When was the network established?
The Parents’ and Carers’ Network was established after my return from a maternity career break and held its inaugural meeting in May 2012.
What was the need that you were responding to?
As a working parent, I identified the need to highlight and support the challenges and preconceptions experienced by parents and carers around the University. There was also a need for leaders to interpret HR policies in an adaptable and fair way to recognise and value the different working patterns of parents and carers.
How has the network grown since then?
Thanks to the flexible and supportive attitude of my directors, I have been able to continue work on the network alongside my job, so it now has a diverse membership of over 200 staff at all levels from every campus.
How often does the network meet and what kind of activities do you do/topics do you discuss?
The network meets once a month giving members the opportunity to participate in a lunchtime activity: motivational talks, skills workshops and informal networking opportunities offering peer support. Workshop topics have included employment law, stress less, first aid, understanding dementia’ and have received some very positive feedback.
What has the network achieved?
During the past four years, the network has supported its members by providing a confidential and understanding forum to share personal and work-related issues, some of which (such as the need for increased flexible working/job share opportunities) are highlighted for resolution at the University Equality and Diversity Consultative Group. It has participated in high visibility University events such as International Women’s Day and Wellbeing Week, and spearheaded projects to support maternity returners to work by providing a private functional breastfeeding room and baby changing facilities around the campus. It has also supported a number of other University-wide initiatives such as ‘The Green Shopper’ and ‘Swap Shop’ organised in collaboration with the University Sustainability’s Team, and summer holiday activities’ and pre-natal exercise class organised in collaboration with the Jubilee Sports Centre.
You received a Vice Chancellor’s award in 2014, in recognition of your work to set up the network. What did it mean to you to receive this recognition?
The award recognises that diversity is key to the success of the University community and this network reaches the heart of that community. It supports the highs and lows of the people that contribute to making the University thrive and is the voice of its members on a strategic level at which they were not heard before. It was an honour to receive an award in recognition of the time and energy used to make the network flourish and to realise it has such a positive impact on the lives of colleagues around the University.
How valuable you have found the network on a personal level?
As a mother of two children under five years old, the network has been an invaluable source of support and positivity for me. In addition to learning new skills at home, I have developed new skills via the network to complement the career I have established over 10 years working at the University. Re-learning how to work part time was a challenge that received varying responses from colleagues; knowing others share this experience inspires me to continue developing the network, supporting and encouraging parents and carers to feel valued and motivated within the University environment.
The Parents’ and Carer’s website can be viewed here and you can follow us on twitter @UoSPCNetwork