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Charlotte Smith

EDI and Strategic Projects Facilitator

RDM Strategic

Tell us about your role.

I work with colleagues to enable an equitable and inclusive departmental culture. My role originally focussed on Athena Swan (gender), but I now look at the wider range of protected characteristics and intersectional attributes. 

How did you get to where you are now?  Please describe your career path.

I moved to Oxford and started working at the University in 2004, before then I worked for as an IT project manager. My first job at the University was a joint role, working as a personal and administration assistant and providing support for a research group. It was a fantastic role to help me get to know a range of colleagues and subject areas. After a few years I started to specialise in administration which included finance and personnel.

In 2010 I took a break for about a year, upon my return I started in a part-time research administration post in Biochemistry and I was also asked to help with Biochemistry’s Athena Swan application. Since 2014, and after the research admin role ended (it was project funded), I concentrated on working on working EDI with several departments. I moved to RDM in 2017.

What is the most meaningful or rewarding aspect of your work?

In 2014 Athena Swan and EDI was often seen as a niche area. It is good to see it becoming an accepted part of departmental action plans and integral for a successful research culture.

Are there challenges you would you like others to know about, in your career path or in your current role, and how have you overcome these?

I had been approached to work on Athena Swan because of my project management skills and I knew little about gender equality. I did a lot of homework and networking with colleagues so that I could ensure that I was up to speed on the subject area, and I am continually working to expand my EDI knowledge. I read, I talk to colleagues, I attend (and organise) seminars often based on people with different lived experiences of disability, race, gender identities, from my own so that I can continue to learn.

I didn’t have a good time at school and left before A-levels though I did go back into education in my 20’s and went on to get a degree. These experiences reinforce my belief in equity and fairness across academia, it also means I frequently get a strong sense of imposter syndrome about working at Oxford.

Can you tell us about things you’ve done, and/or contributed to, that you’re proud of?

Becoming a subject expert in Athena Swan and gender equality. I’m also very proud of setting up and supporting a network of EDI colleagues across Oxford.

Are there any particular skills or behaviours which have helped you get to your current role?

I have moved roles types several times and being flexible and open has helped me make the most of new opportunities. Despite having a bad time at school, I enjoy learning and being curious about different subject areas.

I try to be, and to model, behaviours that are optimistic, open, honest and friendly.

Are there any tips you would give to someone who wants a career in your field?

Be creative in thinking about the skills you already have, whatever your background you will have something to offer. Then learn about your subject, and share your expertise / knowledge with colleagues to build yourself and your colleagues up.