My week – 22 October 2012 – Senior women in research and global leadership

Professor Dawn Freshwater writes a guest column.

Professor Dawn Freshwater

The Vice-Chancellor has been meeting alumni and key stakeholders in America, so Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Organisational Effectiveness Professor Dawn Freshwater writes this week’s diary.

I’ve just returned from the British Council Global Education Dialogues (Asia Series) in Hong Kong. The invitation came following our recent success in achieving the Athena Swan Silver Award in the Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences and the School of Healthcare’s Bronze award. Discussions focused on research networks and also on the concerns of female representation at senior levels in research and leadership. In particular, it asked the question: 'Where are the women researchers and what models are there for increasing their participation?

Highlighting the concerns about the impact of the 'absent talent', Professor Louise Morley (Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research, UK), Professor Fanny Cheung (Hong Kong), Dr Emerlinda Roman (Phillippines), Dr Karoonuthaisiri (Thailand) and I took part in a panel debate and a half-day workshop to identify concrete actions to could help build capacity and research excellence in areas in which female researchers are under-represented. This theme is going to continue through the Dialogues and will be further developed at the Leadership in Higher Education dialogue held in Tokyo next year. It’s also the subject of a study called International Trends in Women's Leadership in Higher Education commissioned by the British Council.  Naturally, we’ll be following discussions with interest, given our own wish to enhance our already progressive Athena Swan and wider diversity agenda.

Whilst in Hong Kong, I took the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CHUK) – one of our Worldwide Universities Network partners. I was also fortunate enough to meet some alumni who support the development of Global Leaders through specific funding. This includes the Croucher Foundation, where alumnus David Foster is developing fellowships to support early career researchers to accelerate through their career pathways. This is turn will help to maximise the possible beneficial outcomes of research to society.   

During my visit the subject of Global Leadership was hotly debated – ‘What are the skills, values and talents that make a Global Leader?’ being the question that provoked a lot of creative discussion!  Of course, we’re contributing to that international conversation, and we’re also in the process of recruiting a significant number of Leadership Chairs – several of whom come from an international background. We’re currently about half-way through the appointment process and, whilst it’s proved challenging, we’re sure that these new Chairs will join us in our ambition to deliver a high-quality, research-led teaching experience for our students, and in striving to live our values in practice.

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