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University of Reading receives Bronze Athena SWAN award

Athena SWAN 2016

The University has been recognised for its commitment to tackling gender inequality, as figures reveal it is outperforming much of the sector when it comes to employing female staff.

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) has recognised the university with an Athena SWAN bronze award, as the university continues an upward trend in its numbers of female professors, particularly in its academic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) schools.

The Athena SWAN scheme exists to encourage the advancement of careers for women in STEM subjects in higher education and research.

Reading’s record of 31.3% of its professors being women in 2014/15 means this figure is now 8.2% better than the sector average - increasing from 3.3% better in 2010/11.

This figure is also better than the average for both the Russell Group and the former 1994 group of universities.

Across our STEM schools, a quarter of our professors are now women - at least 5.8% better than the averages for the sector and other groups.

It comes after the University Executive Board (UEB) set out plans to close the gender gap over the next three years in its Athena SWAN submission, recognising there is still much work to be done within the higher education sector.

By 2020, Reading’s target published earlier this year is to achieve at least 40% of either gender among its professorial staff, this target rising to 45% by 2026. This year’s submission was focused on science, but the next application will reflect the scheme’s expansion into other subjects such as arts, business and law.

The university has also set its sights on reducing the pay gap to less than 5% by 2020. Women currently earn 11% less on average than men.

Targets have also been set to increase the proportion of black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) staff and to make staff feel more comfortable about being open about their sexual orientation.

Achievements captured in our Athena SWAN award submission included:

  • Our rewarding excellence procedures coupled with the introduction of career development workshops for early career research staff, have led to a large increase in promotions for both men and women.
  • The central University now fully reimburses Schools for costs of staff going on parental leave, and requires significant investment in the support of staff as they return from leave.
  • We are now rolling out a dashboard allowing heads of school to see gender pay and promotion gaps.
  • Annual Edith Morley lecture, celebrating the first ever female appointed to a professorship at Reading.
  • A rise in the proportion of women on the University Council, its executive governing board, rising to 34.5% in 2015/16 – exceeding Reading’s 2020 target.

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell said: “The University of Reading is hugely committed to diversity and inclusion. We want to be a place that enables our staff and students to develop their talents to the full.

“Earlier this year, we published challenging but achievable targets to improve our performance across a number of diversity fronts through to 2020 and beyond. I am delighted therefore that our efforts to date, and our ambitions for the future, have been recognised through us receiving the prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze award.

“We have made substantial progress on gender equality. We look forward now to implementing our plans to ensure and maintain fair and equal treatment for all our staff and students, irrespective of gender.”

Five of the University’s seven STEM Schools also hold Athena SWAN awards in their own right, three at Silver, two at Bronze level, and applications are in train from the other two STEM schools plus Henley Business School who are preparing our first school application from outside science, as the Athena SWAN scheme expands to encompass gender equality all staff and students in the higher education sector.

Professor Ellie Highwood, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, who led the bid with her job share Prof Simon Chandler-Wilde, said: “This award recognises substantial work by diversity, equality and wellbeing teams across the university.

“It recognises that we are making progress on challenging and changing processes that prevent women from achieving their full potential and that we have a robust strategy going forward.”

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