18 September 2018

Academic FOMO

I had a perfectly timed academic baby this year: she arrived the first weekend in June, just before the quieter period, where academics with greater teaching responsibilities in the first two trimesters of the academic year get on with (amongst other tasks) writing papers and undertaking research. You'd be surprised by how many of us “coincidentally” time things just right when growing a family to keep our academic careers on track, whilst acknowledging that any time out is a risk.

I've missed out on a lot of excellent conferences in my field this summer-autumn, including turning down presentation spots that would've been REF-able and good to have on my CV. I'm back at work but attending events away from Scotland is becoming increasingly tricky. I'm not averse to taking one or both children with me, and their dad. Like many academics, a conference trip often becomes an opportunity for a “workcation” for me with the family in tow. Plenty of folk have met my entourage already, and now it's expanded.

But it has suddenly become much more difficult; my eldest recently started school and I've returned from maternity leave “early”. That is, when my child is barely out of the newborn stage, (breast)feeding around the clock and still somewhat unpredictable. I'm increasingly reminded of how unusual it is that I took only 16 weeks off, even within academia, where short maternity leave is prevalent - more on this in future blog posts! The baby doesn't yet have a passport, however inclined she and I might be to turning up to a conference with her in a baby carrier, where woe-betide anyone taking issue with her presence (I've said many times before how there really are minimal adjustments needed to accommodate babies within academic environments). The requirements of my face-to-face teaching and annoyingly complex flight connections to seemingly easy-to-reach European locations have in fact been the main barriers. Why? Because the potential for a flight being cancelled is enough to put you off a convoluted trip with a baby in tow and potentially unsuitable sleeping environments, or with one left at home in need of breast milk.

The family can't always come along now, because one of them is in school and I'm a firm believer in children only missing out on their education when it is essential. At 4 years old, selling the “cultural experience” opportunity is still a bit premature for my son, although he did get to spend his 4th birthday in two different Nordic cities, while mummy (who was battling morning sickness at the time…) worked. It's a familiar story though: extended family are the main providers of childcare in the country, but if, like us, you don't have a queue of healthy, local, time-rich relatives nearby things have to slide. It seems like, as ever, the issue is the same and both the problem and the solution are summed up in one word: childcare.

Despite all of this, I count myself lucky: I already have a permanent academic post and can make these choices not to attend. There are many parents for whom missing out on a conference slot has the potential for greater detriment.

With one child cutting about in his school uniform, the other being (as in, right now) in my arms pretty much every moment I'm not on campus teaching, in meetings or working from home at my desk, I’m reminded of how fast times passes, of how soon they aren't so wee and don't need you as much. But it's always going to be emotionally challenging, when you see colleagues trotting off to cities you'd quite like to see on your way to a speaking slot, and Fear Of Missing Out, or Academic FOMO as I'm referring to it, creeps in.

My research and teaching focuses on how all career decisions are complex and multi-faceted. Due to my subject area, I'm aware I am perhaps more explicitly and overtly making choices in relation to my career path at present and trying to make those decisions visible, as they affect academic women more than men. Yes, there will always be other conferences and no, there won't always be first babbles, first sideways rolls, first crawls, first steps. But turning down opportunities, in the current climate in academia, isn't easy.

6 September 2018

Conference Poster - Encouraging workforce diversity in our sector

I am unable to attend this week's NICE network conference in Krakow - I have a 3 month old baby at home and travel at present is difficult plus it is both my first week back after maternity leave and the first week of our new academic year at UWS in Paisley.

It is really disappointing to miss this superb conference but I have sent a poster for display in my absence: "Addressing under-representation in our sector: Recruiting more diverse employee groups to Career Information, Advice and Guidance roles" which details a new project we are looking to establish in Scotland, focusing on how we address under-representation in the training routes that lead to the career development professions.

