The QMS Gender Equality Blog was developed to share information on our research, teaching, and engagement activities related to promoting gender equality in a fast, informative, and accessible way.
In addition, the blog allows us to provide updates in relation to our progress towards attaining an Athena Swan Bronze Charter Mark.
Author: Gender Equality Team
QMS: Our Commitment to Gender Equality
While there has been significant progress in recent decades, gender equality remains an aspiration, rather than the reality, in many domains. Higher education is no exception. The UK is considered by many to be at the vanguard in terms of promoting equality within the sector, both as the result of the actions of individual institutions as well as sector wide initiatives such as Athena SWAN. Nevertheless, problems persist. While women now make up over half of undergraduates at UK universities, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reports that less than 50% of academic staff are female. Delving deeper, The Guardian suggests that one of the most significant concerns relates to career progression: ‘At senior levels, only a quarter of professors are women, and black women make up less than 2% of all female academic staff’.
At Queen’s Management School (QMS) we are committed to identifying and addressing barriers to equality that affect our staff and students. QMS has a longstanding and increasingly active Gender Equality Team (GET) who are tasked with evaluating our activities and, where required, developing effective strategies for improvement. Dr Renee Prendergast, who serves alongside Dr Silviu Tierean as Athena SWAN Champion, states: ‘During my time at Queen’s we have made quite a lot of progress on gender equality, but we have still a long way to go. It’s great that we have a female head of school, but we need more women at senior levels in the school’.
In addition, at QMS we are highly cognisant of our responsibility in terms of educating future leaders. In 2018, The Guardian reported that there were just 30 women in full-time executive roles in FTSE 250 companies. These include six female CEOs and 19 female CFOs. The picture is somewhat better at board level, with women now taking up almost a quarter (23.7%) of directors’ positions on FTSE 250 boards. However, global women’s workplace advocacy organisation Catalyst caution that the percentage of women in senior roles has in fact been declining worldwide. Lack of representation is a particular concern in industries such as software and IT, finance, corporate services, and manufacturing. Catalyst argue that, at least in part, this may be due to a stereotypical ‘think manager, think male’ mind-set. Indeed, the New York Times recently reported that across an array of different fields there were more men named ‘John’ than women in senior positions, despite the latter making up over half of the population. As a result, we are taking steps to challenge outmoded ideas of leadership and management through our teaching and research, and reframing them as roles open to all.
Our work on gender equality is closely aligned with our broader Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability (ERS) agenda. Indeed, Dr Laura Steele, ERS Champion and GET member notes: ‘The School is a signatory to the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative and an increasingly active supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Gender Equality represents a key pillar of the SDGs. This is in recognition of the fact that equal rights and opportunities for women and men, girls and boys are essential if we are to build peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable societies’. She continued, ‘Promoting gender equality is not just the duty of governments. Businesses and, indeed, business schools, have a pivotal role to play, and we are acutely aware of this at QMS’.
In 2019, the Gender Equality Team will work towards attaining an Athena Swan Bronze Charter Mark.
We look forward to sharing our work in relation to gender equality through this new blog. In the meantime, if you would like more information please contact the QMS Athena SWAN Champions, Dr Renee Prendergast or Dr Silviu Tierean.
Author: Qingyun Zhang and Hongyi Chen
QMS Students Rise to the Allstate Challenge: An Innovative International Approach to Tackling Diversity Issues in Finance
In May 2019, two students from Queen’s Management School, Qingyun Zhang (MSc Management) and Hongyi Chen (BSc Finance), were part of winning teams in the inaugural ‘Allstate University Challenge’.
The Allstate Challenge required students from Queen’s University, Ulster University, and the University of Wisconsin Madison to come together to form an international team and address one of two current conundrums within the world of finance, specifically: how to make a career in finance attractive to women and how to create an environment for women to succeed in finance. Teams were required to present the results of their research, as well as their proposed solutions, to senior leaders within Allstate.
Renee Prendergast, Athena Swan Champion at Queen's Management School, stated: ‘We were delighted to see not one but two of our students achieve first prize in the Allstate Challenge. The Challenge not only draws attention to the important issue of female under representation in finance, it also allows young people to work together to develop creative interventions that will hopefully help to bring about fairer and more inclusive workplaces for all’.
Hongyi and Qingyun offer first-hand insight into their experiences below:
Hongyi Chen (BSc Finance) stated:
I have been interested in the topic of gender diversity in the workplace since I was in high school. I recall reading a book called “Lean In”, written by the CFO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. I was shocked by the fact that women hold fewer than a quarter of senior executive titles, and the problem is particularly pronounced in the finance industry. Even today, when women occupy more than half of entry level positions in the industry as the result of efforts on the part of both companies and governments, they are still locked out of many top jobs. This really aroused my interest and, as a female finance student, I wanted to engage in deeper research and attempt to develop some useful solutions to the problem. The Allstate University Challenge provided me with an exciting opportunity to do just that!
During the Allstate Challenge, I worked with two other female students based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We undertook a large amount of research on the challenges women are currently facing when it comes to seeking and securing promotion. We gathered a wealth of data which indicated that both internal and external factors negatively impact career progression for many women. External factors include unconscious biases held by interviewers when making a promotion decision, networking events that potentially exclude females, and a lack of mentors. In addition, we identified several internal barriers, including the fact many women are accustomed to holding themselves back when it comes to promotion opportunities because of a lack of confidence. After identifying these barriers, we worked as a team to develop some potential solutions for finance companies to increase gender diversity. These included established approaches, as well as some new, creative ideas.
Overall, this was a great experience for me. I have become great friends with the two American students and have developed a much deeper understanding of gender diversity in the workplace. By realising the fact that women are often holding themselves back, I started to remind myself that I should always be confident and believe in myself. This is invaluable to my future studies and career.
Qingyun (Candice) Zhang (MSc Management) stated:
The first time I heard about the Allstate Challenge was in a graduate class. It was interesting to learn more about the difficulties faced by women within the financial industry. Prior to coming to Queen’s University, I gained two years' experience in management in insurance companies. It turned out that Allstate was an insurance-related company, which reinforced my desire to compete.
Allstate NI is located on a very beautiful riverfront in Belfast, and I was fascinated by its good working environment and relaxed atmosphere when I first visited it. My teammates are an Indian student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in America and a British student at Ulster University. We are from very different backgrounds but share a strong interest in this topic. We regularly discussed the project online, while also conducting our own independent research. Over a two-month period we refined our ideas through a series of meetings. The Challenge culminated with a 15-minute presentation and intensive 40-minute Q&A session. We were lucky enough to win the competition!
I think the Allstate Challenge is a great experience. As an international student, it not only provided me with the opportunity to experience the diversity of international teams, but also gave me a better understanding of UKs companies. In this competition, I reaped the benefits of friendship, knowledge, teamwork, and won a prize of Amazon vouchers. I always thought the best part of a competition was the process, not the result. Thank you very much for the information that the School has given me to participate in this competition.