'It sends an important message'

Recognition for two psychologists in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. Ella Rhodes reports.

A former president of the British Psychological Society and a psychologist who supports women returning to work have been named on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Professor of Social Psychology Dorothy Miell (University of Edinburgh; pictured left), President of the society from 2014 to 2015, was awarded an OBE for services to higher education and psychology. Also one of the university’s Vice Principals as head of its College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Miell’s research has focused on creative collaboration in music communication in relationships. Her research has seen her working in numerous and varied contexts including explorations of collaboration among primary and secondary school students, musicians and computer scientists.

Miell, also a Fellow of the BPS and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said: ‘It was a huge surprise to get the letter – I was very taken aback as it’s not something anyone expects as you go about everyday work! Given all the recent publicity about the "value" of degrees (and the suggestion from ministers that psychology is not the high value qualification we see it as), at a time when we also see the enormous and growing need for psychologists in society, I was particularly pleased that higher education and psychology were being recognised through the Honours system… it sends an important message, albeit indirectly.’ Outside psychology Miell is a member of the board of the Edinburgh International Festival, Scottish Opera and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

After completing her undergraduate degree and PhD at Lancaster University, Miell moved into working with the Open University (OU). ‘I… was immensely proud of that institution’s mission to open up top quality education to anyone who wanted to study and make complex ideas and material accessible to all. The care and work (and fiercely argued alternatives!) that went into course production at the OU was inspiring and I worked with teams of fantastic colleagues, consultant authors, learning technologists, BBC producers and students over the years there.’

Aside from her roles in the BPS presidential team Miell had been involved with the organisation throughout her career. She organised one of the first UK-wide postgraduate conferences, the precursor to the Psychology Post Graduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG) and served on numerous committees and the Board of Trustees. ‘A particular highlight was working with many colleagues on the report on the Future of Psychology Education, as well as my presidential year where I got to meet so many students, researchers and members and grappled with drafting a new Strategic Plan for the 2015-2020 period of the Society, which set the framework for so many of the significant changes that have taken place recently and are still playing through.’

Although Miell has worked in an academic management role for the last few years she continues to work with PhD students who are exploring the psychology of music and creative collaboration. ‘I’ve not had time to do new empirical research whilst here but have been pleased to work with colleagues and authors across the world on a series of edited texts on these topics, the latest being the Handbook of Musical Identities, co-edited with Raymond MacDonald and David Hargreaves, and published by Oxford University Press in 2017. My research on promoting successful collaboration across disciplines and particularly psychological studies of creative working has been very helpful in managing the work across the College I lead here, where promoting and supporting multidisciplinary research and education is a key goal.’

Occupational Psychologist and chartered Society member Julianne Miles, awarded the MBE for services to business and equality, co-founded Women Returners which works to create supportive routes back into work for professionals who have taken extended career breaks for various reasons including childcare. Now Chief Executive of the business Miles also acts as an advocate for returning professionals in government, business and other policy forums, and co-wrote the Government Equalities Office guidance for employers on returner programmes.

Since 2014 Women Returners has worked with more than 60 organisations to set up returnships, or short-term contracts in a person’s area of interest with added mentoring and support, and often with the opportunity of a longer contract at the end of the initial period. Miles has also set up the Women Returners Professional Network which provides free advice and support to more than 5,000 women on career breaks.

Writing on LinkedIn Miles said she was proud and delighted to be recognised for her work in tackling the career break penalty women face. ‘In 2014, career returners were largely invisible in UK business and society. Today they are an established target group for employers in many sectors, returner programmes are becoming a normal part of annual recruitment, we have over 5,000 returners in our free Women Returners community, there's a returners unit in Government, and most importantly hundreds of returners are back in great jobs, stronger than ever. This was not a solo effort. I’d like to thank the amazing Women Returners team for their passion and dedication and the many returner champions who support our work within their own organisations. I'm excited by the impact we will make together in the next 5 years!’

- Read our 2014 interview with Miell and keep your eyes peeled for an in-depth interview with Miles in a future issue. 

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