TALENT concludes pioneering national leadership programme for women

Vibrant national network of women leaders ‘reach for the stars’

More than 330 technicians have completed a pioneering national leadership programme which has been developed to tackle the workforce imbalance and equality gap within the UK’s higher education, research and innovation technical community.

The Herschel Programme for Women in Technical Leadership concluded its six-month programme with a celebration event in Birmingham.

It is the second time this national programme has been offered to technicians, who identify as women, which has been delivered by the University of Nottingham and the Research England funded MI TALENT programme.

The 2023 cohort has representation from more than 70 higher education and research institutions. Those who completed the programme reflected on the changes they had experienced, with many having successfully applied for new jobs and development opportunities.

Catherine Hartley, Senior Technician (Infection and Biology) at the University of Liverpool successfully applied for a new role recently.

She said: “Before Herschel, I wouldn’t have applied for this role; this leadership programme gave me the confidence to do so, thanks to the modules and support from friends I’ve made.

“It is fantastic realising, as a technician, you’re not alone in your challenges – no matter what role or field you’re in.

“I particularly enjoyed the culture modules. It made me realise the value of shared environments to support collaboration and the value of promoting what technicians do within immediate networks and your own institution.”

Professor Carole Mundell, Director of Science, European Space Agency delivered an inspiring keynote talk at the celebration event.

She said: “Technicians are hidden superheroes who have, for decades, played a mission-critical role in the space sector, keeping people safe and providing technical leadership.”

Her advice to the audience of 300 was to “build a culture of learning, make time for you, learn your physical and cognitive limits and, just say yes to opportunities.”

Dr Kelly Vere, MBE University Director of Technical Strategy for the University of Nottingham added: “After the success of the leadership pilot last year, we knew we needed to offer this to more people, based on the feedback and the impact it delivered.

“With almost double the number of people taking part in the programme’s second year, this highlights the value of tailored leadership and management opportunities for the technical community.

“As part of the new UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy (ITSS), we have secured future funding for the Herschel Programme to continue and expand its network.

“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.

“In total, 506 delegates from 82 unique organisations have benefited from this programme in the last 18 months. I hope our Herschel Leaders continue to share their new knowledge, experiences and skills within their institutions and with peers.”

The 2023 celebration event took place on 19 July 2023 in Birmingham. It 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. 

Contributions were also made by Claire Cawthorne, Herschel Programme Director, University of Nottingham and Helen McNamara, Director of Organisational & People Development for the University of Nottingham chaired a panel discussion with facilitators Denise McLean, Emma Colley and Jenny Wilkinson.


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.

The Herschel Programme for Women in Technical Leadership has been 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.

The programme is named after Caroline Herschel – a pioneer in the discovery of comets and an early ‘technician’.

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’.



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