participant conveys:

‘Constantly feeling I am not doing enough work – knowing I just don’t have time to research. Feeling split between feeling I should be paying my young daughter attention but keep having to look at emails and sort admin etc. Dreading marking coming in as I will spend less time with my daughter while her dad works as a [key worker]. Feels like I am doing two jobs badly: bad mother, bad academic.’

In addition, the lockdown has brought considerable disruption to some professional programmes, where staff are working intensely long hours to mitigate the effects on students, with some struggling with inadequate home office equipment and incompatible or malfunctioning software.

‘Am working extremely long days (average of 12 to 16 hours) as both a mother and a worker. Support for student xxx [professional programme] and cover for colleagues while off sick has increased and requires a lot of personal emotional resources. Am having to deal with a lot of emotions masked as initial anger and frustration and to de-escalate this to support students. Little or no time for own research despite deadlines.’

Even in purely academic programmes the unprecedented strangeness of lockdown has greatly increased student anxiety, resulting in a flood of emails for advice and information, which needs continuous, laborious repetition and new channelling stratgies.

To sum up, this blog provides a limited snapshot of the richness of the qualitative data generated by the survey. While analysis and dissemination continues, a vital new question arises of what important lessons can be developed and applied arising from this very interesting data. While the general public are increasingly aware of the precarity that Covid-19 has unleashed globally, many would argue that these are merely an exacerbation of existing problems that have been around for a long time infecting societies and institutions therein, like academia. In some ways there has never been a better opportunity than now to address them comprehensively and courageously. The question now is how?

Please consider being a participant: the current survey is still open and we hope to gather more responses and which may reflect a greater gender balance from which to draw findings. If you are interested in participating please go to https://bournemouth.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/impact-of-lockdown-on-academics. We would be pleased if you would also share the survey with your wider networks as is open to all academics wherever there are. Please note, if you want us to be able to identify that you are BU staff, you will need to mention BU in one of the open questions.

How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 3)

In our previous blogs, we showed that work-life balance during lockdown got worse for 59% and improved for 37% of the 70 BU academics who responded to our survey (blog Part 1). We also showed how some aspects of life in lockdown have affected groups of people differently. For example, a considerably higher proportion of respondents under 40 years of age reported negative effect from switching to online teaching (75%), change in the number of emails (58%) and changes in the number of meetings (50%) in relation to other age groups (blog Part 2). This blog Part 3 focuses on how the main concerns of academics shifted through time and the support they have found most helpful.

If you have not yet contributed to this survey, you are kindly invited to do so here: https://bournemouth.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/impact-of-lockdown-on-academics, and please do share with your networks. If you want us to be able to identify that you are BU staff, you will need to provide this information in one of the open questions.

We asked respondents to identify the three main concerns they had at the start of the outbreak, at the start of the lockdown and at present from a list of 15 options. While respondents’ main concerns have changed through time, the health of a family member or close friend have always remained within the top three (Figure 1). Own health and coping with changes at work were within the top three main concerns at the start of both the outbreak and lockdown but subsided in priority afterwards. As lockdown progressed, main concerns shifted to broader issues such as the duration and/or gravity of the pandemic and longer-term impacts in the country or the world in general. It is important to note that, from the start of the outbreak to the time they responded to the survey (end of April/early May), work-life balance and the consequences to own work in the longer-term became a major concern to a considerably larger proportion of respondents.

Figure 1. Respondents’ main concerns at the start of the outbreak, at the start of the lockdown and at present.

In open comments, respondents identified other aspects that are of major concern, which can be grouped as worries about own or others health, managing circumstances at home or at work (Table 1).

Table 1. Other major concerns expressed by respondents

Figure 2 highlights the types of support that were considered to be helpful and the ones that need to be improved to help a larger number of staff (e.g. provision of IT equipment, which BU is currently addressing and support from line managers). Unsurprisingly, having good internet connection at home was considered very helpful by 65% of respondents and the support from family and colleagues was considered extremely valuable at these critical times .

Figure 2. Respondents indication of how helpful were these particular types of support available to them.

Responses to open questions provided insights on the relevance of support received and identified other means of support not listed in Figure 2. These other means of support are summarised in Table 2.

The support offered by learning technologists and other colleagues to enable the quick turnaround to online teaching was considered invaluable. In terms of support provided by the university, the extra days of leave were mentioned most often. Respondents indicate that they appreciate the ‘gesture of goodwill’ but are concerned that they might not be able to take these days in the near future due to work pressures. It was also mentioned that these extra days do not cover for the costs of working from home, e.g. internet charges.

