Leadership journey begins for 201 Herschel Programme technicians

Jan 31, 2024

201 technicians from 66 higher education and research institutes have started their six-month leadership journey on the 2024 Herschel Programme for Women in Technical Leadership.

The unique Research England funded programme for current and aspiring technical leaders has been developed to boost the number of women in managerial and leadership roles.

It directly tackles equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) challenges in the workforce. Data shows within higher education and research settings there are only 32% of women in technician management and leadership roles and less than half of those in the technical workforce are women.

An online launch event took place on 31 January 2024 with an inspiring video message from President of Institute of Science and Technology (IST) and the first British Astronaut, Helen Sharman OBE with an insightful technician-led panel discussion with three technicians who completed the 2023 programme.

Dr Helen Sharman OBE said: “I almost didn’t apply for the job as an astronaut, but if I didn’t put myself forward, I would have had no chance. It was incredible to get the job, which I describe as a space technician. Doing something different gave me the confidence to do new things which started the story of the rest of my career.

“The world is changing rapidly, it’s a fabulous time for technicians. The opportunities are going to increase and there’s opportunities to go much further, more quickly. Sometimes we do need to take a chance, make a change, go for it.”

When reflecting on the 2023 programme, the technician panel members shared their experiences and views.

Joanna Scamp from the University of Kent said:

“I noticed a confidence change after Herschel and now I have a greater ability to start conversations and lead from the front. The Action Learning Sets were a great source of collaboration, support and strength.”

Maria Leslie Reed from the Science and Technology Facilities Council RAL Space said:

“A lot of people taking part in the programme were experiencing similar challenges that I was 25 years ago, such as being a parent (mother), under-represented individual and with English not being my first language. Listening to others sharing their stories as a technician and their solutions helped me to step back and reflect.”

Katharina Kreissig, from Imperial College London also commented.

She said: “I was always afraid of networking, now I’ve realised it really doesn’t need to be like that and I found the leadership programme really empowering.”

Dr Kelly Vere, MBE University Director of Technical Strategy for University of Nottingham and Director for the UK Institute for Technical Skills & Strategy added:

“We are so excited to launch this programme for the third year in 2024. We know that one of the challenges in the sector is a lack of diversity within technical management and leadership roles; we are determined to change this. The bespoke modules within this programme will give you confidence, skills and tools to develop within your own roles and further assert the valuable role of technicians within your institutions.”

This unique initiative was initially piloted within the Research England funded Midlands Innovation TALENT programme, which is committed to advancing the careers, status and visibility of technicians. To ensure the sustainability of the initiative, the programme is now delivered through the UK Institute for Technical Skills and Strategy.

The 2024 programme will conclude in July 2024.

Applications for the 2025 cohort are expected to open in September 2024. Find out more here https://itss.org.uk/herschel-programme/