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Introducing Athena Swan


As part of our University's commitment to gender equality, we are aiming to achieve the Athena SWAN equality charter, which is designed to support institutions to move forward in their equality and diversity work. Here, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Andrew Slade, sets out the benefits it will bring to our University.

I’m delighted to be the University’s senior champion leading the development of our application for Athena SWAN Charter status over the coming months. You’ll be aware that the Athena SWAN charter is one of a number of equality charters, designed to support institutions to move forward in their equality and diversity work.  Athena SWAN charter status is awarded to organisations to recognise their commitment to, and progress on, gender equality – and we’ll be aiming to join the 137 other universities in the UK that have already been recognised, when we submit our application to the Equality Challenge Unit in November. 

Whilst it was originally set up in 2005 to help address the under representation of women in the STEMM subjects in higher education and research (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine), Athena Swan has recently been extended and broadened in its remit to include the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law; professional and support roles, and trans staff and students.  We’re applying for charter status for STEMM subjects in the first instance, (covering the work of the Schools and Subject Groups of: School of Built Environment & Engineering; School of Clinical & Applied Sciences; School of Computing, Creative Technologies & Engineering; School of Sport; Architecture, Built Environment & Planning; Psychology and Nursing), but our future submissions will involve all areas of our University’s work.  

Like other charter schemes, Athena Swan applications are based around institutions engaging in self assessment - we can address the gender equality issues that are pertinent to us, and propose a development plan that is meaningful to our particular institutional context. Given our ongoing work around the new university’s strategic plan this year, it’s a great time for us to be engaged in this process. What’s our current position in relation to women’s representation and career progression within STEMM? How do our policies, practices and procedures support women’s representation and career progression, and are there areas that need to change?  What initiatives can we introduce to help bring about these changes?

These are the kinds of questions that our Self Assessment Team (SAT) are beginning to grapple with as we move forward towards building our three year development plan that will be the basis of our application. The SAT includes representatives drawn from across the relevant areas of the university and colleagues (men as well as women), who have a range of experiences of our institutional practices relating to gender equality. Nevertheless, we are keen to hear from colleagues across STEMM - about your experiences and ideas to improve our practice - so please do take up opportunities to be involved in, and support, our Athena Swan work.  One of the first initiatives was to carry out a survey of colleagues working in STEMM at Leeds Beckett through an online survey. Thank you to everyone who contributed to that; the analysis is being undertaken now and will be invaluable in contributing to our action plan of areas where we need to develop.

Go to www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/athenaswan to read more about our commitment.
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