Gender stereotypes and student life

Equal BITE is a crowd-sourced ‘recipe’ book which aims to share advice and suggestions to minimise negative stereotypes about men and women. The project supports equal opportunities to people, regardless of their gender, within this University and beyond.  Our focus is on strategies which make student (and work) life better for everyone.

Achieving equality covers a wide range of activities and things to ponder. Here are some examples:

The visibility of women

  • If you are an arts and humanities student, how many of the writers, artists, musicians, philosophers etc. whose work you study are women? Should this change?
  • Who are the buildings you have lectures in named after? Who are the portraits in University buildings of?
  • Who teaches you? Are both genders are well represented in your subject, particularly in senior roles?

The influence of bias

  • There are several studies which show that students tend to rate female teaching staff lower than male teaching staff regardless of more objective measures such as grades awarded, time taken to provide feedback etc. Could unconscious bias be influencing your view of the teaching staff on your courses?
  • This might involve looking at human resource processes to check that gender is not influencing appointment or promotion decisions, how much someone is paid or who gets to have flexible working hours.

The culture and working environment.

  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable on campus because of your gender? This could include things like being on the receiving end of sexist comments or feeling that your contributions to class discussions are ignored.
  • It could also be pressure to act in a certain way based on traditional gender roles which don’t feel like you. Or being discouraged from choosing a particular career path.
  • Do you get annoyed when it feels like there are opportunities or support you would like but miss out on because of your gender?

What do you think?

We are running a short survey until 16th December where you can add your thoughts.


National research evaluation and its effects on female academics’ careers in the UK.

The School of Education at The University of Edinburgh hosted Emily Yarrow from Queen Mary University on the 19th of April, and it was a well-attended seminar with lively constructive discussion

Abstract of her talk:

This research investigates gender equality issues surrounding the Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014), and how these may manifest themselves in the career development and career trajectories of female academics in the UK.  The potentially harmful effects of research evaluation on academic careers, the way in which research evaluation and its outcomes are managed and experienced, and the extent to which this may intensify academic work are all considered as well as being integral aspects of the interview guides. However, this research also explores, through some of the emergent themes from the interviews, how research evaluation and its outcomes may be used as a vehicle for success by some academics. Through exploring new managerialism, gendered academic career trajectories and research evaluation through a feminist lens, this research compares and contrasts different Schools in Humanities and Social Sciences in an anonymous UK university, in order to provide contemporary insight into the lived experiences of female academics in the context of REF2014. A key theme in the reviewed literature is the importance of transparency and accountability in recruitment and selection processes. The notion that research evaluation is damaging for gender equality in the academy is explored to an extent in the literature, but this research further argues that the ability to negotiate managerial control and being politically savvy is increasingly important in academia in the UK. Currently, aspects of the preliminary findings also point toward elements of the above, though at this stage the analysis is in it’s infancy. This study is influenced, in part, by the works of Acker (2006), Bagilhole and Goode (2001), Deem (1998), Halsey (1982), Van den Brink and Benschop (2011), Willmott (1995) and Wilson (1991), as well as the current socio-political academic environment in the UK. A case study approach, comprising of 80 qualitative interviews in different Schools in Humanities and Social Sciences in an anonymous UK university has been adopted. The sample covers a range of female academics from Early Career Researchers to Professors, a range of ages and experiences, as well as Key Respondents which include Heads of School, Research Directors and REF Managers.

More about Emily Yarrow here.

You can follow her on twitter here.


One for the ladies, riposte: International Women’s Day #IWD

In celebration of International Women’s Day – here we share a brand new recipe in progress from our upcoming book!

The EqualBITE team are now busy with editing the recipes we have received so far so if you have sent us a recipe we will be contacting you shortly.

And stay tuned for information about  our ‘Edit’ workshops where you can finalise your recipe with help from us.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter.

Have a great day all you fabulous ladies!

The EqualBITE team.


Have you ever found yourself responsible for all “ladies issues” in your department by virtue of being female? Here is another of our recipes in progress, by Jane Hillston in Informatics. Jane has some wise words on how to hand back a gender related problem to the person who raised it. If you have any more ideas on this theme, leave a comment below.

Author: Jane Hillston

Flavour:  crispy freshness

Serve to:  male colleagues

Number of servings: one

Cost/resource:  resolve and a smile


In my discipline of computer science the proportion of women is stubbornly low, despite at least two decades of efforts and initiatives to try and make the topic more attractive, particularly to female undergraduates.   Sometimes male colleagues find themselves in a situation where the low female participation rate is strikingly obvious, for example teaching a first year class and being confronted by a sea of male faces.  They are shocked and outraged that this should still be the case and feel something should be done.  And then, take the first opportunity they can to hand the problem over to a female colleague….

