Those who follow my blog posts, or used to, will have noticed a distinct lack of activity. This is partly because I am a bit busy in my Head of School role at the Open University. I have much reduced personal responsibility for assessment and indeed during 2019 I made a decision to step away from some of my assessment-related work. I just don’t have the time. This means that anything I post here about assessment is, in some senses, more and more a “view from the edge”.
However, my commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion just grows and grows – and, however hard we try, assessment very often fails to be equitable. I still research the impact of assessment and other things on different demographic groups. So expect “e-assessment (f)or learning” to take a different focus in 2020.
However, first of all, some background as to why this matters so much to me. I’m a woman and a physicist and that immediately makes me unusual (only around 25% of physics undergraduates in England are women). That’s a crying shame – what wasted talent! By the time you think about women profs and leaders in STEM Faculties, the numbers get even smaller. But there are things we can do to address the balance, and I am getting more and more involved in this work.
One of the most scary things I have ever done was to speak at “Succeeding in STEM: three women profs and their unconventional careers” in November. I speak at meetings all the time, so whay was this so scary? Well, because it was so personal. Not even my sister had known until that time how much I suffer with lack of confidence and imposter syndrome. But in recent years I have realised how important it is to “be myself” as a leader – and the fact that I struggle at times is part of that. Sometimes when a member of staff or a student in my School comes to me with an issue to resolve, it affects me deeply at a personal level….and that’s OK. I don’t want to be a souless Head of School, I don’t want to be super woman. I want to be authentic, I want to be me.
I hope that the recording of the “Succeeding in STEM” event (at https://bit.ly/34QOAEb) might help others a bit. However there is one thing that we didn’t get time to discuss, and this is a vitally important point: the issues are not just about sex or gender. We all have all sorts of biases and there are all sorts of reasons why people are overlooked, isolated, bullied – or feel themselves to be so. I am woman and a physicist, but I am also white, British, straight, cis, middle aged, and have become middle class…..etc. etc. It’s complicated! The concept of “intersectionality” is very important; we are all different. Let’s not forget that, and celebrate our glorious diversity at the same time as remembering others who are not the same as ourselves.