Policy Lobbying and Activism
Making a real change at King's
The Policy Lobbying and Advocacy (PLA) team has chosen to focus on three main policies for the year, aligned with issues that have been highlighted to us as the most pressing.
Got a policy you'd like us to look into, introduce or change? Contact us at email@example.com
Inclusive Seating Policy
In the Natural and Mathematical Sciences (NMS) faculty at King's College London, there already exists an inclusive seminar policy for undergraduates which states that if a seminar group cannot have at least two women, it is better to have none. This is to ensure that no woman will be the ‘only’ woman in the group.
Aims for the year: We plan to introduce this policy to other Heads of Faculties and give them the opportunity to give it a trial run. Collect data on the number of students who identify as women in seminars, tutorials and practical sessions. Conduct surveys to gauge an idea of how women in STEM feel in terms of confidence in-class participation and to assess whether any hesitation is influenced by male dominance in classes.
How this benefits the future of King’s: Ostracisation of women in STEM would be lessened. Class participation from women increased. More confidence from women in their degrees. Understanding of the importance of women in STEM from male counterparts.
MCF Mental Health Follow-Up
Across NMS, there has been an increase in submitted MCFs for mental health issues and based on WiSTEM’s previous surveys and anecdotal evidence from representatives in the Chemistry department, female science students are disproportionately suffering. What is also clear is that the student counselling services are horribly inadequate, with waiting lists up to 12 weeks.
In recognition that this is arguably a college-wide issue and not something that the faculties we are in talks with can do much about, we suggest a simple policy which we hope will help to get students the help they need.
Aims for this year: Implement a staff King’s Women’s Officer for every faculty.
How this benefits the future of King’s: Women in STEM will feel safer and have someone to talk to and confide in on campus. These will be confidential meetings and will help the students navigate other mental health resources to find what they need to improve their own wellbeing.
Parental Rights’ Policy
There is currently no overview over which funding bodies provide which parental rights (and compensation) for funded PhD students. We believe that it is the responsibility of the university, who in every practical sense of the word “employs” PhD students, to provide this information in the most accessible manner.
Therefore, we suggest that a comprehensive document be created, containing all funding bodies and their parental leave rights - i.e. not simply the big research councils. It should also explicitly state what the self-funded student’s options are.
This document should be enclosed with the rest of the induction documents provided to PhD students upon commencing their PhD studies and should be made easily available online. It should remain the responsibility of the university to keep this document up to date (i.e. document should be updated yearly).
WiSTEM believes that the science faculties should lead the way on this policy, but that ideally the upkeep and distribution would be undertaken by the Graduate School.
Women's Safety in London
97% if women 18-24 have been sexually harassed in the UK (1). Sadly, the incidences of this on public transport are all too high and with recent occurrences such as Sarah Everards' murder, this conversation is incredibly important. As a member of the research staff or as a student at KCL, particularly as a PhD or master’s student, you may be expected to work out of hours. It is frequently stated that flexible working in research is key – for example, sometimes human tissue may arrive out of hours, lab-based experiments may run late or research seminars may not finish before six. Although out-of-hours work is sometimes necessary, what must not be forgotten is when working at KCL the staff and students likely have a reasonable commute home. In the winter, when it is dark at 4.30 pm, if someone must stay until 7 pm and then catch the train home alone this can be very threatening and intimidating. Evidence collected by the society highlights at least 60% of students have experienced harassment, sexism, or racism on their journey to or from KCL.
What can we do about this?
- Supervisors can be reminded to be mindful of this
- Buddy systems can be implemented for safe travel to stations (particularly in winter and potentially unsafe areas such as Denmark Hill)
- Work with students and staff to offer solutions for those feeling uncomfortable
- Provide the support necessary if/when these issues do occur
- Ensure events are not always hosted after hours
Aims for this year: Provide an environment where staff and students feel supported in their safety on accessing KCL.
How this benefits the future of King’s: Women in STEM will feel safer and supported in incidences of harassment.