Research fellow takes findings on national tour

Image for Kate Thomas' news story on gender research

One of our academics has disrupted the ways in which research findings can be presented, showcasing her work on gender through a series of acclaimed poetry performances, workshops and graphic essays.

Research findings – done differently

Kate Carruthers-Thomas, Senior Research Fellow and Project Manager for the ATHENA Swan Project, has spent the latter half of 2018 on the g word tour. It has seen Kate articulate findings from her Gender(s) at Work project through the medium of poetry performance, entitled Glass, a series of interactive workshops and presentations, and visual mapping.

“Gender(s) at Work yielded a significant amount of qualitative data about gendered experiences of work and career in higher education (HE),” Kate says. “While I’d been reporting this data via the usual academic channels, I felt these pathways couldn’t do such rich and complex data justice.”

Kate was also keen for other universities and institutes to benefit from her analysis, “including audiences who were unlikely to attend academic conferences or read publications.” That drive, combined with her emerging interest in graphic and poetic methods of reporting, resulted in the birth of the g word tour.

What goes on tour

“The g word tour was a way of bringing these together and experimenting further,” she reveals. “I devised two programmes – one focused on the research findings and implications in relation to gender experiences of working in HE. The other primarily focusing on my emerging practice of graphic social science.” The programmes and options are offered as standalone options or can be mixed and matched as required, with bespoke packages also available.

“The purpose of presenting these research findings in different formats and media is to enable individuals to learn about what can be a tricky and uncomfortable subject,” Kate says. “People might feel a conventional academic presentation on research findings on gender isn’t relevant to them, but they may hear voices similar to theirs during the poetic sequence.”

New territory

Not only has it been an enriching, eye-opening experience for her audiences, it has also been a journey into the unknown for Kate herself. “I’m learning as I go along, which is what makes it so interesting,” she says. “Glass is partly composed of my research participants’ actual words and I move around the space as I perform the individual sections. The graphic essay, My Brilliant Career? An Investigation, is an exhibit that can be engaged with at a much slower pace than a conventional conference.”

Raising awareness and changing methods

When it comes to the positive contributions Gender(s) at Work will make, Kate anticipates it will occur in a range of categories. “There will be enhanced and wider awareness of issues related to gender equality in the workplace. This will hopefully lead to renewed institutional efforts to engage and listen to staff experiences and implement measures accordingly.

“There will also be more innovation in research practice and methods of reporting research findings, including institutional research. Finally, I predict more energised engagement, including a more critical approach, to the ATHENA Swan agenda.”

An academic in demand

Kate’s tour has proved immensely popular and demand continues to be high – she is already booked in for a slew of dates across 2019, including for International Women’s Day. “I’m delighted at the level of interest,” she says. “I anticipated some appetite but I am surprised by the breadth of institutes interested. I’m going to be presenting and performing to a range of steering groups, women’s networks and conferences, diversity conferences, and a whole host of students and researchers.”