Tag Archives: gender equality


Following up our story (see subtext 192) on Lancaster’s not-in-any-way-pandering-to-stereotype set of email signature templates, featuring Mr Jo Bloggs the officer and his loyal personal assistant, Ms Jane Bloggs, a subtext reader emails to let us know that our article may have ‘prompted them to do something’. Upon investigation, we were pleased to see that Jo Bloggs no longer has any specific pronouns, while his PA Jane has been replaced by the gender-neutral Alex Bloggs. Well done ISS! Though we remain somewhat concerned at the suggestion of rampant nepotism! See the new templates at:


‘Our emails display our brand just like a letterhead or a business card,’ noted a news item on 14 February, launching Lancaster’s new email signature template files:
Four templates are provided at:
There’s plenty of advice and guidance: email signatures need to be useful, lawful and, of course, accessible to screen readers. Moreover, ‘Lancaster University is an inclusive place to work and learn and therefore, we would encourage people to include their gender pronouns on their email signature.’
Righty-ho. Let’s look at this template text, then:
Jo Bloggs | Postgraduate Programmes Officer
Linguistics and English Language | Lancaster University
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Working hours: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 9am to 4pm
Personal Assistant: Ms Jane Bloggs: j.bloggs@lancaster.ac.uk
Excellent, so we have Mr Jo Bloggs the officer and his loyal personal assistant, Ms Jane Bloggs. That Athena SWAN renewal’s going to be a doddle, eh?
And yes, we know that equality is about a lot more than email templates. We’re sure that the imminent equal pay audit will show how much the Gender Pay Gap at Lancaster is closing, given the institution’s work to actively improve it.


People in the Management School have been confused in recent weeks by signs visible around the fire doors outside Lecture Theatre 4 stating ‘CAUTION: Men Working Overhead’ – many staff on the top floor of LUMS are actually female! On closer inspection, it appears that the signs were put up by Bagnalls Painting & Decorating, who seem to operate a strict men-only policy for work that’s too high for the ladies to reach, even in heels. The subtext collective are left wondering whether University procurement regulations require external contractors to demonstrate equal opportunities practices, and whether we can invite external contractors to Gender Pay Gap meetings.


We reported, in issue 176, that according to a league table Lancaster has the third worst gender pay gap amongst UK universities. A flurry of committees, working groups, and consultations have been frantically set up in response, and we will cover the progress of the university’s deliberations when subtext springs back into action.



Dear subtext,

The so-called Gender Pay Gap is, in fact, a Sex Pay Gap and the efforts that the university are suggesting around maternity and childcare are woefully inadequate, the latter mainly consisting of signposting things that are already available (though in the case of preschool childcare, pretty inadequate – it’s impossible, for example, to get additional hours/days at the Preschool Centre if asked to work extra time by one’s department).

The pay gap is in place way before we have children. Women are less mobile due to tending to have professional partners (while men are more likely to have partners in more portable and less professional jobs, since men earn more than their partners across society). Lancaster could make it easier for women to take a job if they have a professional partner, and advertise this. We could make it more flexible to, for example, take a sabbatical or a non-sabbatical career break so partners can move temporarily together. I had a big struggle when I wanted to take two terms’ sabbatical because it was the right time for my husband and me – he’d just been made redundant but apparently ‘we don’t do that in Psychology, we only take a full year’. One male colleague on hearing this said ‘oh I suppose my wife just gave up her job when I went on sabbatical’.
Women have more other caring responsibilities, not just children. My husband and I needed to stay locally for a number of years – at a time when other colleagues were getting promoted by moving jobs – because my husband’s mother was elderly and needed care. Few men help with care of their mother in law because that’s not what they’ve been taught since childhood.

Travel for work is often impossible for women with caring responsibilities – I couldn’t really travel for the first couple of years after we had children and the only reason I can now is because my husband’s work has become more flexible, not my job (he’s gone part time through choice but also his employer has pushed and enabled working from home a lot more. There’s been no change at all in the help Lancaster has given and no substantial change in the availability of childcare). Even a full day travel is impossible for me (London and back in a day for example) if I’m relying on outside childcare. This means not only could I not go to conferences at first but I also couldn’t go to e.g. a government meeting or grant meeting.
Because of Lancaster’s location, talented postgrads who want to stay in the area have to move into a professional services job – there are few commutable academic jobs if you don’t get one in Lancaster. This is more likely to affect women – men just move for work, while women stay put with, as I’ve said, a professional partner, non-childcare responsibilities or children.
Women have always been taught (since birth and, these days, before) that they are supposed to be less assertive. Obviously if you’ve managed to get a job in academia, you must have managed to push yourself forward to some extent. We recently had an excellent small workshop on promotion for women but previously the University has run workshops where at one a female professor just told us ‘it’s easy to be a professor, you just have to publish a lot and get grants’ (I can hear the hollow laughter of men and women echoing round campus!) and at another senior women just said ‘oh I’ve never experienced any discrimination’.
From the moment the doctor says ‘It’s a girl!’ or ‘It’s a boy!’ society treats us differently – our sex determines what gender roles society thinks we should take, following a partner as a trailing spouse, not speaking up to creepy supervisors, not putting ourselves forward for keynotes and promotions, taking on caring responsibilities for older and younger people – and that in turn determines how much we are paid.
Katie Alcock