Table 2. Examples of other types of support and coping strategies respondents found useful during lockdown.

Respondents identified four aspects in which support from the university could be more effective:

  • Availability of equipment and workspace adequate for job – this included computer/laptop, desk/chair, internet and quiet space at home.
  • Better communication and/or more timely guidance from the university to help staff dealing with student queries – issues of concern included the cascading of communication, with staff sometimes learning information from students and poor/insufficient information and support to staff, particularly affecting programme leaders, the first port of call to student cohorts.
  • Need for management to plan ahead more efficiently
  • Support and guidance to staff undertaking PhDs

 

Who are the respondents?

Exposure to Covid-19

  • 7% of respondents (5 out of 68) had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive or live with someone who did. All are female respondents in their 20s, 30s and 50s. Two of these households had someone at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • 22% of respondents (15 out of 68) had close family members, friends or colleagues who had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive. All are female respondents in their 30s, 40s and 50s (the majority, 9 respondents).
  • 41% of respondents (28 out of 68) live in a household where there is at least one person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

How the C-19 lockdown has affected the work-life balance of BU academics (Part 2)

Our blog Part 1 (posted on Friday May 15th) provided a very crude overview of the preliminary results from the survey we have launched to collate data on the impact of C-19 lockdown on the work-life balance of academics. This Part 2 focuses on differences between groups of respondents and identifying whether particular groups have been more negatively affected. We are yet to do any statistical tests on these data, so please consider differences between groups with care.

We have received 170 responses to date, 70 we could identify as being from BU staff (63 from female colleagues). If you have not yet contributed to this survey, you can still to do so here: https://bournemouth.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/impact-of-lockdown-on-academics, and please do share with your networks, as the survey is open to all academics. If you want us to be able to identify that you are BU staff, you will need to mention BU in one of the open questions. This research is a cross-faculty collaboration conducted by Sara Ashencaen Crabtree (FHSS), Ann Hemingway (FHSS) and myself (FST).

Work-life balance during lockdown got worse for the majority of respondents (59%) and improved for 37%. The most common reason for worsening or improving work-life balance were ‘workload increased’ (31%) and ‘I could do what was needed and be at home/with family’ (24%), respectively (Figure 1a). Although there are differences across gender (Figure 1b), any differences between male and female respondents should not be considered representative of the wider community due to the small number of male respondents.

Figure 1. Changes in work-life balance of respondents during Covid-19 lockdown and the selected reasons for identifying positive or negative change (a) and reported changes per gender of respondents (b). Blue shades indicate work-life balance improved and red shades indicate it worsened.

A higher proportion of academics under the age of 40 (82%) indicated that their work-life balance has worsened during lockdown when compared with other age groups (Figure 2a). Most of these academics reported that work-life balance worsened because they couldn’t work much. For academics in their 50s or older, the key reason for worsening of work-life balance was the increase in workload.

Figure 2. Changes in work-life balance of respondents during Covid-19 lockdown per age group (a); presence of children in the household (b) – the group ‘with children’ includes children ages 0-12 and teenagers; and household size (c).

Balancing work and childcare and/or homeschooling  was mentioned as a negative effect on work-life balance during lockdown by 18% and 7% respectively. However, this does not seem to be the main cause affecting respondents under the age of 40, when responses between groups with and without children are compared. In fact, 87% of respondents in their 40s live in a household with children 12 years old or younger and yet the proportion of this age group reporting worsened work-life balance was lower (55%) than the proportion of respondents with no children (60%). However, respondents who live in a household with younger children seem to be more negatively affected.

All respondents (N=8) who live with children under the age of 5 years have reported that their work-life balance have worsened (Figure 2b), the majority indicated an increase in workload as the main reason. However, no major differences were found when comparing groups of respondents who live with children (all ages under 19 included) and households without children. Interestingly, a lower proportion of respondents who live with children aged 5-12 years report worse work-life balance (50%) than respondents who do not have children in their household (60%) (Figure 2b). Further, work-life balance has improved for a higher proportion of respondents who live in a household of three people (45%) than in other household sizes (<40%) (Figure 2c).

