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.
The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, comprising at that time the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Meteorology, won the Silver Athena Swan award in 2010 and were delighted with a successful renewal of the Silver award in May 2014 and again in November 2017.
In our submission we were able to talk about real progress since our previous award in 2010, including work to normalise and support flexible working, to promote diversity in School leadership and decision making, to improve transparency and support around our promotion processes (with associated improvements in gender balance in promotions to senior academic levels and from Research Grade 6 to Grade 7), and to support staff through and beyond maternity/paternity leave.
The school has actively managed the renewal process. This was an excellent opportunity to engage much more widely with staff to raise awareness of the issues across the board and to embed the Athena SWAN principles, including that of fairness for all. The renewal process included a staff and student survey and a number of focus groups, as well as analysing data to ascertain the real impact of our action plan since the 2010 award. This was a large piece of work, requiring a substantial self-assessment document reflecting on progress against our action plan prepared in 2010, plus an action plan for the next four years.
The action plan we have put together results from this wide consultation with staff, with many good ideas captured from this process, including:
- To attract more female students and also raise awareness of the diversity of study styles, to improve the support to students;
- To set up a strong system for mentoring of all staff;
- To use the new Performance and Development Review process (PDR) to ensure that all reviewers are trained and that staff have the opportunity to give feedback on how useful the PDR process was for them;
- To continue to highlight the work of women in science, using open days, websites, and promote Athena SWAN principles and recognise the beneficial effects that this has had for all staff across the school.
We will be working actively to implement these plans over the next 4 years. For now, you can see our
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Professor Simon Chandler-Wilde, at that time Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said:
"We are delighted that we have been successful in renewal of our Athena Silver SWAN Award, recognising our activities and achievements in working towards equality in career progression across the School, including work to normalise and support flexible working, to promote diversity in School leadership and decision making, to improve our promotion processes, and to support staff through and beyond maternity/paternity leave. A key part of our Athena SWAN submission was our action plan for the next four years. I look forward to leading the School to deliver on this plan, advancing our strategic goal of developing a world-class working environment which actively supports diversity."
The School values and supports the Athena SWAN charter. Indeed a strategic School aim is "to develop a world-class working environment which actively supports diversity. This is a superb goal in its own right: we want an environment that supports all staff and their career development. At the same time this goal enables our other aims - in particular, it promotes a supportive research environment and the attraction and retention of the highest quality staff. This in turn is key to our goal of establishing the School as the pre-eminent academic centre in the world for weather and climate."