This International Women’s Day we are highlighting the range of roles led by women in the Research and Information department (R&I) of UK Parliament, which includes the Commons Library.
In 2019, women made up 51% of R&I, in positions spanning the Librarian, indexers, researchers, communications professionals, online resource managers and leaders of operations and engagement.
R&I publishes impartial research and briefings available to MPs and the general public, a confidential request system for MPs and their staff, maintains the Library’s collection and manages index vocabularies to make parliamentary material easy to find.
Here are just some of the women who contribute to making that happen…
Dr Abbi Hobbs, Social Science Lead, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)
I’m Dr Abbi Hobbs and I’ve been Social Science Lead at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) for seven years.
I joined POST on secondment to embed social science research and methods across its work, and to ensure the best available research is accessible to the legislative process and scrutiny of government.
I work with MPs and parliamentary staff and what I do is really varied. This includes advising on research evidence, developing and delivering professional development opportunities, and building connections between UK Parliament and the wider research community.
I’m proud of working collaboratively and inclusively across Parliament and with external partners to support a more diverse group of researchers to engage with UK Parliament. I’d like to encourage more researchers – especially those from groups we know are under-represented – to get involved!
Anne-Lise Harding, Senior Liaison Librarian, Research Information Services
I’m Anne-Lise, Senior Liaison Librarian in Research Information Services at the House of Commons. I have been in post for a grand total of two months now! It has been a huge but rewarding learning curve. My work focuses on promoting more systematic engagement between Research and Information and select committees. It is a great role as I get to meet and work with a variety of professionals across Parliament.
I returned to education after a first, unfulfilling career and worked my way up to my role in the Commons Library. I am immensely proud to show my daughter that no ambition is out of reach. There is always time to be who you want to be! Take a course, retrain in a different field, volunteer. Go after your passion and don’t let your inner saboteur win.
I’m recommending the Library’s briefing on Level 4 and 5 education because it highlights an often under looked pathway into returning to education.
Clare Lally and Ciara Dwyer, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) Fellows
We are Clare (left) and Ciara (right), post-graduate fellows at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). POST sources reliable evidence for UK Parliament by producing peer-reviewed research briefings (called POSTnotes). These are impartial and designed to make scientific research accessible to the public.
We are undertaking three-month fellowships during their PhDs. Ciara is studying how plants are affected by climate change at Loughborough University and Clare is studying the neuroscience of reading at Royal Holloway University of London.
As POST fellows, we conduct extensive literature reviews and interview experts across academia, industry, NGOs and government. We then collate this evidence into a four-page briefing for MPs, Peers and the public.
Clare: “I’m researching online extremism, which was identified as a concern in the Government’s 2019 Online Harms White Paper. The Commission for Countering Extremism reported that 56% of the public and 73% of practitioners agreed that ‘a lot more’ should be done to counter extremism online.”
Ciara: “I’m exploring the benefits nature provides for human health and well-being. The Government’s 25-year Environment Plan sets out goals to improve the environment such as clean air, plentiful water and protecting threatened wildlife, for which targets will be set under the Environment Bill legislation currently before the house.”
You can read and download all POSTnotes online.
Claire Mills and Louisa Brooke-Holland, defence specialists, International Affairs and Defence
We are Claire (left) and Louisa (right) and we job-share the role of defence specialist in the House of Commons Library. We’ve been in post for 17 and eight years respectively.
Our role is to answer questions from MPs on anything to do with defence policy and the UK armed forces. We publish briefings on topical and relevant issues, whether that’s explaining the implications of Brexit or plans for new ships for the Navy.
We expect to be busy this year with a major government review of defence policy, a new armed forces bill and the forthcoming nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference.
Job-sharing means we get more time to spend with our children and enjoy a really fulfilling job. And our mutual interests extend beyond defence. Our partners both work in theatre and we often swap ideas for great new musicals and shows to see with our kids.
Laura McDonald, Online Resources Manager, Library Resources Section
I’m Laura and I’m the Online Resources Manager in the Library Resources Section. I’ve been in this role since 2013 (including a year for maternity leave in 2016) and I have worked for the Commons Library since 2005.
I manage the contracts for a large set of online services, from legal databases to statistical resources. I negotiate with suppliers to ensure value for money for the House of Commons. This work gives MPs and their staff access to respected and trusted sources of information.
It also helps staff in the Commons Library to access the right material to write research and answer requests for information from MPs. I’m proud to work for the House of Commons and that I’m able to share this with my daughter who attends the nursery here – allowing me a great work life balance.
Liz Marley, Thesaurus Editor, Indexing and Data Management Section
I’m Liz, and I’ve been Parliament’s Thesaurus Editor for about 12 years.
I manage our 40-year-old vocabularies to meet the challenge of changing terminology. This includes keeping pace with evolving names around the current coronavirus, for instance, or working with procedural colleagues to understand developments in Parliament.
I also look at changes in technology; exchanging and importing IDs with our internal systems, Wikidata and others, to try and join things up in an open data world.
I am part of the team which indexes parliamentary business. We are experts in library science, knowledge and information management, and open web standards.
When I’m not at work, I’m honing my post-apocalyptic skill set (knitting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, sewing/stitching and cooking).
To find out more about Parliament’s vocabulary and how it works visit our dedicated website.