‘Life-changing’ technical leadership programme celebrates successes

More than 170 technicians have completed a pioneering national leadership programme which has been developed to tackle the workforce imbalance and equality gap within the UK’s technical community.

The Herschel Programme for Women in Technical Leadership, named after Caroline Herschel – a pioneer in the discovery of comets and an early ‘technician’ – concluded its six-month pilot with a celebration event in London.

53 higher education and research institutions from across the UK were represented on the unique programme designed and delivered by the University of Nottingham and the Research England funded Midlands Innovation TALENT programme with 27 individuals partaking from Midlands Innovation universities. 

Co-created with technical and organisational development experts to address topics specifically relevant to women in technical roles, the programme set out to elevate and advance career opportunities for current and aspiring leaders who identify as women.

Technicians reflected on the changes they had experienced as a result of completing the programme, with many having successfully applied for new jobs and development opportunities.

Sarah Goodwin, MAM Administrator at the University of Salford said: “The Herschel Programme has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and has changed my life for the better. It has helped me to find the confidence to recently apply for a secondment within a higher technical role that I got with the help of the course. I used the knowledge that was passed down to me from these inspiring women and will be forever grateful. I am very excited for the future and what’s to come.”

In an inspiring keynote talk from Professor Carole Mundell, President of the Science Council and Head of Astrophysics at the University of Bath said: “Diversity is critical within teams and experienced leaders help scientists answer fundamental questions. Technicians enrich and influence teams, open new ways of working and drive new discoveries, developments and impact.”

She shared personal career highlights and encouraged the group of leaders to be curious, say yes to new opportunities and experiences and be confident as visible leaders at the frontiers of knowledge.

The celebration event featured a special talk from Kelley Swain, author of Double the Stars, a book inspired by Caroline Herschel’s incredible story of endurance and adaptability. Kelley’s book and its themes have been central to the programme and all delegates were gifted their own copy of a dedicated Herschel Programme edition book on course completion.

Kelley Swain said: “Caroline Herschel was the first woman in England to earn salary for her scientific work. She was a tenacious woman and ambitious woman. I hope those on the programme continue in your work as technicians and that you’re inspired by her incredible journey.”

Contributions were also made by Claire Cawthorne, Herschel Programme Director, University of Nottingham and Helen McNamara, Director of Organisational and People Development for the University of Nottingham who chaired a panel discussion with facilitators Sandy Sparks, Denise McLean, Michelle Jackson, Emma Colley and Lindsay Davies.

Kelly Vere MBE, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy for University of Nottingham and TALENT Programme Lead added: “Thank you to all our participants for engaging in the programme, I am incredibly proud of this vibrant network of technical leaders who are already seeing the benefits personally and professionally.

“These achievements are testament to the hard work of the delivery team including colleagues from MI TALENT, the University of Nottingham, University of Leicester and Keele University.

“When we launched this brand new leadership pilot programme we were overwhelmed by the response and number of applications. This shows the value of tailored leadership and management training for the technical community. I hope our Herschel Leaders continue to share their new knowledge, experiences and skills within their institutions and with peers.”

The celebration event took place at Church House Westminster on 14 July.


Notes to editors:

  • Lack of diversity is one of the biggest challenges impacting the future and sustainability of the technical community, highlighted by HESA (18/19) workforce data which identifies 31% of senior technical staff are female and 60% of the total workforce is male.
  • Find out more about the workforce demographic of technicians in the TALENT Commission report: www.mitalent.ac.uk/theTALENTCommission and the EPSRC funded STEMM-CHANGE report ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: A Technician Lens’.
  • 173 technicians completed the national pilot programme.

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