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Embracing Equity: the School of Business, Economics and Informatics celebrates International Women’s Day with a roundtable discussion

Dr Pamela Yeow, Assistant Dean in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics shares her thoughts on the roundtable webinar on this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Embracing Equity.

We were joined by Nicola Bentham, Dr Uracha Chatrakul Na Ayudhya, Dr Libby Drury, Dr Wendy Hein, Dr Vanessa Iwowo, Prof Helen Lawton-Smith, Dr Tinghua Yu, and Dr Pamela Yeow, who chaired the panel discussion. We were so pleased that such an excellent collective of women’s voices came forward to share their research and engagement with the broad and inclusive themes of gender equality and sustainable development.

Equality refers to equal opportunity and suggests that the same levels of support are required for all people, regardless of difference or opportunity. On the other hand, equity goes a step further and reminds us that we are individuals and need varying levels of support to achieve goals.

It is notable that the focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. The UN Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015, recognize that to protect the planet, strategies to transform our world, including ending poverty, must work together with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of societal needs including education, health, and social protection.  At the core of it, sustainable development is very much about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. Therefore, an investment in gender equity is also an investment in Earth’s future. We cannot save the planet without women.

Our panelists talked about their research, work and impact and how it was important to understand multiple perspectives about the issues around embracing equity. Importantly, there is an urgent need to acknowledge multiple identities that individuals carry around and about them, and the intersectionalities between gender, age, race, and abilities. Libby summarised it well when she says that international women’s day provides us with the opportunity to consider all types of women and how their experiences might differ for different reasons. There should not just be the focus on white, middle class, middle aged, heterosexual western women who are mothers, but also those of different ethnicities, classes, age, sexuality, parental status and those in different contexts such as cultures, work sectors and work roles. In addition to inequality between men and women, there are also many inequalities within women.

Our audience also had many questions and comments, including how we can bring the topic of gender equality and equity to audiences who are content with the status quo. Helen suggested that researchers and practitioners continue to engage in ‘engaged scholarship,’ where it involves constant and sustained interaction between researchers and practitioners in order to share best practices and ideas (Ram et al, 2012).

Furthermore, Uracha was clear that this problem requires all stakeholders at the table, not just women. As these issues are often complex, Wendy encourages all stakeholders to unpack these interactions more so as to be able to develop holistic solutions, and Tinghua felt strongly (as did several audience members) that we need men to also join in the conversations to enact change in this arena. Vanessa advocated the importance of such dedicated days, such as IWD as they open up the spaces for such conversations. However, we need to be mindful that these days do not disappear into the ether and instead, they need to find their way into our meeting agendas, our action points and into our day-to-day discursive spaces and thus be intentional. Nicola summarized it succinctly by saying we need a collective effort with all stakeholders.

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An Hour with Professor Morten Huse Session 3: Scholarly Positioning within the International Community

The third seminar in our series with Professor Morten Huse was an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues in person and reflect on personal ambitions in academia.

On Tuesday 3 May, we were delighted to welcome Professor Morten Huse to Birkbeck campus for the third seminar based on his award-winning book ‘Resolving the crisis in research by changing the game.’ The series reflects Morten’s introspective journey to articulate what he has learned from his extensive experience working with a range of international universities.

Chaired by Dr Muthu De Silva, session three focused on how to scholarly position within the international community, referencing chapters three, four and six from the book.

Role models and mentors

Morten began the discussion by encouraging attendees to share their role models and mentors and to interrogate the difference between the two. Naming a role model can help scholars to identify their personal ambitions and the route they would like to take in their academic career. Mentors form part of an individual’s ‘invisible College’, helping scholars to build connections in their area of interest and expertise. Morten also stressed the importance of reliability when building an international career.

