Friday news roundup October 18, 2019

Friday news roundup October 18, 2019

Historic first all-female spacewalk to happen on Friday. US astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will conduct the first ever all-female spacewalk from 11:50 (GMT) on Friday to replace a faulty power source on the International Space Station (ISS). The historic milestone was originally due to be achieved in March, but an ill-fitting spacesuit resulted in a male astronaut joining the walk in place of his female colleague. Koch is also on course to complete the longest single spaceflight by a woman as she remains in orbit until February 2020. She believes that gender milestones like the spacewalk are significant. “There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories from people who look like them, and I think that it’s an important aspect of the story to tell,” she told a NASA briefing in Houston in October. Her colleague Meir acknowledged the importance of “all the women that worked to get us where we are today.”

Banning out-of-hours email could do more harm than good to employee well-being. Researchers at the University of Sussex have discovered that while an email ban could help some to switch off, it could also stop others achieving work goals, causing more stress. Employees with high levels of anxiety and neuroticism need to feel free to respond to a “growing accumulation of emails,” or they could end up feeling even more stressed and overloaded, according to the researchers. Over recent years various governments have been looking at implementing such policies more widely. In France, a law passed in 2017 requires companies with over 50 employees to establish hours when staff should not send or answer emails. New York City has also discussed proposals to become the first city in the US to grant employees the “right to disconnect” after work. Dr Emma Russell, senior lecturer in management at the University of Sussex Business School, believes a one-size-fits-all approach should be avoided: “People need to deal with email in the way that suits their personality and their goal priorities in order to feel like they are adequately managing their workload.”

Channel 4 in the UK announced it would be launching a menopause policy for its female employees. The broadcaster hopes to end the stigma around the menopause by encouraging a better understanding of it among staff, including line managers, and facilitating a more open work environment for those transitioning through it. According to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 59% of women in the workplace who experience menopausal symptoms say they have a negative impact on their work. The new policy will support employees experiencing symptoms, offering flexible working arrangements and paid leave to women if they feel unwell because of the menopause’s side-effects. The strategy will also offer employees a private, cool, and quiet workspace, a working environment assessment to ensure their physical workspace is not worsening their symptoms, and a range of support and guidance resources.

National campaign launched in Scotland to encourage greater awareness of the Gaelic language. Bòrd na Gàidhlig launched the initiative during The Royal National Mod—the main festival of Scottish Gaelic literature, song, arts, and culture—to encourage Gaelic speakers to highlight their support for the indigenous language. The scheme is part of the board’s work in outlining a national plan for Gaelic in Scotland, designed to encourage greater use of the language in everyday conversation. According to the 2011 Census, Scottish Gaelic has about 60,000 speakers in Scotland. The campaign urges speakers to employ the hashtag #cleachdi—or #useit—plus the hashtag #gaidhlig when they communicate with others, to emphasize the language. The language-learning app Duolingo has also announced it will be including Scottish Gaelic as one of its 90 languages in the coming months. More than four million people are learning Irish on the site, with 1.2 million learning Welsh. Courses in “indigenous and endangered” languages including Navajo and Hawaiian were also launched in 2018.

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