Accessibility navigation

Athena SWAN Charter Awards

Women in research

Women in research

'The Athena SWAN Charter aims to tackle the unequal representation of women in science' Professor Averil MacDonald

The University of Reading has recently had its Bronze Athena SWAN award renewed, demonstrating the commitment to diversity.

The Athena SWAN Charter has been running since 2006 and aims to tackle gender inequalities, specifically, the unequal representation of women in science and to improve career progression for female science academics.

The Athena SWAN (Scientific Women's Academic Network) scheme began as the result of a report by the Royal Society, who for 350 years has dealt with the whole culture of science. The RS were concerned about the lack of women in science, and so started a number of initiatives to try and encourage Universities, Departments and Schools to alter their working practices to eradicate anything that was hindering women progressing in their chosen field. 

The University of Reading currently holds a Bronze award, and has done since 2008, one of the earliest universities to be accredited. The Bronze award recognises that the University of Reading has in place all of the necessary measures and procedures to enable women to succeed in a professional academic career regardless of the personal and life choices they make. In 2011 the University earned a renewal of the Bronze award, by showing that the working practices in place since 2008 have had a positive impact on the women of the University.

The University as a whole was awarded Bronze, certain schools in STEM such as Construction Management and Engineering, Biological Sciences and Mathematical and Physical Sciences have been granted Silver awards in recognition of the work they are doing to support and promote women in their Schools while Chemistry Food and Pharmacy and Human and Environmental Sciences were recently awarded Bronze awards.

Professor Averil MacDonald is the University's Athena SWAN Champion. Nationally she is on the Equality Challenge Unit's Athena SWAN Advisory Committee and is also on the judging panel for awards. In addition, Professor MacDonald is currently running a national pilot of a parallel scheme for non-STEM schools; including Arts, Humanities and Social Science departments ranging from Museum Studies and Education, to Music, English and Law from 5 Universities across the country. The initiative will not be exactly the same as Athena SWAN, because the issues in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are not quite identical to those in STEM.

Professor Averil MacDonald said: "Many non-STEM areas are actually worse for losing women further up the career ladder than STEM areas. It is assumed that because huge numbers of women apply to non-STEM degrees that more women have the top jobs, but this is false in many cases. In physics for example, proportionately more women reach the top of the career ladder despite fewer women joining the field than in some Arts and Humanities areas. This has been recognised by the ECU (Equality Challenge Unit) as a problem which is why the Athena SWAN scheme is being extended beyond the good work it has done in the STEM disciplines, and this is a step in the right direction."

Page navigation

Search Form

Main navigation