In all faculties, a higher number of respondents reported work-life balance getting worse than improving, except FST (Figure 3a), where work-life balance has improved for 50% of respondents and worsened for 36%. Professors were the only group with more respondents indicating work-life balance improved (50%) than worsened (25%); in contrast, all associate professors reported worsened work-life balance (Figure 3b), but the small sample in both groups may not be representative.

Figure 3. Changes in work-life balance of respondents during Covid-19 lockdown per faculty (a) and position (b).

Switching to online teaching and not being able to meet with colleagues in person, socialise and engage with preferred leisure activity were the factors affecting negatively more than 50% of respondents (Figure 4).When lockdown restrictions are lifted, two of these factors (socialise and engage with preferred leisure activity) will have less effect on academics work-life balance, but more could be done to support colleagues negatively affected by the switch to online teaching and missing the contact with colleagues while working remotely.

More respondents have indicated a positive than negative impact from changes in the number of meetings and switching to online meetings emails (Figure 4). Fewer and more effective meetings were reported as the positive impacts. However, for some respondents, there are too many online meetings and they are getting tired of (avoidable) prolonged screen time (an effect that has been called Zoom fatigue). Therefore, guidance on how best to use, organise and participate in online meetings and how to manage and reduce screen time/tiredness may be useful.

Figure 4. The impact of selected factors on the work-life balance of respondents during lockdown.

A considerably higher proportion of respondents under 40 years of age report negative effect from switching to online teaching (75%), change in the number of emails (58%) and changes in the number of meetings (50%) in relation to other age groups (Figure 5). This age group also shows lower proportion of staff indicating positive effect from these three factors.

Figure 5. Reported impact per age group from (a) switching to online teaching; (b) changes in number of emails; and (c) changes in number of meetings.

FMC is the only faculty with more than 50% of respondents reporting negative effect from switching to online teaching (58%), change in the number of emails (58%) and changes in the number of meetings (67%). FST and FM are the faculties with 50% of respondents reporting positive impact from changes in the number of meetings.  FHSS has the largest proportion of respondents indicating negative effect from switching to online teaching (62%) and strong negative effect due to changes in the number of emails (54%). Increased number of emails from students has been reported, particularly by FHSS staff who support students who were asked to work for the NHS.

Figure 6. Reported impact per faculty from (a) switching to online teaching; (b) changes in number of emails; and (c) changes in number of meetings.

Figure 7 shows word clouds based on responses to the open questions asking for the two most important factors leading to negative and positive impacts on their work-life balance during lockdown. Increased demand for student support was the most cited negative factor (by 27% of respondents), followed by missing contact with colleagues and inadequate equipment (e.g. IT, desk, chair) and balancing childcare (19%). Less commuting or travel for work was the most cited factor affecting work-life balance positively (46% of respondents), followed by time with family (25%) and enjoying working from home (15%).

Figure 7. Word cloud showing how respondents expressed the negative (a) and positive (b) factors affecting their work-life balance during C-19 lockdown.

In responses to open questions, it is apparent that many negative aspects of the lockdown relate to aspects that are likely to subside when restrictions are lifted (e.g. reopening of schools, meeting with family and friends, enjoying leisure activities). Other negative aspects relate to the fast pace in which academic staff had to switch to online activities, sometimes without adequate workspace, equipment and/or training, leading to overwork. On the other hand, respondents report many substantial advantages of working from home, many wishing that this can continue (at least for part of the time) in the longer term. This is a summary of the advantages respondents have identified:

  • No travelling = more control over time + less exhaustion + less expense + better for the environment + spending more time with family
  • Healthier – nutritionally better, more physical rest, more exercise
  • Staying safe – better protected at home, avoiding traffic hazards
  • Gaining extra hours to work
  • Slower pace = more time to concentrate; a breathing space
  • Greater autonomy to manage time and priorities
  • Greater flexibility = ingenuity and novelty, new ways of teaching and supporting students remotely
  • Less stress and physical/mental wear-&-tear
  • Stripping back work dross – basic priorities reveals a lot of bureaucracy that can be avoided

 Who are the respondents?


