Meghan Grant, Geography & Environment, University of Liverpool (2021 Cohort)
Generation Delta is a project which aims to support the next generation of women professors of colour. The project is coordinated across six universities and puts on workshops to support PhD students throughout the PhD process. As a host of Bending Boundaries, a Podcast sponsored by the NWSSDTP, this event also felt very relevant to the equality and diversity aims of the DTP. Bending Boundaries aims to encourage a broader range of applications to do a PhD but also highlight the fascinating research that can be done during a PhD. These sessions highlighted the ups and downs of doing a PhD but also practical steps to make the process more manageable.
This session was part of a series of sessions which will take place between 2022 and 2026, which aim to illuminate the PhD process for women of colour PhD students. The day started with a presentation explaining the aims of the project and how it got started. They shared statistics which highlight the problem Generation Delta are trying to address. Women from BAME backgrounds account for 2.3% of UK professors; less than 1% of Black African and Caribbean heritage. There are similarly small numbers of funded black PhD students making up only 1.2 per cent of the nearly 20,000 funded PhD studentships available. So even though, there is increasing diversity in participation at undergraduate level this does not translate at higher levels of academia, these sessions are aiming to understand and bridge this gap. One of the ways they are doing this is to demystify the PhD process, allow PhD students to build networks and support wellbeing.
The event at the University of Reading was focused on the academic upgrading process. Professor Adrian Williams, at the University of Reading did a presentation on the Academic Upgrade process. He highlighted that this is a step in the PhD which a lot of students are not aware of. Which made me and the woman sitting next to me feel better as we sat there unsure about what this meant. Thankfully later on I did realise I had heard of this step but it has different names and steps depending on the university you attended, in my department it is called an IPAP. A key takeaway from this presentation was to think of the process as an opportunity to present yourself and your research to an academic audience who may not be familiar with your field. We also heard from other students about their experience of the process which was really helpful and they shared tips for preparation, some of the questions to expect and that it was not as scary as they had expected.
The day ended with a wellbeing session which focused on the importance of having balance within your PhD journey. We wrote letters to ourselves about how we hope to create more balance in our lives. Although I was concerned mine became more of a to-do list than something focused on wellbeing it was useful to think about how things outside the PhD impact your approach and ability to work.
It was a really informative day but also an amazing opportunity to network with other women of colour PhD students from across the country. It was a space where we could talk to peers and also meet women of colour academics who are working to support us as PhD students. It was also a safe space for many of us to share experiences which relate to our role as PhD students but also how this intersects with our ethnicity and cultural background. These discussions could be about trying to celebrate a cultural event with colleagues, language barriers for students with English as a second language and the importance of building a PhD community.