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Athena Swan – University of Reading

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  • Developing the careers of women in science

Athena Swan

The Athena SWAN Awards recognise success in developing employment practices to further and support the careers of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) departments in academia. Independent evaluations have shown that membership of the charter helps to advance women's careers and had a positive impact on changing the culture and attitudes within member institutions: simply put, universities and departments that hold Athena SWAN awards are more advanced in addressing unequal representation than those that don't.

Our School values align closely to the Athena Swan principles

TSwan bronzehe School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, won the Bronze Athena Swan award in 2013 and were delighted with a successful renewal of the award in April 2017.


In our submission for renewal, we were able to show real progress since our first award including increased satisfaction with the promotion process and with our induction for new staff. We have introduced core hours wherever possible so that meetings are held at times that are more accessible to staff with child care duties. We have designed training in Unconscious Bias and have implemented this as a University Wide course. Our own staff uptake on this course has increased substantially since our previous submission and will have increased further before we apply again.

We have found that interacting with the Athena SWAN process has allowed us to take a careful look at Diversity and Inclusion across all practices within the School, and we have used this opportunity to make changes that improve working conditions for all members of staff. Part of this commitment has been designing and populating a workload model that is transparent about what work individual members of staff do and provides a means to partially equalise loads across staff members. We have shown a major commitment to research activity by explicitly adding hours to the workload model to provide staff with time for this activity. We have analysed the workload model data and have shown that there are no gender differences in overall time allocated, time spent on teaching or on research across gender.

Our future action plan has been put together on the basis of wide consultation with staff, with many good ideas captured from this process, including:

  • Ways to attract more male students to our undergraduate programmes;
  • Ways to attract more female students to our PhD programmes;
  • To include a commitment to flexible working by adding a statement about this to all job adverts;
  • To work on increasing the satisfaction of female staff with mentoring and networking opportunities

We will be working actively to implement these plans over the next 4 years. For now, you can see our submitted Athena Swan plan (2 MB PDF download) and our progress against our Athena Swan action plan..

Professor Laurie ButlerHead of the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, said:

"As Head of School, I am delighted that we have been successful in renewal of our Athena Bronze SWAN Award. The School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences has a long tradition of recruiting, supporting and promoting female academic staff. We are fully committed to gender equality, and this is visible in all aspects of the school from the gender balance in our senior committees (including School Management Group), to our processes for recruiting under-represented student groups. The self-assessment process has provided an opportunity for us to further develop an environment that is inclusive and fair for all staff.

I am particularly pleased that the changes to our promotion procedures have helped us to increase the percentage of female staff at AP level and I will be watching to ensure that these changes also translate into the percentage of women who are promoted to professorships. I am also pleased that we have been able to support individuals as they return from maternity or adoption leave by including extra hours for research in our workload model, providing financial support for conference travel, and by reducing their teaching for a year. This is providing talented members of staff with the necessary time and space to continue to make strong contributions to our research agenda.

Going forward, there is of course still more to do to ensure that we provide an inclusive culture for all. Having designed training in Unconscious Bias, it is important that this continues to be rolled out (such training is now mandatory for those chairing PDRA recruitment panels). I am also keen to investigate the reasons why some of our female part-time staff disagree that we allocate work equally to both genders. Part-time staff are critical to the success of the school, and I am determined to address the additional challenges that they face. As part of our commitment to our undergraduate students we are introducing the ground-breaking SPRINT professional career development programme for women (the first school to do so at the University of Reading) with the first cohort completing the course in summer 2017. Finally, as part of our commitment to increase the numbers of female students who continue on to PhD level, we are introducing three fully funded school studentships from Oct 2017 to which female applicants will be especially encouraged to apply.

Our culture of fairness and respect, where we celebrate and encourage success for all makes this a very special place to work, and I am enormously proud of our Athena Swan team and the progress made. I will strive to ensure that we are never complacent, and I am confident that the proposed actions will further strengthen the principles of collegiality and equality that lie at the heart of everything we do."


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