Awards hattrick recognises latest Athena SWAN achievements

We're celebrating a hattrick of new Athena SWAN Charter awards across the University, recognising advancement of gender equality.

Great Hall roof in Spring time

Following submissions made in late 2019, three faculties have achieved awards, including Silver for the Faculty of Biological Sciences, and Bronze awards for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Leeds University Business School, respectively.

The Athena SWAN Charter is designed to recognise advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all. At Leeds, faculties work towards achieving Athena SWAN recognition as part of the Leeds Gender Framework initiative, the University’s strategic approach to gender equality, which is supported by the University's Equal Policy Unit and academic leadership from Professor Louise Bryant.

Professor Bryant said: "I am delighted by this outcome. The Athena SWAN scheme sets a very high bar for its awards and to achieve an uplift to Silver for the Faculty of Biological Sciences and Bronze awards for first submissions from the Business School and Social Sciences is a testament to a great deal of hard work and a commitment to equality demonstrated by many staff.

“Achieving equality is an essential goal of universities who wish to recruit, retain and develop the potential of all staff and students regardless of gender. The Athena SWAN chartership also requires us to recognise and develop the talents of our LGBT+ colleagues and staff at the intersection of race and gender. I am proud to be leading the University’s Gender Framework, which has given me the opportunity to work with a diverse group of wonderful colleagues who share this goal for Leeds.”

The awards announced today, add to the increasing tally of existing awards:

Faculty of Biological Sciences

The Faculty of Biological Sciences has built on its Bronze award, received in 2017, with notable achievements in the intervening period including:

  • Improved recruitment and promotion processes that have increased female participation at PhD level, Grade 8 and Grade 9 academic staff
  • Unconscious bias training for staff involved in recruitment/promotions (90% uptake) that has positively impacted recruitment, and faculty working environment
  • Improvement in culture and appointment processes leading to a substantial rise in female participation in Faculty senior management (from 29% in 2017 to 55% in 2019)
  • Appointment of Postdoc Champion, introduction of postdoc mentoring circles, Coffee and Careers sessions, all of which have improved postdoc career development outcomes
  • Improved support for grant writing resulting in female staff contributing 46% of successful applications (from 16% in 2016/17) and female grant funding has doubled to £7.1m
  • Enhanced support and training for technical staff (predominantly female) leading to improvement in career development opportunities
  • Improvements to maternity and parental support including creation of family-friendly booklet to provide an overview of all schemes relating to parenting and childcare.

“I am delighted that the Faculty of Biological Sciences has received a silver award from Athena SWAN,” said Dr Karen Birch, Executive Dean of Faculty of Biological Sciences.

“This really is testament to the continued recognition of the principles of equality supported by Athena Swan, but also to the commitment of staff in every area of the Faculty to ensure that these principles are interwoven into all aspects of Faculty life. I would like to congratulate the Faculty Athena SWAN Committee for leading to ensure that our culture is one to be proud of.”

Faculty of Social Sciences

Over a number of years, the faculty has systematically developed a range of processes that sit within the policies of the university, but which interpret and operationalise them at the faculty and school level. These relate to the recruitment of staff and students, to their work and study experience and to their personal and professional progression.

The faculty is further strengthening and empowering its Equality and Inclusion Committees at School and Faculty levels, chaired by the Executive Dean and with all Heads of School as members.

Through the work of these committees, the following actions have been taken and developments identified:

  • Unconscious Bias training made available to all staff and PGRs who teach
  • Appointment of Student Success Officer and International Student Experience Officer to provide focused support for male and female student progression
  • An 11% increase in the number of women in permanent contracts in the Faculty (72 to 80)
  • Prioritisation of higher-level female appointments through encouraging existing colleagues and using search committees / agents to ensure a more diverse range of applicants and web campaigns for leadership roles.
  • Focus on increasing promotion applications from women with promotion up to grade 8 now having 100% success rate
  • Support for female staff to attend Aurora leadership development programme, with two attendees promoted to Associate Professor.

“On behalf of the Faculty, I want to say how pleased we were to receive this award. Our submission was the result of many hours of hard work by many colleagues and I owe them all a great deal of thanks,” commented Professor Alastair Mullis, Executive Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences.

“While there is much to be pleased about in our report. Not least the significant improvements in internal promotions and external appointments at the highest levels. For me the whole submission process shone an important light on pressing issues we must address over the next several years, if we are properly to ensure that this is place of work that truly recognises the contributions of all.”

Leeds University Business School

The self-assessment team in Leeds University Business School undertook an assessment of what actions could be put in place to improve gender equality. They identified that leave and caring responsibilities can have a significant impact on the ability of staff to produce research and build networks. Noting that this has a disproportionate impact on women, their focus is now on activities which lead to promotion and senior positions.

The School has plans to work with University’s HR Specialist Support Team, which manage promotions procedures. Their efforts will focus on supporting parents return to work and research following maternity/paternity and promotions at mid-career sage, including:

  • Revisions to the promotions application form to include space for personal narrative illustrating impact of leave / caring responsibilities
  • Providing guidance to heads of department to offer support for personal circumstances via workload allocation
  • Guidance and training for assessors on how to take consideration of personal circumstances as part of promotions panels and systems.

Professor Jennifer Tomlinson, who led on the school’s submission with Dr Kate Hardy, said

“The Athena SWAN Bronze Award is a strong statement about our commitment to gender equality. We are delighted to receive this award. Our action plan to promote and achieve greater gender equality is ambitious and we look forward to implementing it. This award is a testament to the work of colleagues across the school and I express my sincere thanks to everyone who has played a part in this achievement.”

Commenting on the award, Professor Julia Bennell, Executive Dean said:

“Achieving the Athena SWAN Bronze Award is a significant achievement. At the University of Leeds we have strong values of inclusiveness and community, and this award helps demonstrate our commitment to living our values.

“Our award is valid until 2023, but we will not sit still. We recognise the need to work hard to maintain the level of award and it is important that we continue to make significant strides in this area.”

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