Athena SWAN

Going for Gold

 

At Aston University, we are committed to achieving gender equality and ensuring that there is representation, progression and success for all.  

We are pleased to hold the Athena SWAN Silver Award as an institution - a reflection of the impact we have started to make towards gender equality - and we are working hard to sustain this and achieve Gold.  

Initiatives that have led to the Silver Award include our research into gender issues, leadership training for female staff (Advance HE’s Aurora programme), a women’s forum, and outreach activities to encourage school-aged girls into engineering. 

What is Athena SWAN? 

The Athena SWAN charter was originally set up to help women advance their careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) higher education and research. 

The charter has since expanded its remit to support: 

  • Academic roles in all disciplines, not just STEMM subjects. 
  • Professional and support roles. 
  • Transgender staff and students. 
  • Men as well as women (where appropriate). 

You can read more about Athena SWAN on the Equality Challenge Unit website. 

Athena SWAN at Aston

Key Senior Staff

University Athena SWAN Lead: Hannah Bartlett.

Chair of the Athena SWAN Project Management Group: Hannah Bartlett.

HR Director with responsibility for Equality and Diversity: Richard Billingham.

Executive Champion for Gender Equality: Helen Higson.

In her role, Helen promotes and fosters the engagement of staff and students in relevant activities and networks. She also speaks up for positive and practical changes to address gender quality issues and generally supports the progression of our gender equality objectives.

Plan and Approach

To be successful in the awards, Aston needs to demonstrate that all staff and students are engaging in the Principles of Athena SWAN.

We have formed self-assessment teams for each School as well as for the University (this latter includes those not in a School). These teams are leading the analysis and review of the data and opinions that we gather, and will then implement actions and assess their benefits. If you would like to join one of these teams, or hear more information about the role or Athena SWAN, then please register your interest with the relevant person named below.

University (awarded Silver) | Dr Hannah Bartlett

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (awarded Silver) | Professor Tony Clark

School of Life and Health Sciences (awarded Bronze) | Dr Olivia Hunt

Aston Business School (applying for Bronze) | Dr Wendy Tabrizi

School of Social Sciences and Humanities (awarded Bronze) | Dr Anne Jenichen

Aston Medical School (preparing for Bronze) | Dr Afshan Ahmad

Aims

Athena SWAN aims to achieve a better gender balance in Higher Education Institutions. Society is 50:50 men and women but our staff numbers (academic, teaching and research and professional, technical and support) are not so well balanced – particularly in some schools.

Requirements
  • Detailed data and statistics for at least three years, compared with national benchmarks
  • (For Silver) A focus on improvements since Bronze, especially through priority initiatives
  • All staff and students engaged in developments and implementation of initiatives
  • Evaluation, with consultation and feedback
  • Demonstration of embedding of the Principles through leadership and communication sustainably  
  • Actions that involve and assist both men and women
  • Consideration of gender equality as an integral part of what everyone does (similar to working and studying safely, ethically and legally).
Benefits

For the University

  • Reduced impact of staff turnover
  • Attraction and retention of good staff
  • More stimulating and motivated environment
  • More engaged and effective employees
  • Grant successes:

Research Councils UK states in its ‘Statement of Expectations for Equality and Diversity’, “RCUK expects that equality and diversity therefore is embedded at all levels and in all aspects of normal research practice… RCUK will reserve the right to introduce more formal accreditation requirements for grant funding should significant improvement not be evidenced.’’

REF 2021 guidance outlines, “evidence for supporting equality and diversity… recommendation that the evidence included participation in schemes such as Athena SWAN”

For individuals

  • Improved recruitment, induction, career development and progression pathways
  • Improved career satisfaction and motivation
  • Recognition of personal circumstances and aspirations
  • Greater flexibility in working environment
  • Knowledge of and fairness in promotion processes
  • Greater communication, understanding and acceptance of roles and responsibilities.
Principles

The Athena SWAN Charter is based on ten key principles. By being a member of Athena SWAN, the University is committing to a progressive Charter, adopting these principles within their policies, practices, action plans and culture.

  • We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
  • We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.
  • We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including:

- The relative underrepresentation of women in senior roles in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL).

- The particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

  • We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
  • We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.
  • We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
  • We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.
  • We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
  • We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality.
  • All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.
Examples of Good Practice
  • Mentoring/coaching for staff and students
  • Inspiring women @Aston
  • Research into gender issues (Prof Gina Rippon, Judith Baxter, Prof Richard Crisp, Prof Mark Hart, Carol Marley, Crissie Rodgers, Jane Andrews, Pam Lowe)
  • Recognition and awards, internal and external (eg. Aston Excellence Awards)
  • Encourage schoolgirls into engineering careers
  • Equality and Diversity Forum
  • Aston University Women’s Forum
  • Aston Women in Business Society
  • Annual WES student conference on campus
  • Aston Book Club
  • Leadership Foundation National Aurora Programme
  • Aston Women’s Leadership Development Programme
  • Early Career Research Forum
  • Every researcher counts (VITAE)
  • Equality Policy
  • Comprehensive induction and re-induction after career breaks
  • Flexible working/career breaks
  • Maternity cover for teaching and research
  • Expanded nursery
  • Careers and placements advice for students and graduates
  • Disability network
  • LGBT network
  • Student Union
  • Women returners career breaks.

For details on any of these initiatives, please contact Hannah Bartlett.