Life-changing technical leadership programme celebrates successes


July 26th, 2022

More than 170 women technicians have completed a pioneering national leadership programme designed and delivered by the university 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 delivered by the University of Nottingham and the Research England funded Midlands Innovation TALENT programme.

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.

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.

Claire Cawthorne, Herschel Programme Director, University of Nottingham said: “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.

“The leadership course has been inspired by Caroline Herschel’s incredible story of endurance and adaptability, two themes central to the programme. Caroline Herschel was the first woman in England to earn a salary for her scientific work. She was a tenacious and ambitious woman who never gave up and her story has been an inspiration for our facilitators and participants.”

All delegates were gifted their own edition of Double the Stars which tells her story on course completion. Kelley Swain, author of Double the Stars, commented: “I hope those on the programme continue in your work as technicians and that you’re inspired by her incredible journey.”

Helen McNamara, Director of Organisational and People Development for the University of Nottingham chaired a panel discussion with course facilitators Sandy Sparks, Denise McLean, Michelle Jackson, Emma Colley and Lindsay Davies.

Kelly Vere MBE, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy for the university 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.

“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 Thursday 14 July.

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