On his blog, Stuart will share his thoughts and the perspectives of University colleagues and partners on key issues at Warwick and in the Higher Education sector. He is keen to hear your comments on these topics too.
Please note: offensive or inappropriate comments may be removed by the administration team.
Gender Pay Gap reporting was mandated in 2017, and in the university sector this reporting has encouraged clearer acknowledgement of inequalities, and has raised many questions about their source. Last autumn, blog posts from the Provost, the Director of Social Inclusion, and the Co-Chair of the Race Equality Task Force introduced and discussed the institution’s latest pay gap data. In the subsequent Pay Gap Report 2019, Warwick extended the reporting to include pay gap data for ethnicity and disability. As Chair of the Gender Task Force, I welcome this opportunity to consider the intersections of these protected characteristics. Although we have incomplete datasets (as staff disclosure of protected characteristics is voluntary), there is still work we can do at institutional level to determine where improvements to policy and process may deliver the most scope to reduce inequalities.
At Warwick, the gender pay gap - the difference in hourly pay between the total population of women in the workforce and the total population of men in the workforce - is substantial. It is clear that the institutional pay gap is driven to a significant extent by demographic differences across the grades, with 68% of staff in the lowest pay quartile being female, and 64% of the staff in the highest pay quartile being male. If we were to ignore demographics, and simply consider rates of pay for women and men at the lowest grades, then the hourly rates are close to equivalence. It would be easy to overlook the upper middle quartile for pay, where there is almost no demographic difference by gender (49% female, and 51% male), but the data show that the average hourly rates for Grade 7 and above are higher for men than for women. Recognizing that there is a salary spine within each grade, are there demographic profile differences within these grades? What if recent efforts to encourage gender diversity have resulted in a scenario where there are plenty of women entering the career pipeline at Warwick, and we just need to wait until they have had an opportunity to progress through the grades? In 2018, 21% of Warwick’s professors were female; this rose to 23.4% in 2019. Is it just a matter of time until the pay gap is eroded? I don’t believe it is this simple, as the demographic differences are long-standing, and because snapshots of a population at a single point in time do not tell us about career trajectories, about the rates at which employees progress in the sector. These trajectories may have a critical story to tell.
Is gender a significant factor in career progression? If so, why? The catalyst for the Athena SWAN Charter, and the rationale for its original focus on women in STEM, was the observation that for early career academics in STEM disciplines, taking maternity leave led to an irrevocable setback in their research career. It was a cause for concern, as the sector was losing exceptionally talented individuals as a consequence. An academic researcher needs to be visibly established and respected for the quality of their work in order to sustain and progress their career. They will benefit from giving seminars at leading institutions and presenting work at high profile conferences, from using international facilities, building networks, working at a range of institutions, and establishing leadership of a research group. Until recently the majority of research funders have determined academic career stage (and thereby eligibility for many highly competitive grant schemes), by the number of months and years elapsed since an individual gained their doctoral status. Historically, the sector has tended towards quantifying academic success in terms of publication volume and grant income, and to looking for evidence of recent impact, leaving little or no space to take (or to account for) career breaks. The metrics-based culture has dis-incentivized part-time working, making it untenable for many until they approach retirement. In recent years, with a growth in understanding about how Diversity and Inclusion can improve organizational performance, it has become easier for staff to discuss these issues openly. It has made it possible to question systems that disproportionately exclude groups with protected characteristics, to challenge practices that reduce the talent pool available to an organization.
Against this backdrop, I welcome the recent substantial changes to the academic promotion process at Warwick. Studies within, and external to, Warwick have shown that women are more likely than men to postpone applying for promotion until they are sure of success, and there is also evidence that women are disproportionately likely to take on (and retain) time-consuming roles requiring a high level of collegiality . The move to a points-based promotion system, enabling individuals to self-evaluate prior to making an application, the permission to apply in successive years, and the opportunity to put forward evidence and showcase positive impact from the full spectrum of roles undertaken by academic staff, has enabled high performing staff with more diverse portfolios to progress. Such revision of the processes fundamental to career development and progression are a key step in reducing the pay gap for the long term.
Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, diversity issues that have scope to widen the pay gap have been accentuated. For example, surveys in the UK population identified significant disparities by gender for employment and caring responsibilities . A study of impact in the wider community found that where women and men had equivalent jobs and shared parenting responsibilities, women in these households disproportionately absorbed childcare and home schooling responsibilities, continuing paid work for their employer, while more subject to frequent interruptions than men , resulting in extended working days and a highly fragmented working environment. Concerns surfacing in the academic community were highlighted by an article in May reporting a startling drop in research paper submissions from women, while there was a significant increase in submissions from men . Warwick ran an institutional-level COVID Support Survey in July to obtain a quantitative and qualitative understanding of the challenges being faced by all staff, and to identify groups facing particular issues. Summary information from the survey was shared on Insite, and the findings are now being used by the central teams and by heads of department to better support staff as we go forward into an uncertain year.
Looking to the forthcoming academic promotion round in January 2021, we recognize that staff who intended to apply this year may be concerned that their case has been adversely impacted by exceptional challenges since the spring. We are therefore encouraging senior staff to volunteer as Promotion Advisors, to provide a point of contact for promotion candidates who will welcome additional support and guidance during the application process. This scheme has been developed over the summer; if you wish to be involved, please to contact the Provost Chris Ennew directly for further information. It is clear that many staff with protected characteristics have been particularly vulnerable to adversity arising from the COVID-19 situation, and the work we can do now to support colleagues will help mitigate the impact in our community.
Prof Jo Collingwood
Gender Task Force
 C. Guarino & V. Borden, Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family? Res High Educ (2017) 58:672–694, DOI 10.1007/s11162-017-9454-2
 Fawcett Society Briefing, Parenting and Covid-19 – Research evidence, August 2020 https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/parenting-and-covid-19
 A. Andrew et. al. How are mothers and fathers balancing work and family under lockdown?’ IFS Briefing Note BN290, 2020, https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14860
 A. Fazackerley, Women's research plummets during lockdown - but articles from men increase, The Guardian, 12th May 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/may/12/womens-research-plummets-during-lockdown-but-articles-from-men-increase
Towards the end of last year, the University’s Pay Action Group (PAG) published a series of blogs that examined our pay gaps in relation to gender, ethnicity and disability. Those discussions highlighted some genuine concerns about our current position as well as the challenges of trying to bring about real and long lasting change. We are working to explore a range of changes to policy and practice in order to understand how the University can address its pay gaps. For example, we have supported and encouraged new training and development initiatives, we have identified a number of changes to the University Recruitment policy and we are working on approaches to encourage more individuals to self-declare in relation to ethnicity and disability to ensure that our measurement is more accurate.
Understanding what our data tells us is an important part of the work of PAG; having looked at pay gaps in earlier blogs, we have been keen to consider other aspects of how individuals are rewarded. Most recently we have been looking at some of the outcomes of the Merit Pay process and Senior Pay and Remuneration Review (SPRR) to see if we can get a better understanding of how these processes work in relation to certain protected characteristics. These are both annual processes that reward individuals based on a judgement about their performance during the previous year. Merit pay applies to colleagues in grades FA1 to FA8 and SPRR applies to colleagues at FA9.
The Outcomes of SPRR
The table below shows participation in SPRR by gender since the 2016/17 review period. Participation in SPRR is voluntary and is an individual (rather than a manager’s) decision. The data show that while there is a markedly larger eligible male population, participation rates have been (on average) a little higher for female staff.
The distribution of performance ratings by outcome and gender is shown below. The distribution by outcome is broadly similar for male and female staff, although in the last two years, a slightly larger proportion of female participants have received the higher ratings.
The next two tables consider participation and grading on the basis of ethnicity. We use an aggregate grouping – BAME – because the relatively small numbers at FA9 make further disaggregation difficult. Currently, the BAME group is 9% of the Level 9 population – 50 staff in total. Apart from 2017/8, the differences between the two groups are small, but looking over the entire period the level of participation in SPRR by BAME staff looks to be a little lower than for white staff.
There is quite a bit of variability in the distribution of outcomes by ethnicity and, of course, the small BAME community at FA9 means that a change in the position of one or two individuals can have quite a big impact. Having said that it is noticeable that a rather smaller percentage of BAME staff were graded as excellent or outstanding in 2018-19 when compared with white staff.
Merit Pay Outcomes
The merit pay population is much larger than the SPRR population, covering all staff in grades 1-8. While there is some variability in nomination rates across grade and across area, on average, around 30% of staff are nominated for Merit Pay awards. Moderation processes are used to challenge nominations with a view to ensuring that there is fairness across the community.
