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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S011919/1
Title: Inclusion Really Does Matter: Improving Reactions to Gender Equality Initiatives Amongst Academics in Engineering and Physical Sciences
Principal Investigator: Taylor, Prof. S
Other Investigators:
Croke, Dr S Latu, Dr I McCartan, Dr C
Arredondo-Arechavala, Dr M Nanukuttan, Dr S Mulvana, Dr H
Scott-Hayward, Dr S McCormack, Professor T Burrows, Dr S
Turner, Professor RN Ranade, Professor V Brown, Professor GD
Price, Professor M Dixon, Dr AM Rafferty, Dr KR
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: The Vice Chancellors Office
Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 24 September 2018 Ends: 23 September 2020 Value (£): 524,534
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Jun 2018 Inclusion Matters Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Across engineering and physical sciences (EPS) departments in UK Universities, there have been concerted efforts to address gender imbalances. Notably, numerous departments have participated successfully in the Athena SWAN award scheme set up by the Equality Challenge Unit, the aim of which is to promote gender equality. These departments have all implemented wide-ranging plans to address gender imbalances. Despite this, many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) domains remain predominantly masculine. Fewer than 10% percent of the UK's engineers are women, the lowest percentage in Europe, and the proportion of women studying engineering and physics has remained virtually static since 2012. Importantly, these gender gaps deepen as women advance in their academic careers: only around 15% of professors in STEM subjects are female. This situation is problematic because it means that university departments, as well as STEM employers, are not drawing from the full talent pool that is potentially available to them. Moreover, research shows that, under certain conditions, groups and institutions that are diverse tend to perform better.

Why is it that gender equality initiatives are widespread but progress remains slow? We propose that one of the reasons that these initiatives have had limited effectiveness is that they are sometimes met with negative attitudes that can range from indifference to hostility. Moreover, gender equality work can be seen as of low status and can burden female academics even further, as they undertake additional work to the detriment of their academic careers.

How can reactions to gender equality initiatives be improved? We propose that the first step is to understand, using scientific methods, when and why these initiatives can lead to negative reactions. This project aims to reach such an understanding by carrying out research specifically with EPS academics, who themselves are a distinctive population due to their level of education, scientific training, and experience. We will test whether academics, due to their scientific training, need to be persuaded of the need for gender equality initiatives by robust empirical evidence or whether methods that encourage empathy and perspective-taking with female academics can also be effective. We will also examine whether these initiatives lead to negative reactions because academics do not feel self-efficacious in bringing about change, due to a lack of understanding of how they can personally tackle inequality. The empirical research will also examine whether the prospect of increasing the number of women in STEM feels threatening to some men, by challenging the male prototypicality of this domain. We will test nine factors that might impact on the effectiveness of gender equality initiatives through a set of experiments conducted with academics across different areas within EPS, at three universities.

We will use the knowledge we generate from these studies to design resources for EPS departments. The first will be a resource package (video, brochure, questionnaire) for gender equality committees that provides them with evidence-based advice on how best to design and implement gender equality initiatives so that they are met with positive reactions. The second will be a training tool in three formats (a Virtual Reality toolkit, an online multimedia training, and an app). These tools can be used by EPS departments to train staff on gender equality issues, while ensuring positive attitudes towards and engagement in gender equality initiatives. These tools will be tested across different departments and universities, and refined as necessary. Finally, in order to increase the effectiveness of gender equality initiatives nationally, we will share the knowledge and tools we have developed with universities across the UK via a workshop, a dedicated website, and high-profile interdisciplinary publications.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.qub.ac.uk