Athena SWAN Section
What is Athena Swan?
The Athena SWAN Charter is a scheme whose core principles are centred on the belief that research cannot achieve its full potential without the involvement of the whole community. Initially the Charter focussed on equality for women in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics (STEMM). The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly.
In May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. Athena SWAN aims to encourage and support career progression by the encouragement of good working practices and seeking to remove the obstacles that discourage women from continuing careers in academia.
What are we doing about it?
The Department’s commitment towards the Athena SWAN ideals was recognised by a Bronze Athena SWAN Award in April 2013. In October 2015 the Department’s achievements and continued work was acknowledged with a Silver Award.
Why are we doing this?
We are seeking to address the issue of unequal representation of women within science by critically examining attitudes and working practices within the Department, and seeking to remove the barriers to career progression.
Whilst there is good representation of women at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, the attrition of women researchers becomes apparent as graduate students progress to postdoctoral researchers. The results from the Departmental gender ratios reflect a wider problem seen across science where the attrition becomes progressively worse with seniority.
The Department’s commitment to equal opportunities and its responsibility to all its staff is demonstrated through it’s Athena SWAN accreditation and the consequences of implementing Athena SWAN policies and values will have positive benefits for all staff.
How are we doing this?
The Athena SWAN process was initiated in the Department in January 2012 and involved a critical assessment of working and managerial practices within the Department. A self-assessment team was brought together to gather data, consult with staff and make recommendations for improvements across the department.
The Athena SWAN Bronze application, submitted in November 2012, presented the findings of this work and bought together an action plan to address the key attrition points for women within the Department and to highlight the changes that were implemented within Biochemistry to further support women’s careers. The Silver application, submitted in April 2015 continued this work, looking at data from across the department, analysing the changes made and assessing the impact.
The Silver application highlighted improvements in career development information, an improvement in HR processes such as the Personal Development Reviews and Mentoring, and increasing the number of female seminar speakers. The Silver application will seek to build on these developments and the action plan for the next three years outlines what we will be doing and how we will work to provide a supportive environment for staff as they progress through their careers. This will include the Department’s commitment to provide support to individuals returning from periods of extended leave with measures to help with the challenges of combining the tasks of returning to teaching, research, and caring responsibilities.
The Department hopes that the Athena SWAN process will have wider implications beyond the primary aim of addressing gender imbalance. By helping to improve the working environment the actions will support all staff independent of gender.
For more information please contact our Athena SWAN Academic Lead, Catherine Pears at firstname.lastname@example.org.