Krakow Poster

Nomination - Scotland's Diversity Awards 2018

Very pleased to announce I have been nominated and shortlisted for the Rising Star category of Scotland's Diversity Awards 2018, for my work and research on equality and inclusion as a lecturer in Career Guidance and Development at UWS. The university's media release is included below.

Diversity Awards News Story

Media release
05 September 2018


The University of The West of Scotland (UWS) has been shortlisted for ‘Diversity In The Public Sector Award’ and the ‘Rising Star Diversity Award’ in The Herald and GenAnlytics Diversity Awards 2018.

One of UWS’ core Truths is to be “an inclusive organisation that welcomes and values diversity” and as Scotland’s largest modern university, UWS is widely recognised as one of the country’s leading institutions in widening participation in Higher Education.

This major, national diversity award recognises organisations and individuals for demonstrating a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion. In being shortlisted for ‘Diversity in the Public Sector’ the university has clearly displayed its commitment to encouraging people from the widest possible range of backgrounds to access Higher Education.

Leading from the top is Vice Principal Professor Craig Mahoney who created the UWS Inspiring Women Series, now in its fifth year. The series was designed to empower staff and students to reach for new opportunities and enhance their professional pathways. Over the years, the programme has evolved with different Schools within UWS hosting talks under the ‘UWS Inspiring Women’ banner, embedding the practice throughout the university.

In addition, UWS has supported wider equality initiatives, establishing equality staff groups and a female leadership programme which encourages women in academic and professional roles to think of themselves as leaders, to develop leadership skills, and to help institutions maximise their potential.

Shortlisted for the coveted ‘Rising Star Diversity Award’ is UWS early career lecturer Emma Bolger. Emma has been pivotal in redeveloping the university’s MSc in Career Guidance and Development, guaranteeing that equality and inclusion are at its core.

Emma is co-writing a new Advance HE Equality and Diversity in the Curriculum practice guide for all course leaders. She has implemented a redesign of the placement programme ensuring they are also available within diversity and inclusion organisations and has established a family-friendly timetable for those with caring commitments.

She has delivered external training in equality in career guidance alongside her timetabled teaching and she has established a regular open-access diversity seminar programme, open to internal staff and external practitioners. She has secured external advisory roles, and is part of the advisory panel for the Scottish Women’s Aid Building Employability Project.

Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, UWS said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been shortlisted for two Diversity Awards. The ‘Diversity in the Public Sector Award’ is a real coup and highlights all that we do as a university to ensure we widen participation and open up Higher Education to as many people as possible regardless of age, gender or background.

“In addition, huge congratulations must go to Emma Bolger for being shortlisted in the ‘Rising Star’ category, this is a real accolade and is testament to her tireless efforts and consistent work to champion diversity. She has helped to implement real change here at UWS and she has inspired so many staff and students, as well as other individuals who come into contact with her.”

The Herald and GenAnlytics Diversity Awards 2018 in association with Standard Life Aberdeen take place on Thursday, October 11 at The Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow.

For more information, please contact Lauren Gaston / Naomi Clark, Marketing and Communications Officer at UWS, on 0141 849 4230 / firstname.lastname@uws.ac.uk
Notes to Editors:
About University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland is one of Scotland’s largest modern universities. It aims to have a transformational influence on the economic, social and cultural development of the West of Scotland, and beyond, by providing relevant, high quality, inclusive higher education and innovative and useful research. The University aims to make the communities it serves more successful; and create opportunities for all to participate.

4 September 2018

Modern Apprentice Survey - Gaelic language Version

A Gaelic language version of my survey of Modern Apprentices (MAs) in Scotland, is now available. The survey is about the personal and family background of apprentices, and I am researching how and why people make the career decision to become an apprentice.

Gaelic language version: https://hw.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ma-background-survey-gaelic-language-version

If you are an MA, know an MA or manage / train MAs, please ask them to complete my survey! Anyone completing the survey has the chance of winning one of 5 x £20 gift vouchers.