Simonetta and her team have shaped HE employment policies and practices across the sector ensuring better compliance with the 2010 Equality Act which requires the public sector (including HE) to place equality at the core of its activities.
Prompted by research into the role of executive search firms in board-level roles at universities, Simonetta was asked to contribute to the development of two frameworks - one on diversity principles and the other on board recruitment. The resulting frameworks encouraged executive research firms to take active steps to promote diversity. There has been a ripple effect too with the Director of HE recruitment firm SearchHigher reporting that they were applying the same methodology to race, sexuality, disability and other protected characteristics. While it can’t be proved, It’s likely that the work conducted has contributed to the significant rise in women’s representation on university boards from 32% in 2013 to 41.9% in 2018.
Long-term research from the Centre has also led to greater inclusiveness for research academics participating in the Research Excellence Framework - the national evaluation of research quality by UK universities. The research by Simonetta and her colleague Professor Lucy Vickers has helped UK Funding Councils develop clearer guidance on equality, in turn prompting universities to make it easier for staff to disclose equality-related circumstances. The result for the last completed REF of 2014 was a rise in the numbers of researchers submitted with reduced numbers of research outputs, due to equality-related circumstances – for example due to caring responsibilities or disability (from 12.2% in REF 2008 to 29.2% in REF 2014).