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 towards achieving Gold in 2024.

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.
  • Gender equality work - this must be recognised, distributed appropriately, and rewarded
  • Negative cultures and behaviours tackled - including gender-based bullying and violence
  • Intersectional and structural inequalities - More active commitment to tackle these and a commitment embedded in proprieties
  • Inclusive of all gender identities
  • Caring responsibilities - to mitigate the negative and gendered impact of these
  • Professional and support roles.
  • You can read more about Athena SWAN on Advance HE website.

Athena SWAN at Aston

Key Senior Staff

University Athena SWAN Lead: Hannah Bartlett.

Hannah supports all College and University gender equality initiatives, working closely with Jens Klots (EDI Data Officer) and Claire Richards (EDI Partner). She is experienced at analysing data, reflecting on trends, and designing interventions that are monitored via our Athena SWAN action plans.

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.

We have formed self-assessment teams for each College as well as for the University (this latter includes those not in a College). 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 (Preparing for Gold) Dr Hannah Bartlett

College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (Awarded Gold) Dr Mirjam Roeder

College of Health and Life Sciences (Awarded Bronze) Dr Olivia Hunt

Aston Medical School (Preparing for Bronze) Dr Afshan Ahmad

Aston Business School & Aston Law School (Awarded Bronze) Professor Helen Higson and Dr Lauren Traczykowski

School of Social Science and Humanities (Awarded Bronze) Aurélia Robert

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
  • (For Gold) A focus on improvements since Silver, especially through evidence of longitudinal improvement, and sector-leading gender equality practice and supporting others to improve
  • 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 all gender identities and intersectionalities.
  • Consideration of gender equality as an integral part of what everyone does (similar to working and studying safely, ethically and legally).
Charter Principles

In determining our priorities and interventions, we commit to:

  1. adopting robust, transparent and accountable processes for gender equality work, including: a embedding diversity, equity and inclusion in our culture, decision-making and partnerships, and holding ourselves and others in our institution/institute/department/directorate accountable b undertaking evidence-based, transparent self-assessment processes to direct our priorities and interventions for gender equality, and evaluating our progress to inform our continuous development c ensuring that gender equality work is distributed appropriately, is recognised and properly rewarded.
     
  2. addressing structural inequalities and social injustices that manifest as differential experiences and outcomes for staff and students
     
  3. tackling behaviours and cultures that detract from the safety and collegiality of our work and study environments, including not tolerating gender-based violence, discrimination, bullying, harassment or exploitation
     
  4. understanding and addressing intersectional inequalities
     
  5. recognising that individuals can determine their own gender identity, and tackling the specific issues faced by trans and non-binary people
     
  6. examining gendered occupational segregation, and elevating the status, voice and career opportunities of any identified under-valued and at-risk groups
     
  7. mitigating the gendered impact of caring responsibilities and career breaks, and supporting flexibility and the maintenance of a healthy ‘whole life balance’
     
  8. mitigating the gendered impact of short-term and casual contracts for staff seeking sustainable careers.
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.
Charter 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.
  • Menopause Focus Group
  • Menopause Mentors

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

Support for Parents

The Parents & Carers Staff Network was set up by and for colleagues from both academic and professional services to support colleagues through the work-life balance, challenges and complexities of parenting and caring. We run regular, informal and friendly virtual sessions and organise a yearly, in-person networking event with specially selected guest speakers.

  • Group I: 0-4 yrs. old children
  • Group II: 5-11 yrs. old children
  • Group III: 12+ yrs. old / teenagers
  • Group IV: Single Parents
  • Group V: Carers *looking after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support

The network is open to all staff members and PhD students. If you have any queries about the network or you would like to join us, please contact us.