Exposure to Covid-19

  • 7% of respondents (5 out of 68) had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive or live with someone who did. All are female respondents in their 20s, 30s and 50s. Two of these households had someone at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • 22% of respondents (15 out of 68) had close family members, friends or colleagues who had severe symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive. All are female respondents in their 30s, 40s and 50s (the majority, 9 respondents).
  • 41% of respondents (28 out of 68) live in a household where there is at least one person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Donning the ‘Slow Professor’

Congratulations to the Bournemouth authors who published the paper ‘Donning the ‘Slow Professor’: A Feminist Action Research Project’ earlier this month [1].  This paper was published in the journal Radical Teacher.  The paper argues that the corporatisation of Higher Education has introduced new performance measurements as well as an acceleration of academic tasks creating working environments characterised by speed, pressure and stress. This paper discusses findings from a qualitative, feminist participatory action research (PAR) study undertaken by an interdisciplinary team of women academics at a modern, corporate university in England. The study illuminates how corporatized HE erodes faculty autonomy, degrades learning environments, damages professional satisfaction and health. Strategies for resistance and liberation developed through the PAR process are discussed.

The writing collective for this paper comprised: Sara Ashencaen Crabtree, Ann Hemingway, Sue Sudbury, Anne Quinney, Maggie Hutchings, Luciana Esteves, Shelley Thompson, Helen Jacey, Anita Diaz, Peri Bradley, Jenny Hall, Michele Board, Anna Feigenbaum, Lorraine Brown, Vanessa Heaslip,  and Liz Norton.

Reference: Ashencaen Crabtree, S., Hemingway, A., Sudbury, S., Quinney, A., Hutchings, M., Esteves, L., Thompson, S., Jacey, H., Diaz, A., Bradley, P., Hall, J., Board, M., Feigenbaum, A., Brown, L., Heaslip, V., Norton, L. (2020) Donning the ‘Slow Professor’: A Feminist Action Research Project , Radical Teacher, Vol. 116

Gender in Conflict Conference: WAN-funded event

On Wednesday 9 October 2019 Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers and I hosted an international and intersectional conference involving staff, students and Erasmus colleagues to debate issues of gender, violence and conflict in contemporary societies. We were very fortunate to receive funding from the Women’s Academic Network for this event, and for additional guest speakers who will be visiting BU in the coming months to contribute to discussion on this theme.

The focus of our ‘Gender in Conflict’ conference was to provide a platform for discussion and reflection on conceptualisations of gender and violence that have heightened visibility in post-conflict environments. We asked contributors to consider what we can learn from questions of gendered violence in a fragile international context and whether international lessons can be applied to social environments in the UK.

The aims were:

  1. To de-colonise and de-exoticise knowledge about gendered violence in war and post-conflict contexts abroad by going beyond stereotypical assumptions and representations;
  2. To interpret contemporary UK conceptualisations of gendered violence through an alternative lens inspired by international experience.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity of the Erasmus-funded presence of two visiting Kosovar colleagues who presented at this event.  Dr Linda Gusia and Assoc. Prof. Nita Luci are the founders and directors of the Programme for Gender Studies and Research at University of Prishtina, Kosovo. They are highly visible women’s rights activists in Kosovo. The post-conflict situation in Kosovo poses unexpected challenges to equal rights not only arising from classic patriarchal cultural legacies but also from masculinity reiterations in the totalising field of international intervention.

We were also joined by two BU criminologists of our own Department for Social Sciences who are working in related fields: Jade Levell on gang crimes in the UK and Dr Shovita Dhakal Adhikari on agency and interventions within human trafficking in Nepal. This conference emerged from our own academic interests in questions of gendered hate crime in the UK (Dr Jane Healy) and on questions of social justice in transnational and post-conflict settings (Dr Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers).

Stephanie welcomes participants

Stephanie opened the conference by encouraging contributors and audience members to reflect upon the transferability of interpreting phenomena we often consider in their specific contexts alone and the limitations arising from differences in our epistemological framings of analyses, contingent on such context and distinctions such as ‘the Global South’. Questions of cultural translation, power, language and positioning can be perceived or experienced as barriers to engagement, rather than opportunities to share best practice. The aims of the conference were to critically re-envisage our contemporary conceptualisations of such concepts on the basis of comparison and shared reflection.

Jade Levell was our first speaker, with a paper entitled:  “The competing masculinities of gang-involved men who experienced domestic violence/abuse in childhood”. Jade’s presentation, drawn from her PhD thesis, considers the conflicted and competing gender performances by marginalised men who have been drawn into gangs in the UK. She demonstrated how these men are performing hegemonic masculinity in an attempt to claim power where they have none. This is conveyed through a language and symbolic rhetoric of war and honour.

