University of Sheffields Deborah Beck strives for better balance

University of Sheffield's Deborah Beck strives for better balance

 April 02, 2019

The University of Sheffield's Grantham Centre Manager Deborah Beck shares why balance is better in the workplace, and how she has gone about making sure it’s part of everything she does.

Creating a balance for better at the university

Deborah knows that everyone has a role to play in trying to create a better balance in their lives. This can be at many levels and in different ways. Balance is not just a women’s issue, it is vital to each person working at universities in order for communities to thrive.

"For me, balance drives a better working environment," Deborah adds. "A difference can be made by seemingly small everyday practices such as encouraging a female student to introduce a speaker at an event to embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in your staff recruitment process."

Incorporating gender equality in all aspects of work

Deborah recognises that gender equality should be incorporated in all aspects of the work at the University of Sheffield's Grantham Centre. In recognition of this, its Communications Officer worked with female students, academics and Deborah to create six blogs to celebrate International Women’s Day. These blogs are reaching thousands of people on Twitter alone and website traffic increased by 300% as a direct result. This work was then used for the university's Annual Report to funders as proof that a focus on diversity has major benefits.

Deborah also looks for ways to support female students and encourages them to let each other know about initiatives and opportunities –  particularly on gender issues. She cites an example of the 500 Women Scientists organisation, which aims to empower women to reach their full potential and to be advocates for science and equality.

"This organisation was spotted by one of our female students and was publicised via our internal mailing list," explains Deborah. "The Faculty of Science picked up on this and 500 Women Scientists was subsequently publicised to staff as well."

Deborah has also worked with Professional Services colleagues and given students the chance to engage with an Early Career Researchers group for female researchers. Students were part of the early stages of this group and were therefore able to influence the problems to be highlighted.

Through the Grantham Centre training programme Deborah also supports first year University of Sheffield Grantham Scholars as they organise an annual Festival of Debate. She offers students advice on how to recruit an interesting and diverse range of speakers. Scholars are encouraged to contact people as early as possible, so there is time to find a good range of speakers. Debates are planned outside of school holidays in case speakers have childcare responsibilities. Deborah adds that speakers are recruited one at a time so that a good range of people can get involved. These principles also apply to the University of Sheffield's Annual Sustainability lectures.

Increasing diversity of staff recruitment

Since taking on the role of Grantham Centre Manager, Deborah has volunteered to take on responsibility for staff recruitment.

"This is an exciting aspect of my role as recruiting the best staff is both essential for us and the university as a whole. It’s also an opportunity to recruit a better balance of a diverse range of staff," says Deborah.

At one point, they had a vacancy for a new Associate Director for the centre. Deborah explains that this is an important role which includes responsibility for leading on future funding applications, contributing to the doctoral training centre programme and giving advice on strategy and future direction of the centre’s work.

"All our current Directors and Associate Directors were male and I wanted to encourage a more diverse range of applicants for the post. I consulted Katie Bryan and Charlotte Axon in Human Resources and Katherine Linehan, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Faculty of Science," says Deborah. "They all provided invaluable advice on the job advert and introduced me to Textio – an online tool that helps write job descriptions and adverts that encourage a greater diversity of applicants."

For Deborah, using Textio led to many high quality applications for the role. They were then then able to do interviews for the post and subsequently appointed Dr Rachael Rothman to be the Associate Director. Rachael works in Chemical and Biological Engineering and was the Faculty Director for Women in Engineering between 2014 and 2017, leading the faculty's equality and diversity activities.

"Collaboration with HR lead to some great outcomes; we now have a more diverse range of leaders in our team of Directors and Associate Directors. In addition I have had an opportunity to work closely with colleagues in the Faculty of Science and HR," says Deborah. "As a direct result of our collaboration the text that we created for the EDI statement in the advert has now been adopted for all job adverts in the Faculty of Science."

"In future I would like to continue working on EDI issues and see how together we can all spread good practice more widely across all faculties at the University of Sheffield."

Join impressive women like Deborah at the University of Sheffield

With a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and gender equality, there are plenty of opportunities for strong candidates in a host of academic and support roles at the University of Sheffield. Search and apply for exciting and challenging jobs today. 


Find out more

Stay connected by subscribing to our monthly newsletter and following us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

Share this page:

Join our women's careers community