Looking at merit pay nominations by gender, the graph below shows that this year 33.7% of eligible women were nominated compared 27.5% of eligible men. The female nomination rate has gradually decreased whereas the male nomination rate has increased slightly since 2017/18.
The next graph shows that the percentage nomination rates for those of white ethnicity has decreased since 2016/17. BAME nominations have marginally increased since 2016/17. The nomination rate for those who have not previously disclosed their ethnicity has increased significantly since 2017/18.
Moving on to disability, nominations for staff who declared that they have no known disability have slightly decreased over the years whilst the nominations for those with a declared disability are essentially unchanged. For those who did not disclose, the nomination rate has increased significantly (7.7%).
The change over time in the nomination rate for part-time and full-time is marginal, however it is worth noting a significant difference (around 7%) in nomination rates between these two groups of staff.
Finally, looking at staff group, the graph below shows that nominations for academic staff have increased for the 2018/19 review period whereas the nominations for professional staff has decreased by 5.6%. For the current year, there is a difference in the nomination rate of 4.9% between Academic and Professional Services Staff.
So, what can we learn from these numbers? Well for SPRR there is more variability in outcome by ethnicity than there is by gender – and numbers for disability are too small to allow any analysis to be undertaken. For gender, the simple male/female comparison suggests few differences but for ethnicity the recent outcomes look to be more favourable for white staff.
When we consider merit pay there are more marked variations in relation to protected characteristics and these need to be looked at more closely. And we will be reviewing the operation of the merit pay arrangements following this analysis and based on feedback from a number of different groups within the University.
There are still significant numbers of staff who do not declare their ethnicity and/or disability; without knowing the characteristics of the non-declaring staff we can’t be sure how reliable our analysis. Accordingly we will be exploring options for encouraging more staff to declare to ensure that we get the best possible understanding of our position and identify the changes that we might need to make.
Finally, it’s worth noting that what this analysis doesn’t do is consider issues of intersectionality – it looks only at single characteristics by themselves and future analysis will need to dig deeper to consider, for example, links between gender and ethnicity or links between work pattern and disability.
Green Week is our annual celebration of the environment, and a time when we work with partners in the region to promote some of the great activities that are happening to help us all to be more sustainable, in our day-to-day lives. It’s also an opportunity for us to focus on the future courses of action that we need to take as individuals, as communities, and as organisations. Indeed in the period since we declared our Climate Emergency we’ve seen the emergence of a number of important initiatives which include de-carbonising our electricity usage and increasing re-use and recycling through initiatives within Campus and Commercial Services.
There is a huge range of activities to take part in over the course of Green Week – from ‘swap shops’ where you can exchange clothes for new ones, to a Green Fair at the end of the week. There really is something for everyone, so make sure to get involved and book onto events happening across our campus this week.
With all this activity on campus around all things sustainable, there couldn’t be a better time to start talking with you about some changes to our travel policy and to our investment policy. Both of these changes have been encouraged by the Climate Emergency Task Force which met for the first time in January. Its role is to provide advice and facilitate better co-ordination of the University’s actions to address a climate emergency, and business travel was one of the first things it considered. Whilst we are still working out specific details, I’d like to give you a feel for what’s coming up.
Upcoming changes to our Travel Policy
We are moving to a situation in which the normal expectation would be that train is used for journeys that are within Great Britain or are around six hours. This would encompass destinations such as Paris and Brussels, as well as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
We also plan to introduce our own internal offset mechanism for flights. To enable us to do this quickly, we will be introducing a simple system. There will be two levels – one for flights within Europe and one for flights beyond. An internal charging mechanism will be put in place and the funds collected will be used to support on-campus initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. The aim would be to implement this at the start of May (the beginning of Q3 of the financial year), but in terms of train travel, the new arrangements can start straight away for new bookings. You’ll be hearing more about this soon.
Upcoming improvements to Socially Responsible Investment
We are looking to move to a more proactive approach to the management of our investments so we more actively target our investments in the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) arena where companies are seeking to have a more positive impact on the environment, and where there is a commitment to more socially responsible practices. The Investment Sub Committee keeps the University’s Socially Responsible Investment policy under review, and is in the process of finalising the new approach and agreeing the details.