Jade Levell introduces her research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nita Luci then spoke about “Researching Gender in the Balkans” as she traced the recent history of gender studies research in Kosovo. Her presentation began during a period where few academics were interested in looking at gendered experiences in the region to the emergence of the Programme for Gender Studies and Research in contemporary Kosovo. Through this timeframe, she highlighted the simultaneous re-framing and changing conceptualisations of masculinities in Kosovo.

 

 

Visiting scholar Nita Luci from University of Prishtina

 

 

 

Linda Gusia’s paper took this conceptualisation further. In “Recognition of Sexual Violence in Kosovo after the War” Linda highlighted the conflict between the hyper visibility of war-time sexual violence and a complete silencing of questions of gender and nationalism before the war. She considered how sexual violence against women was propagated by men, as an attack on the nation’s male gaze. Through a nationalist lens the concept of heroism was the prevailing public image and discourse. There was limited space for women’s own conceptualisation of the war as their stories were reframed through a narrative of sacrifice, martyrdom and atonement.

Visiting scholar Linda Gusia

In her paper entitled “Exploring Child Vulnerabilities: pre- and post-disaster in Nepal”, Shovita Dhakal Adhikari demonstrated similar patterns of silencing of women’s and girl’s experiences of human trafficking in Nepal. Shovita critiqued the application of Westernised concepts and labels to Nepalese society, particularly in regard to discourses of vulnerable victims in need of ‘rescue and protect’. Here again, women’s bodies are being controlled as a method of protection.

BU’s Shovita Dhakal Adhikari shares her research on child trafficking narratives in Nepal

 

Lastly, Stephanie chaired a panel discussion of all of the speakers, entitled “Inverting the gaze: Juxtaposing gender and conflict in transitional societies abroad and the UK”. This produced a lively debate around concepts of competing masculinities, vulnerabilities and visibilities of marginalised voices that could be drawn from all case studies presented. The conference drew to a close with contributors and audience members agreeing that this was an energising and engaging series of papers that showcased similarities in constructions of gender and gendered violence, both in the UK and abroad.

Participant contributions

Two further speakers who were unable to attend this conference at short notice were re-scheduled to visit BU this academic year:

  • Dr Emma Milne from Plymouth presented on Criminal Justice Responses to Maternal Filicide: Judging the failed mother on 13 February 2020.
  • Dr Hannah Mason-Bish will visit on 23 March 2020 to discuss Gender and Hate Crime.

For further details or discussion please contact: jhealy@bournemouth.ac.uk or sssievers@bournemouth.ac.uk

FHSS PhD student Orlanda Harvey in this month’s edition of HED Matters

PhD student Orlanda Harvey featured in this month’s edition of HED Matters as Early Career Researcher (ECR) with an article on ‘ECR Spotlight: From Social Work to Studying Steroids’ [1]HED Matters is an online magazine about the use of legal and illegal substances to enhance the human condition published biannually by the HED network. It brings together recent advances in drug research and experiences from both drug users and practitioners. This December 2019 issue focuses on sexual human enhancers.  Orlanda’s PhD research project addresses men’s experiences of recreational Anabolic Androgenic Steroid (AAS) use.

Earlier this year she also published a peer-reviewed paper form her research : “Support for people who use Anabolic Androgenic Steroids: A Systematic Scoping Review into what they want and what they access” in the Open Access journal BMC Public Health [2].  Since there is a paucity of research on support for people using Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS), this latter article synthesised the available evidence.  Orlanda’s  PhD I the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences is being supervised by Dr Margarete Parrish, Dr Steven Trenoweth and Prof Edwin van Teijlingen.

 

References:

  1. Harvey, O., (2019) ECR Spotlight: From Social Work to Studying Steroids, HED Matters 2(2):16-19.
  2. Harvey, O., Keen, S., Parrish, M., van Teijlingen, E. (2019) Support for people who use Anabolic Androgenic Steroids: A Systematic Literature Review into what they want and what they access. BMC Public Health 19: 1024      https://rdcu.be/bMFon

Women academics, social media and gender-based violence.

Dr Emma Kavanagh and Dr Lorraine Brown (FoM) have just published a paper entitled ‘Towards a research agenda for examining online gender-based violence against women academics’. Work on this topic was inspired by Emma’s research on the online violence experienced by female athletes and further influenced by work on sexual harassment by the Women’s Academic Network (WAN), which ran a symposium on the topic in June this year. The writing of the paper was supported through writing retreats organised by WAN. The focus of this paper builds upon the critical mass of research being conducted exploring inter-personal violence and gender-based violence in sporting spaces by members of the Department of Sport and Event Management, and the work of the Bournemouth University Gender Research Group.

