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Understanding Women's Work and Family Lives

8 November 2016

This symposium, co-ordinated by the Mile End Institute's Deputy Director Dr Helen McCarthy, asked what insights humanities and social science scholars, particularly social and cultural historians, can bring to ongoing policy-oriented conversations about gender equality at work and in the home.

Time: 9:45am
Venue: British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London

The panels explored strategies to capture 'subjective' experience and open a conversation about the value of this kind of research to policymakers and employers.  

The symposium created new connections between academics, policy experts, government and employers with a particular focus on early-career researchers.  

The event was supported by the British Academy’s Rising Star Engagement Award and by a conference grant kindly
provided by the Social History Society

Read Dr Helen McCarthy's blog: Subjectivity: The Next Challenge for Evidence-Based Policymaking?

Full programme:

9.45am: Arrivals and refreshments

10.15am: Welcome, overview and introduction to the Working Motherhood Photography Project by Helen McCarthy (Queen Mary University of London) and photographer Leonora Saunders, supported by the Centre for Public Engagement, Queen Mary University of London.

10.45am – 12.15pm: Capturing Subjective Experience: Lessons from the Humanities and Social Sciences

In this panel, speakers from a range of disciplinary perspectives will offer short reflections on how they have approached the challenge of capturing subjective experience, past and present, in their research.

Speakers:
• Dr Laura King, University Academic Fellow in Health, Family and the Everyday, School of History, University of Leeds
• Professor Linda McDowell FBA, Professor of Human Geography, University of Oxford
• Professor Janet Fink, Professor of Childhood and Personal Relationships, University of Huddersfield
• Professor Jane Millar FBA, Professor of Social Policy, University of Bath

Chair and discussant: Professor Pat Thane FBA, Professor of Contemporary History, Kings College London

12.15 – 1pm: Lunch

1pm – 2.30pm: Translating Subjectivity into Evidence-Based Policy

In this panel, speakers from a range of organisations will discuss how ‘user needs’ are conceptualized and captured within policy settings, both in government and in the workplace, and reflect upon the extent to which insights from humanities and social science research are drawn upon by those shaping the policymaking process.

Speakers:
• Frances Smith, Government Equalities Office
• Ceri Goddard, Director of Equality Innovation, The Young Foundation
• Kathryn Nawrockyi, Gender Equality Director, Business in the Community
• Scarlet Harris, Women’s Equality Officer, TUC

Chair: Helen McCarthy

2.30pm – 3.30pm: Breakout Session 

In this session, participants will break into three groups to reflect in a more discursive and interactive setting on how the perspectives shared in earlier sessions might be applied in three concrete policy areas: Parental Leave, Childcare, and Flexible Working.

Questions to structure the discussion:
• How are ‘user needs’ currently conceptualized in relation to this policy area?
• How do those designing policies think about the needs and preferences of the women (and men) they will affect?
• To what extent do policymakers and employers draw upon insights from humanities and social science research in this policy area?
• What mechanisms exist for knowledge-sharing across academia, government and industry, and how well are they working? Are some academic disciplines better connected than others?
• What particular issues or problems in this policy area might humanities and social science research help to illuminate?
• What are the barriers to stronger and more effective dialogue between policymakers and humanities and social science researchers?

3.30 – 3.45pm: Coffee break

3.45 – 4.30pm: Feedback and Final Reflections

In this panel, each group will report back key messages from the breakout sessions. This will be followed by an open discussion of actions and possibilities coming out of the workshop, with a focus on strengthening future dialogue across academia, government and industry.

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