I drifted into archaeology at a time when I was very adrift in my life. Growing up in the 1980s amid the ‘perfect storm’ of homophobic legislation around the Age of Consent and equal employment rights, as well as the social and political ramifications of the appearance of Clause 28 and HIV/AIDS I had few career options and even fewer positive LGBT role models to guide my career path. This experience has informed how I developed my own pedagogical practice as a values-led teacher who is committed to inclusion, something that is also to be found in the UKPSF’s values of diversity and equality of opportunity (V1, V2).
I was encouraged by colleagues to apply for PFHEA because, although I am only a Senior Lecturer, my advocacy for LGBT inclusion in Liverpool and beyond has directly, and indirectly, informed and shaped the practice of others across the disciplines. To prepare my PFHEA application I worked with a mentor and went through a long process of critical self-reflection. I came to the realisation that strategic leadership in HE takes many different forms. I may not have the ex officio powers of a Dean or a VC to design and implement policy but I have worked hard to understand the disciplinary cultures of others and have creatively worked with those cultural contexts to develop sustainable strategies that bring the lived experiences of LGBT people to the awareness of our ‘straight’ colleagues, who may never have had cause to think about it before.
Cultural development within departments is crucial because this is the reality within which most staff and students operate. As management guru Peter Drucker famously said: "organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast" and although university senates may pass equality policies from on high they are rarely promoted at a grassroots level in busy departments concerned with teaching and research. It’s not about preaching political correctness, but sharing with colleagues our experiences as LGBT people in the same discipline so that we can all reflect on our own teaching practices as a community of practice. Occasional small messages and recognitions are sometimes all it takes to foster a culture of inclusion within a department, such as a carefully chosen case study within a core module or a departmental event for LGBT History Month (which is February by the way folks – so get planning!).
I am humbled to have been recognised with Principal Fellowship because I consider myself to be just a jobbing academic with a passion for archaeology and inclusive learning. Having been honoured in this way, I hope to use the potential of the PFHEA to continue to develop my advocacy for LGBT inclusion in HE and I’m excited about the future.