International Men’s Day… Men and Gender Equality at Babraham Institute

International Men’s Day… Men and Gender Equality at Babraham Institute

International Men’s Day… Men and Gender Equality at Babraham Institute

19th November marks International Men's Day. November is recognised as a month to highlight men’s issues, in past years many men at the institute have grown their moustaches to raise funds for men’s health charities.

This year, the Athena SWAN team are challenging institute staff to ‘Move’ for Movember; to get up, walk and speak to the person we need to instead of sitting at our desks and sending another email. Not only will this increase the number of steps we take in a day, and hence improve our health, but it will improve internal communication and relationships amongst colleagues.

In this spirit, the Human Resource and Athena SWAN teams are releasing updated policies on shared parental leave and improving awareness of work life balance (WLB). Men and women being able to take shared responsibility for all aspects of family life leads to benefits for the entire family.

In our recent LIBRA survey (2016) 78% of male researchers at the institute strongly agreed or agreed that the institute has the facilities to enable them to achieve a good WLB.

Dan, a technician in our Biological Support Unit (BSU) said that ‘BSU have always been supportive when I have required time off with my children if they are ill and have also allowed me a little bit of time in lieu to attend events special to my children. I feel that it is important for both my partner and I to share this responsibility. Being available to share those duties with my partner now has taken some stress off of her. BSU management has also been very good in allowing me to be flexible on my start/finish time, which has enabled my partner to get a new job. The benefit of this support is excellent and is one less stress for our family.’

Our internal Athena SWAN consultations (2016) have shown that a few members of staff have concerns that the project is focussed on women. Indeed, a lot of the work that has been done, especially within the LIBRA project, has been with the aim of improving the number of females and hence gender balance in senior roles in science. However, the Athena SWAN team are very concerned with the progression of everyone’s careers and areas of the institute that currently have low male representation. By improving equality, we hope to improve institute life for everyone.

I spoke to Benjamin Smith from Babraham Nursery:

‘Ben, what is it like to work in an area of the institute that is heavily dominated by female staff’

“I have found that working at Babraham Nursery, a predominantly female environment, has been met with great enthusiasm, not only from staff but from parents of the children who attend. l find that I leave the more typical ‘male’ attitude at the door; this may be what hinders some others from considering a role, it’s not really considered a macho, stereotypically male role."

‘Do you have any ideas on how the institute could improve the number of men applying for roles similar to yours?’

"I think this is a grey area because of the times we live in with regards to gender biased jobs and discrimination acts – I feel that the way to attract men to these kinds of roles may be to think about the role specification and to highlight more stereotypically male activities e.g. forestry courses, building and fixing - teaching these things to the children, that may appeal to more men."

‘How important do you feel that it is for children of nursery age to receive care from both males and females and in their child care setting?’

"I feel this is of utmost importance. This is how most children are typically brought up i.e. with a father and mother. Why should it be different within the Nursery and/or the teaching field because of outdated views on what a male or female should do?"

‘What do you feel Babraham does well to support staff with family and/or caring responsibilities?’

"I have 2 young boys (Oli 5 and Zach 6) who I take to and from School on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – I then work at the Nursery on a Thursday and Friday to accommodate this. I have also been reassured that if at any point I needed the time off for a genuine reason relating to the care of my children, this would be accommodated."