Issue 177


One of the reasons advanced for the need for another Court Effectiveness Review is the apparent lack of diversity in its membership. In her background paper to Senate (see subtext 169, and letter from Stanley Henig, below), Chief Administrative Officer Nicola Owen refers twice to this shortcoming, though acknowledging that the University does not actually hold any data to back this up. Admittedly, it is difficult to ascertain the ethnicity of members without conducting a full equality audit but at least it should be possible to have a stab at establishing the gender balance of Court.

Ms Owen states that a measure of success for the University’s ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Vision’ is to achieve a ’50-50 ratio female/male’ composition in the membership of University Committees. So, let’s look at Court, the ‘University Committee’ that seems to be causing her so much concern. The Secretariat website handily provides a list of current members, each given their title of Ms, Mrs, Mr, Dr or Professor. A quick perusal of the staff list gives the gender of those with academic titles, so a reasonably accurate picture of Court’s gender balance can be established. This shows that out of the current total of 237 filled places on Court, 101 are held by women. The figure represents 43% of membership, certainly short of the 50% target, but not so far adrift as to cause so much concern as to deprive it of its governance functions (one would have thought).

Still, perhaps 43% compares badly with the ratio for other University Committees? Not so. If we look at Senate, we find that women make up 35% of its membership, so still a bit to go to catch up with the ‘unrepresentative’ Court. What about Council, the body that wants to take over the governance functions of Court? Surely it would want to be seen as the standard-bearer of gender equality, especially as it has more power to determine its own composition than any other committee? Alas, no. Only 31% are female. The only body that could make any serious impact there would be the Nominations Committee, several of whose members are appointed by … errr … the Court, which the VC is set on abolishing. Great.

But surely the VC’s senior management team, the body with the real power in the University to effect change, would be leading by example towards that 50-50 goal? Of course not. Of the 14 individuals who are most in charge of the fortunes of Lancaster University, a mere 4 are women. Just over 28%. Perhaps this might be a good time to commission a long overdue Senior Management Effectiveness Review. What about it, Ms Owen?


As the muted rows about the new processes for appointing heads of academic departments rumble on, it is worth reflecting on just how fundamental those changes are. The traditional Lancaster approach was, broadly, to allow departments to devise their own procedures, with the expectation that at some point all senior members should take their turn at the helm. The new process, which follows on from last year’s HoD Review, introduces two new features: that the HoD should ‘normally’ be a professor (if necessary, an external one), and that final approval of the candidate is to be made, not by the department or the faculty, but by a central appointments panel chaired by the VC.

While Lancaster is second to none when it comes to the quality of its professoriate, it does not follow that exemplary scholarship brings with it the skills and understanding required to run an academic department. (Why, we know of some professors… but that’s another story). There is also an equalities issue to consider. Currently, there are 295 professors in the university, of whom 69 (23%+) are women. However, the academic workforce is 36% female, so there is more chance that a professor will be a male. It follows that if the opportunity to head a department is restricted to an unrepresentative professoriate, there is indirect discrimination against women academics.

The situation becomes more worrying when one considers the composition of the HoD Appointments Panel. In a recent case, the panel included the Chief Administrative Officer and the HR Director. They were not there ‘in attendance’, but as fully-participating panel members. This is unprecedented. Never in the past have senior administrative officers had a direct say in academic appointments. There is the argument that a departmental headship is a management post, not an academic one. If that is the case, then there should not be a requirement that the holder be a professor, an academic title. The role of the HR Director in the process is particularly problematic. HR has the responsibility for monitoring and reporting on compliance with the University’s diversity and equality policy. If a complaint of discrimination should arise, who could be confident of the impartiality of an HR investigation if the boss was directly involved in making the decision? Finally, there appear to be no arrangements for oversight, as there are with other appointing bodies. Is the VC to report to himself?