With an understanding of what we want to achieve, it becomes easier to identify which communities to join and which conferences to attend. Morten acknowledged the plethora of different communities and conferences available to scholars today:

  • Global, regional or local
  • Generalist or specialist
  • Formal or social
  • Philanthropic, idealistic, or economic
  • Community or tourism focused

Morten drew comparisons between large academic communities and smaller, more agile groups. He described the Academy of Management as a ‘big ship’ which is less able to manoevre, contrasted with ‘tug boats’ which allow for engaged scholarship, such as the European Academy of Management. In a similar way, he encouraged attendees not to overlook the benefits of working with smaller institutions, as there can be more opportunities to take the initiative and find freedom in research.

The case for programmatic research

Morten encouraged attendees to adopt an outlook of programmatic research. Programmatic research refers to a scholar’s body of work and the links between outputs, rather than focusing on individual papers. Morten stressed that impact is not just about publishing papers, but about research that is genuinely ground-breaking and challenging.

One way to adopt this approach is for scholars to try and summarise their work to date and identify some key learning points, including work conducted with others. Morten encouraged attendees to be open with their research and to work collaboratively: “We shouldn’t be afraid of standing up. If you are going to be noticed and see an impact, dare to go beyond papers and explore books, chapters, gaining visibility in media and through seminars.”

Putting Morten’s advice into practice, the seminar was followed by an opportunity to network with colleagues from across the School of Business, Economics and Informatics and with current and prospective PhD students.

Session 4 in the seminar series will focus on the scholarly ecosystem and publish or perish (‘POP’) culture, exploring initiatives to develop true scholarship. Sign up to our mailing list to be kept up to date with details of this and future Department of Management events.

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“I’m capable of much more than I ever imagined”

Despite struggling with education due to illness, Chantelle Ewen had a dream of getting a degree in Criminology. She came to Birkbeck to study BSc Criminology and Criminal Justice in order to fulfill that dream. This is her story.  

Since the age of 16, I’ve struggled with education because of my illness – a condition called Conversion Disorder – which causes neurological systems in my body to shut down, resulting in bouts of prolonged mobility issues, blindness, deafness and speech impairment. I constantly had to miss classes and struggled to do the assigned work. Some of my teachers told me to give up while I could, to just accept that I probably wouldn’t be able to handle further education, let alone higher education, and I almost believed them.  

But then I discovered my passion for criminology. I remember being fascinated by the forensic science module in my BTEC science class. We had this presentation to do, and I went completely above and beyond for it. It awakened a burning interest within me – to know about the criminal mind, to understand the processes of investigation and more. I had this dream of getting a criminology degree, and I said to myself: you need to conquer every little thing, every obstacle in your way to do this.  

It was someone from the admissions team of a different university who put me onto Birkbeck. They explained it was a unique university, which lets people work or parent during the day (I do both!), and study at night. That very same day I was told about it, I went to Birkbeck’s Bloomsbury campus to look around, and fell in love with it.  

I came to Birkbeck and had a heart to heart with the very first lecturer I met. I explained my disability, my educational struggles, and my dream.  They told me that I’d get the support I needed to make sure I could achieve my dream, and that they could already see me graduating. It had been so long since a teacher had words of encouragement for me; it was really emotional. Those words became a source of inspiration for me over the three years that I studied. Even when I had to miss a significant amounts of lectures, due to being bed-ridden or not being able to speak, I knew I would keep studying. 

My lecturers helped me in every way they could to make sure I didn’t fall behind, and the Disability Support and Study Skills services for students at Birkbeck were excellent. I had access to special software that helped me write essays when I couldn’t move my hands, curated study sessions that helped improve my writing skills, and people willing to help me whenever I needed it. 

I’m so grateful to the entire department for their efforts over my three years of studying. Unlike other tutors I’d encountered, they never turned their backs on me, and never allowed me to give up, even when the odds were stacked against me. I can now proudly say that I’m graduating with a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, which, back when I was 16 was something I never thought I’d say.  

I’m excited for what the future holds. I’m eager to use my degree to get into probation work, working in courts and prisons, and eventually rehabilitation. I know it might be challenging, but why not? My time at Birkbeck taught me not to overthink things, and taught me that I’m capable of much more than I ever imagined.   

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