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Gender Equality in Higher Education

A national charter mark recognising work to address gender inequality has been retained by the School of Mathematical, Physical & Computational Sciences (SMPCS) at the University.

Athena Swan silver award logoThe Athena Swan award scheme, run by Advance HE, recognises work to support and transform gender equality within higher education around the world.

SMPCS was praised for its feedback gathering process around parental leave for staff and student experience, its mentoring system to aid promotion and progression, and its work to increase the number of women leading its research projects.

This work allowed the School to successfully bid to renew its Silver charter mark, which was awarded in January 2023 and runs for five years, to January 2028.

Andrew Charlton-Perez smiling at the cameraProfessor Andrew Charlton-Perez, Head of SMPCS, said: “We have so many incredibly talented women among the scientists and students in our School, and we are pleased to have progressed our ambitions to increase this number and provide the right support to aid career progression.

“I want to thank all of my colleagues who have contributed to this work, both in the current award cycle and throughout the last 15 years.

“I am proud of this collective commitment, which is a big reason why our School continues to make strong progress on gender equality.”

Future priorities

The School actively managed the renewal process, which offered them an opportunity to engage widely with staff to raise awareness of the issues and to embed the Athena SWAN principles, including that of fairness for all.

The renewal process included a staff and student survey and analysis of data to ascertain the real impact of the School’s action plan since the 2017 award and the creation of an action plan for the next five years.

The key priorities that the School will seek to address in their future action-plan are:

  • Embedding the good practice that they have developed on gender equality into business as usual.
  • Supporting more women within the School to take up senior leadership roles in the School and the wider University.
  • Making sure that all of their student recruitment proactively considers gender biases, emphasises that courses are for everyone and encourages excellent students to apply to them.
  • Understanding and addressing how gender influences student progression and development.

As part of the School’s broader WIDE (Wellbeing, Inclusion, Diversity & Equality) agenda, work on their Athena SWAN actions will also be aligned with their actions to maintain an inclusive academic community that values and celebrates diversity, and to address disadvantage linked to Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Disability, Neuro-Diversity, Religious Faith and other characteristics.

University-wide progress

SMPCS is one of seven schools at the University to hold an Athena Swan charter mark, with five of those being at Silver level. The University as a whole was also awarded Silver status in 2020.

Only 249 schools and departments at UK universities have achieved Silver or Gold status.

The School has a long track record of work to address gender equality. They previously won the Silver Athena Swan award in 2010 and were delighted with a successful renewal of the Silver award in May 2014 and again in November 2017, when the School expanded to include Computer Science.

Read the stories of some of the inspirational women amongst our alumni who are making a difference in their communities.