This document provides an overview of the FWSA’s Working Group on Equality and Diversity; it outlines the Group’s historical context, its proposed Terms of Reference, and an indicative action plan to progress the work of the Group.
The FWSA’s Working Group on Equality and Diversity originated in 2012 when then Chair – Dr Alison Phipps – and the Executive Committee agreed that there was a gap in the Executive’s ability to respond to concerns raised by members regarding inappropriate use of the Association’s digital communication platforms (such as its Jisc list) and manage inappropriate conduct from members towards other members
To remind members, specifically, there was discussion within the Association via the Jisc mailing list about the FWSA’s apparent promotion of an event that was perceived to be a breech of the Equality Act 2010; the email had been posted by a member and not promoted by the Association, but nonetheless it was perceived that the posting reflected an endorsement of the particular gender politics surrounding the event by the FWSA. The timely call for an ‘Equality and Diversity’ statement evolved from several of our members querying the ‘stance’ of the FWSA with regard to promoting particular conferences, events and philosophies. A disclaimer was added to the Jisc list to reinforce that the Executive does not moderate the Jisc list and that the events promoted through our promotional channels are not directly the ‘stance’ of the FWSA. Further the disclaimer reinforces the Association’s constitutional commitment to “be non-party as to politics, non-sectarian as to religion, and non-discriminatory in regard to all other matters including gender, age, disability, race and sexuality in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, it was agreed that the Executive’s ability to adequately address such concerns needed further attention.Building on this, an Equality and Diversity working group was established. However, the Exec recognises the concern surrounding the use of terms such as ‘Equality and Diversity’ more generally and what this means in practice for more deeply embedded and institutional inequalities and oppressions. As such, the Working Group particularly welcomes critical approaches to Diversity more broadly, whilst working to move forward on a tangible working policy for the association.
The conception of the Equality and Diversity Working Group, then, was to:
- Develop recommendations for the FWSA’s Executive to reinforce the Association’s Constitutional commitment to equality and diversity legislation within its remit as an academic feminist network; and
- Enable the Executive – as elected representatives of the Association’s membership – to respond adequately to breeches of its Constitution and the Equality Act.
- Clarify to our membership how the association operates in times of potential conflict, and decipher what the FWSA Executive can and cannot do to intervene and facilitate Critical disputes.
The Executive agreed that a member Code of Conduct and Equality and Diversity statement were the best mechanisms to address these concerns. Dr Emily Falconer (Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London Southbank University), who is the current Conference Liaison Officer for the Association, agreed to Chair the Working Group.
Addressing such challenges is challenging and complex and often developed at the point at which associations/societies are established. Having taken advice from the Charity Commission, such activity is normally outlined the association’s constitution and listed as by-laws to which all members signing up to the Association subscribe to and are asked to abide by. In such instances, processes and policies are laid out for members in advance of their joining the association. In our case, the work of the Working Group is adding to existing albeit limited policy and operational guidance provided in the FWSA’s Constitution and it is responsive to requests raised by members to examine these issues and concerns.
Terms of Reference
The proposed Terms of Reference of the Working Group are:
- To develop recommendations to the Executive Committee on the operational mechanisms for managing a code of conduct relating to equality and diversity legislation within the Association’s remit (as laid out by the Association’s Constitution)
It should be noted that the development of a Code of Conduct for members will be developed elsewhere within the FWSA’s portfolio.
The following approach for the Working Group is shared with members:
- Approximately three formal meetings of the Group will be held between October 2014 and April 2015; these will form the substantive task of the group. There will be at least one face-to-face meeting with the remaining meetings taking place via Skype (or equivalent) and development work will be progressed between meetings.
- The outcomes from the Working Group will be presented to the Executive in spring 2015 and discussed at a dedicated Executive Committee meeting. The draft material approved by the Executive will then be presented to members at the Association’s AGM in September 2015.
- The work of the Group will be informed by good practice on equality and diversity guidance and policy – particularly as applied within academic contexts.
- Members of the Association are encouraged to send in recommendations to maximise the effectiveness of the Group’s work.
Join the group
The FWSA Executive remain keen to involve the expertise of our membership in developing the statement. The association has a diverse and active membership of scholars and practitioners who can bring a multitude of perspectives and experience to the working group and this would be an important opportunity for working collaboratively as an active feminist organisation. If you’re interested in getting involved and would like to find out more information, please contact the Chair on firstname.lastname@example.org.