There is an increasing call for academics to promote their research and enhance their impact through engaging in digital scholarship through social media platforms. While there are numerous benefits concerned with increasing the reach of academic work using virtual platforms, it has been widely noted that social media sites, such as Twitter, are spaces where hostility towards women and hate speech are increasingly normalised. In their paper, Emma and Lorraine provide a review of the current literature concerning violence toward women academics online and further provide suggestions for a research agenda which aims to understand the phenomena of gender-based violence more clearly and work toward safeguarding (female) academics engaging in digital scholarship. As they rightly state: “institutions such as universities that are increasingly placing pressure on women academics to engage in virtual platforms to disseminate their work have a responsibility in the prevention and protection of harm”.

Negative student bias towards women and BAME academics – WAN panel discussion

A few weeks ago an FHSS colleague in the Women’s Academic Network (WAN) raised the issue of how women and BAME academics are generally negatively evaluated by students compared to White male academics. Most reasonable people would normally regard it as self-evident that the traditional, almost monastic concept of a gendered and ethnic homogeneity of scholars is far from the realities of a diverse and international campus. Yet it would seem old tropes remain embedded in unconscious assumptions regarding what constitutes a conventional academic. A quick look at Google stock images demonstrates this. Typing in the terms ‘lecturer’ and particularly ‘professor’ (given the common US usage of the term for most academic ranks), will throw up multiple images – but these mostly depict the same old stereotype. Reinforced time and again, these false projections of an academic norm are internalised by students and, no doubt, the general public, as the ‘genuine article’ – meaning that others that do not fit this image will be felt to be of lesser quality, being less legitimised and generally therefore more suspect. It is easy to move from this position to judging the worth of their educational (and research) endeavours as being inherently inferior.

Although this is not breaking news in terms of relevant research literature, the impact of how students perceive diversity among academic staff has yet to be properly tackled in an academic socio-political context, where great efforts are maintained to keep student customers happy. At the same time few academics can be unaware of the huge significance invested by universities in student evaluations, where in respect of the UK there is increasing pressure exerted on programme leaders and departments to achieve high NSS scores. At BU this pressure now embraces the mid-semester MUSE surveys in a tighter grip. Consequently if any BU students are subject to acting on unconscious bias towards diverse academics then there are now greater opportunities provided for this to be expressed in a punitive fashion.

It was therefore not surprising that our colleague’s point engendered a lively email discussion in WAN; and additionally very welcome offers from members to help to take this issue forward. In order to capture the moment, given this discussion was taking place precisely during the MUSE season, a panel discussion was rapidly set up. Invitations to attend the panel discussion were duly sent out across WAN and to other relevant individuals across faculties, beyond WAN, with leading roles in teaching & learning, monitoring and evaluation, together with diversity and equality agendas, including the UCU.

WAN makes a point of providing a respectful, inclusive and candid space for women academics and PGRs to feel heard and supported. This open-to-all panel event was in keeping with that aim. To an attentive audience attendees offered some deeply concerning accounts of conspicuous xenophobia, racism and misogyny via student evaluation feedback or in everyday encounters. Some of these abusive interactions were described as completely devastating, particularly as they were often expressed with impunity, where staff complaints about student offensiveness were regularly trivialised or ignored. Academics who had experienced or heard of such episodes felt that they were far from adequately protected by existing university regulations; and that a much more robust institutional response of zero tolerance was required to tackle pejorative discrimination in the student body. It is clear that unchecked, unfair judgements of academics based largely on characteristics of gender and ethnicity (although this may not exclude other facets as well), alongside growing institutional scrutiny of staff evaluations, serves to create a highly toxic and risky environment adding greatly to academic precarity and stress.

In order to explore this matter in the greater depth that it deserves, WAN will be hosting another and bigger open-to-all event in the New Year with a view to developing greater traction to move this extremely important issue forward in a constructive way. WAN may have done some heavy lifting here (we are aware of much other good work at BU on diversity and difference), but nonetheless there is a great opportunity for the academic community at BU to come together to ensure that on this issue alone misogyny, racism and xenophobia remains firmly outside of our institution.