Similarly, in the UK, we have the Athena SWAN initiative which recognizes departments which are able to demonstrate commitment and progress on supporting  gender equality, through an extensive process of data collection and self-assessment.  Many heads of departments immediately assume that such a self-assessment team must be led by a woman….

This is a recipe for trying to counter-act that assumption that tackling gender equality is a problem that must be addressed by women.  Of course it is often the case that women are passionate about their subject and keen to increase the proportion of women within the field.  But such passion should not be taken advantage of: tackling this problem can be just as challenging and time-consuming as any other academic administrative task.  Improving gender balance should not be regarded as something that female academics adopt as a hobby; like all academic administrative tasks it should be included in the workload model and allocation of duties process.  Fixing these attitudes in general is more of a slow cooker recipe, taking a long time simmering over a low heat.

In contrast, this recipe aims to assist women who feel the role of female champion being foisted upon them at that moment.  Think of it as a peppery salad with lots of balsamic vinegar.


  • A situation in which gender imbalance is startlingly obvious.
  • An outraged male colleague who feels self-righteous for noticing the problem.
  • A female colleague who just happened to be the first he thought of, or the first he met, after the onset of his outrage.


  1. Bite your lip, count to ten and smile.
  2. Whilst counting to ten, try to think of male colleagues who could plausibly take on the role being thrust upon you – you’re a women, you should have no difficulty multi-tasking! For example, why shouldn’t the colleague responsible for student admissions tackle the problem of female undergraduate    Of course, his unconscious bias may be the reason for the low numbers, but this is only an opening gambit.
  3. When you reach ten, congratulate your colleague on his insight. Be careful with your use of language because you are aiming to be supportive without accepting ownership of the problem yourself.  So, for example, do not thank him for bringing the situation to your attention.  Instead ask what he plans to do about it, saying that you will be happy to support him, but making it clear that you expect him to take the lead.
  4. He will almost certainly present a list of reasons why he doesn’t have the time to take on this extra responsibility. Agree with him that yes, it is unreasonable to be expected to assume additional responsibility by a chance association with the problem, such as being the one to notice it or being a woman.  Hopefully the irony will not be lost on him. Doing this should make it difficult for him to pass the problem to you.
  5. Now deploy your alternative suggestion and enter into a discussion of how the problem could be seen to fall within the remit of an existing administrative role. There are two alternatives here.  Either the problem could be seen to fall within an existing role in which case the colleague responsible should be encouraged to broaden their perspective of the role to encompass this additional challenge.  For example, this would be the case for female undergraduate recruitment.  Alternatively, if it is a genuinely new role, such as coordinating an Athena SWAN self-assessment team, it should be allocated in the appropriate way, with appropriate recognition for the colleague who takes it on.
  6. Aim to close the conversation with your colleague with a clear plan of action (on his part). This can be followed up on later with an email, saying you enjoyed your discussion and copying in the colleague that you jointly identified as being the most appropriate person to take action.


Cook’s tips

Try to keep the tone light-hearted and avoid confrontation.  It is easy to feel annoyance at the assumption that gender problems need to be tackled by women, but keep this in check.  Instead adopt a dressing of sympathy and encouragement, for a conversational salad with firmness and crunch.  Omit all bitterness.


Playing this game of academic administration hot potato is not for the faint-hearted or weak-willed.  Care is needed to avoid being overly helpful.  A firm hand and firm words are needed to return the potato to its originator.


EqualBITE workshops – upcoming

Hi all,

We have a few upcoming workshops to share with you:

Writing Workshop 5 – Tues 9 February 2016

The Facebook event for the workshop can be found here.

Writing workshop 6 –  Innovative Learning Week – Tues 16 February 2016

Book a place:

The Facebook event for the workshop can be found here.

Have a look at our post about how to prepare for a workshop here.

Looking forward to seeing you there! If you have any questions, please email us at or tweet us at @EqualBITE.

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How to prepare for an EqualBITE workshop

EqualBITE-plasma-screenThere may be many different reasons why you are coming to an EqualBITE workshop.

Perhaps you have been working with the Athena Swan project and want to see how you can carry on the great work the University has been doing.  Or you may have been grappling with a gender equality issue for yourself, or your students, or with your lecturers and supervisors, and want to share this with other people.  Or you are becoming aware of how gender equality touches your life and career prospects – or you may just be curious to see what this is all about.

