The woman making change happen – An interview with Simone Bartley
We are thrilled to have Jisc as one of key sponsors for 2018! When I first spoke with the team at Jisc and Simone I knew they were a company who would fly the flag and have a solid plan to ‘making change happen’. We are going to create a leading-edge community with passion, and tap into a huge audience that wants to join the Women Rock movement. Simone is a people business partner, working out of Jisc’s London offices. Jisc has a ‘people plan’ and she helps to deliver it, leading on equality, diversity and inclusion. When she’s not doing that, she’s an enthusiastic baker who’s overly modest about her abilities and also a keen walker and cyclist.
WHO ARE JISC?
Jisc is a membership organisation for the UK’s universities, colleges and skills training organisations with offices across the UK, including Bristol.
Jisc provides its members and customers with big-ticket shared digital infrastructure, including this country’s national research and education network (NREN), which is one of the busiest in Europe and serves 18m users. It’s called the Janet Network and it is super-fast, reliable, secure and built to handle the huge volumes of traffic that education and research organisations generate.
Jisc is a member organisation dedicated to saving the UK’s education sector money with shared services, including data centres so that researchers can store their data and share it securely with others. It also negotiates cost-effective deals and preferential service levels with commercial suppliers and offers advice and training on many different topics to help members work smarter through digital technologies.
Sounds like it may be full of nerdy men in sandals? Possibly so, once upon a time, but that’s been changing fast. And change is accelerating now that Jisc has launched a programme to make it a great place to work for women, as well as for others who have lots to offer but don’t necessarily fit the into the typical techy mould.
WHAT IS YOUR DAY-TO-DAY ROLE AS PEOPLE MANAGER AT JISC?
I aim to support managers and staff right through the employee ‘journey’, from the moment when we place the job ad or pick up a cv to beyond the point when they leave us. We want good people to stay with us and develop, but if they choose to move on then we’d like them to leave as advocates of Jisc. It’s important to us that Jisc is a great place to work. Of course, different people will have different reasons to think so, and it’s my job to make sure we’re imaginative and supportive enough to be a great employer for all sorts of people.
HOW DO YOU SUPPORT WOMEN WHO WORK IN TECHNOLOGY JOBS AT JISC?
Well, we strive to support all our female and male staff right across the organisation in the same way – by being open, responsive and as flexible as we can to support individual needs and aspirations.
But it’s certainly true that women are under-represented in technology jobs generally and it is not just girls, there is a general lack of diversity in the sector. We are doing various things to even things up, both at Jisc and across the education and research sector generally.
For example, we’ll be working with STEM ambassadors to encourage everyone to think seriously about studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and we took part in ‘Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day’ this year for the first time. The primary school girls were so enthusiastic and some showed real early promise. One seven-year old showed an impressive level of understanding of direct denial of service (DDoS) attacks and of some of the steps we take to protect our members against them. Her dad is one of our technical staff and it’d be great if she wanted to follow in his footsteps.
We’re going to start offering teachers placements at Jisc so they can discover the breadth of opportunities that exist in technology jobs and then go back into their schools enthusiastic and ready to spread the word.
And we’re doing some work on unconscious bias, reviewing our policies and guidance to make sure we recruit on merit and providing training for our staff to demonstrate how bias can play itself out in the workplace. We are not just addressing unconscious bias by dragging our people through training, it is far deeper than that, for example through widening our perspectives we can reduce our biases so we’re running a campaign called ‘this is me’, encouraging our people to share their own stories with colleagues so that we can walk a mile in each other’s shoes, to widen all our perspectives and demonstrate that we respect, value and celebrate difference. This is not only about supporting women in a traditionally male-dominated environment, it’s also about celebrating diversity.
HOW ARE YOU ATTRACTING WOMEN TO APPLY FOR JISC?
There’s lots that we plan to do on this but as a start we’ve adopted some simple, practical steps that we hope will tempt more women to think about giving it a go. We’re overhauling the careers pages on our website, and being more mindful of the language we use in our adverts for example. We never advertise jobs as full time because lots of people, and particularly women, need flexibility. We’re certainly not slaves to the nine-to-five model. And we’re thinking again about where we recruit, and how to reach the widest possible pool of potential recruits.
We’re moving increasingly towards smarter working, not longer working. The long hours culture tends to disadvantage women more than men. Still true, after all these years!
And we’re reviewing our family leave policy to ensure that it meets more diverse needs. This will benefit both men and women because we’re focused on genuine equality. So we’re making sure that the policy is more flexible, allowing for the usual maternity and paternity leave and also adoption leave and shared parental leave. And when men opt to take this leave they’ll get the same contractual enhancements as women.
ARE TALENTED WOMEN INTIMIDATED IN A MALE-DOMINATED WORKING ENVIRONMENT?
It’s so hard to answer this question. I’m as sure as I can be that the men who work in our technical departments don’t intend to intimidate. Some women might sometimes feel at a disadvantage, it’s human nature when you’re in the minority. But what I can say with absolute certainty is that we’re working on making sure that Jisc is welcoming to women, listening to their voices, valuing their contribution and offering great opportunities for fulfilling work and ongoing career development.
AND FROM ME TO YOU.
‘Privilege is invisible to those who have it’. – Michael Kimmel, a professor at Stony Brook University in New York. For me this gets people to stop and think when they get stuck and don’t see it.
Diversity is not about quotas, it is exciting. Gaining true representation creates more rounded, innovative, dynamic and impactful products, actions and solutions. That benefits everyone.
At Jisc we’ve made a good start on changing things, at least in our own back yard.
Thanks Simone & the team at Jisc, so excited to have you as our sponsors.