If you are not a member of WAN but would like a personal invitation to the next event on this topic please email me (Sara Ashencaen Crabtree) on scrabtree@bournemouth.ac.uk

Likewise if you are not yet a member of WAN but would like to become one please get in contact.

Professor Sara Ashencaen Crabtree

WAN convenor

 

 

Gamechangers with a heart: Women Entrepreneurs in India

Dr Mili Shrivastava based on her research in Women Entrepreneurs in UK and India published an article on Indian women Entrepreneurs in The Conversation. The article outlined how women entrepreneurs are creating businesses based on environmental problems while creating opportunities for sections of society.

The article has reached far and wide across continents and was widely shared on social media.

World Economic forum reprinted the article.

The article can be found here:https://theconversation.com/how-women-entrepreneurs-are-changing-indian-society-122352

 

Powerless Responsibility: A feminist study exploring women’s experiences of caring for their late preterm babies

A new publication by Dr. Luisa Cescutti-Butler (FHSS) and her co-authors (Professor A Hemingway & Dr. J. Hewitt-Taylor) which explores women’s experiences of caring for a late preterm baby using feminism as a research methodology has just been published in the Australian Women and Birth Journal (October 2019). Her research found that women who become mothers’ of late preterm babies have a complex journey. It begins with separation, with babies being cared for in unfamiliar and highly technical environments where the perceived experts are healthcare professionals. Women’s needs are side-lined, and they are required to care for their babies within parameters determined by others. Institutional and professional barriers to mothering/caring are numerous. For example: some of the women who were separated from their babies immediately after birth had difficulties conceiving themselves as mothers, and others faced restrictions when trying to access their babies. Women described care that was centred on their babies. They were allowed and expected to care for their babies, but only with ‘powerless responsibility’. Many women appeared to be excluded from decisions and were not always provided with full information about their babies. The research concludes by recommending that women whose babies are born late preterm would benefit from greater consideration in relation to their needs, rather than the focus being almost exclusively on their babies.

Luisa is Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH) and Lead for Examination of the Newborn in the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences. If you would like any further information please email Luisa on lcbutler@bournemouth.ac.uk

References: 

Cescutti-Butler, L.D. Hewitt-Taylor, J. and Hemingway, A., 2019. Powerless responsibility: A feminist study of women’s experiences of caring for their late preterm babies. Women and Birth, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2019.08.006

Cescutti-Butler, L.D., Hemingway, A., and Hewitt-Taylor, J., 2018. “His tummy’s only tiny” – Scientific feeding advice versus women’s knowledge. Women’s experiences of feeding their late preterm babies. Midwifery, DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2018.11.001

WAN seminar: Working Women and Flexible Working

Dr Zoe Young is one of those rare creatures: an academic organisational sociologist and practising consultant to industry for the development of gender-equitable policies around the issue of flexible working. She has recently published an important research monograph, based on her PhD, exploring the experiences of flexible working among working mothers. In WAN we were very pleased that Dr Young accepted our invitation to share her interesting findings to an engaged, mixed audience of academics and professional services, with a lively discussion ensuing.

Flexible working is often mooted as the panacea for gender-based inequities in the workplace in terms of stalling and interrupted career progression and gender pay gaps. Moreover, this is primarily a gendered issue as flexible working is most likely to be requested by women, and this for the equally gendered reason that it is mostly women who are expected to adapt their working lives to the demands of childcare.

The conventional argument for flexible working (which is different from part-time working) is that this will help women to balance family and work time better and in consequence will overcome gendered career inequities. But does it?

Dr Young’s research suggests otherwise, pointing out that there are multiple variations of flexible working that could potentially be offered to employees from a currently very limited menu. Not only is the menu unimaginative and meanly populated, but while women have a legal right to request flexible work, companies are under no legal obligation to comply. Her research illustrates the unnecessary stressors and casualties caused to women workers by organisations unwilling to adapt to employees’ changing circumstances – and how flexible working, as it is currently practiced, far from being a solution, may add to the issues that disadvantage women in the workplace.

At BU the benefits of promoting flexible working is being seriously explored by the Equal Pay Review Committee and by Athena SWAN committees. It is recognised that all posts ideally should be flexible working ones and that male colleagues should also be encouraged to consider new working modes in order to spread the potential benefits. However, as Dr Young’s research suggests, a very important outcome of ensuring greater gender representation for flexible working, is that it would also serve to minimise the currently feminised disadvantages associated with that elusive pursuit of a better work-life balance.