The workshops last two hours and you will get the most out of them, and contribute the most, with some preparation, some preliminary thinking about what you are bringing:

  •  An experience you have had that you wish you had tackled differently?
  •  An issue that you are confronted with that you have no idea how to approach?
  •  An episode that you handled well, and would like to past on the knowledge?
  •  A discrepancy between policy and implementation that you have become aware of and would like to highlight.
  •  A personal realisation and new awareness that you would like to share.

During the workshop we will be using the ‘Shut-Up-And-Write’ technique, and offer it as a valuable tool for whatever work you are doing in the future – and we serve you great pastries.

See you there!

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone,

The EqualBITE team is back after a comfortable festive holiday. And have you checked out our new logo designed by Dave McNaughton. We think he has really captured the spirit of the project!


Anyhow, here’s some information about our first writing workshop of 2016:

Writing Workshop – Tues 19th of January

  • 9.30 -11.30 (coffee available from 9.15)
  • Ground Floor Seminar Room, Roslin Institute
  • Book a place here:

Looking forward to seeing you there! If you have any questions, please email us at or tweet us at @EqualBITE.

EqualBITE Writing Workshops

EqualBITE Writing Workshops

As mentioned in our first blog post, we are co-creating a recipe book for university communities worldwide to share stories to inform, entertain & inspire to achieve gender equality. We’ve already had two that went really well, and here’s information about the next ones taking place so that you can join in! It’s free and anyone at The University of Edinburgh (staff, head of departments, cleaners, caterers, project managers, secretaries, students, teaching fellows, post-grads, part-timers, undergraduate students etc) can join! And it includes free coffee! You sign-up to the meet-up through your MyED login – just click on the links and it takes you there automatically!

In these workshops you will be taught how to write about gender equality in the ‘recipe’ format that the BITE book series revolve around. Have a look at ‘BITE: Recipes for Remarkable Research’ to get an idea of what we’re looking for.

Writing Workshop 3 – Thurs 3 December 2015

  • 9.30 -11.30 (coffee available from 9.15)
  • Room 4319A James Clerk Maxwell Building, King’s Buildings
  • Book a place:

Writing Workshop 4 – Tues 19 January 2016

  • 9.30 -11.30 (coffee available from 9.15)
  • Ground Floor Seminar Room, Roslin Institute
  • Book a place:

Writing Workshop 5 – Tues 9 February 2016

  • 9.30 -11.30 (coffee available from 9.15)
  • Meeting Room, Institute for Academic Development (new building on Holyrood Road, near Moray House campus)
  • Book a place:

The content generated from the programme of events will be edited and published as an open access book of recipes, case studies and articles towards the end of 2016. This will be the BITE book of Gender equality recipes.

Excited to see you there!

Welcome to the EqualBITE Blog!

EqualBITE is a ‘recipe book’ which aims to share practical and effective strategies for creating more gender balanced working environments in higher education. The recipes will be written by University of Edinburgh staff and students, drawing from their real life experiences.

The methodology for the project is based on the successful book ‘BITE: Recipes for Remarkable Research’ edited by Judy Robertson, Alison Williams and Derek Jones. Gender equality, like remarkable research, is not straightforward to achieve. There isn’t a quick or easy fix. Legislation around gender equality has had an impact and many organisations have excellent internal policies. However, the implementation of policies and initiatives can vary and are influenced by the culture and environment of the workplace.

research bite

‘BITE: Recipes for Remarkable Research’ Edited by Alison Williams, Derek Jones and Judy Robertson.

See the PDF of the book here

The recipe format developed in the BITE project gives people space to reflect, sometimes humorously, sometimes critically, on how things actually are. Recipes are quick to write and provide people with an opportunity to share practical advice. The recipe metaphor also implies adaptability: ‘here is what worked with these ingredients in this place, but change and tweak to taste’. In large complex organisations like universities, the culture and environment can vary considerably across different departments: being able to adapt effective strategies is likely to enhance their impact.

The book to be produced is not a glossy politically correct version of Edinburgh’s successes in gender equality. Instead it is intended to be a frank exploration of the messy reality. We expect the recipes to highlight some excellent practice but also to show the complexity of enhancing gender equality and to uncover the frustrations people face. The overall tone will be positive and constructive with, we anticipate, real insights to share within the University but also across the higher education sector and beyond.

To find out more about the project, have a look at our page on The University of Edinburgh’s Equality and Diversity page. Also, please sign up to our mailing list here to be kept in touch about the project or email You can also follow us on Twitter and Pinterest.

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