This all represents a good start to fulfilling our Climate Emergency Pledge, but there is a great deal more to do. I greatly look forward to working with our community to fulfil our responsibilities to help combat climate change through our individual actions, our research and teaching, and how we run and develop our university.
As colleagues will no doubt be aware, the UCU recently announced that there will be further industrial action taking place from 20 February. The strikes will escalate over the course of four weeks:
- Week one - Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
- Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
- Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
- Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March
This will be the second period of industrial action in the last six months, and my previous blog back in November outlined the various ways in which Warwick shares an agenda – from our work with the ‘Pay Action’ and ‘Warwick Anti Casualisation’ groups, through to paying the Living Wage Foundation rate for all of our staff.
One of the key elements of the dispute at the moment is around the future valuation of the USS scheme. This is complex, and vital work. My view for the past several years has been that it is very important to secure the defined benefit element of the scheme. Currently, a series of proposals around governance are under discussion, following a detailed and excellent report by the ‘Joint Expert Panel.’ We as a sector need to secure the implementation of those recommendations. That is one central reason why compromise on all sides is necessary.
Recently UUK, UCU and USS have met in tripartite talks to consider the options. Even though we have the immediate prospect of industrial action, it is vital that there is space for discussions and for compromises to secure this vital strategic goal of a USS pension scheme with a major defined benefit element. I am doing whatever I can to support that goal.
It is regrettable that we are setting out with further action that will impact our students’ experience of university life – something which we can all agree is so important. It is particularly concerning to me that action is continuing into term two where it will be felt all the more keenly by our students as they prepare for their exams and for life after university.
In addition to our responsibility to our students, we have an important civic role in our region as a large employer. We are a much-needed regenerating force that stimulates our local economy, and we are one of the most respected HE institutions in the UK.
I will continue to respect the legal right for industrial action from union members and, while I will always remain impartial, I understand the significant frustrations involved. But I once again urge for swift resolutions to this prolonged dispute and for UCU, UUK, USS and UCEA to come to agreement for the sake of our students, our standing in the community, and for the public’s faith in the UK’s HE sector.
Tomorrow, at 11pm, the UK will be leaving the EU.
It is not the outcome that I wanted personally. But it is to be our new reality, and we must do all we can to make the best that we can of that new reality.
We must have a firm resolve that, while Brexit may appear to threaten decades of partnership with our European neighbours, we remain European at heart and are actively planning decades of future proactive partnership.
The first element of that is to continue to be open to our staff and students that we are entirely committed to that future as a European focused University. I can announce today that we will establish a new programme of funding so that staff faced with visa or other immigration costs following Brexit, for themselves or their immediate family, can claim up to £5000 in support. More detail will be available in the coming days.
Our student numbers from the European Union are very encouraging, and we must continue to be open to those students in the future. And of course, we must back Erasmus+ fully while also preparing for how we can not only maintain exchanges, but increase mobility options in the future for students across Europe even if the government eventually decides that the UK should not remain in Erasmus or its successor.
Second, we must find ways to support research across the continent. Research is of course not national, it is global. We have enormously strong research links across the continent, and we will continue to ask government to associate with Horizon Europe or, if not, to create straightforward funding schemes to be able to work closely with our partners across Europe. This is particularly important for our early career researchers. We have around 200 such colleagues here at Warwick and they deserve to have access to these networks and research links in the future that so many of us have had in the past.
Third, of course we are deeply embedded in the new EUTOPIA alliance. This is not to overturn existing links in departments and schools, but is instead a way of growing a partnership across the whole university in mobility, joint education, and joint research. EUTOPIA is one of the three European University Alliances with a British partner. It is an important platform for our future.
Brexit is a highly emotive moment for many of us. The past three and a half years of uncertainty have been difficult for everyone, whichever side of the Brexit debate you stand on. But not a day has gone by when I haven’t been reliving the memory of when a public group in Stratford-upon Avon asked me not to abandon Europe and the Europeans that call our university and our region home. And I can assure you now that I have no intention of doing so.
Although I recognise the inevitability of the UK’s departure from the EU tomorrow, I also know that we have to make the best of this situation for our university and all of our staff and students, and also for our city and our region, and that is where I will be focussing my efforts in the future. It is possible to be a European university in a country outside the European Union and we are going to prove that.