Students Staff
University of Essex

May 18, 2018

Building on our Athena SWAN Bronze Award

Athena Swan Bronze AwardI am delighted that our extensive work to promote gender equality at Essex has led to the renewal of our Athena SWAN Bronze Award.

Established by the Equality Challenge Unit, the Athena SWAN charter has become a vitally important way to recognise and celebrate good practice in advancing gender equality across the UK. I am incredibly proud of this success because according to Athena SWAN our Bronze Award recognises we have created a “solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.”

Planning our next steps

Now we are determined to go further and we will be looking very carefully at the feedback from Athena SWAN, so that we understand our strengths and weaknesses to identify further steps that we can take to make our culture more inclusive.  In the meantime, we will be working in earnest on the actions we’re already committed to as part of our Bronze Award.

Our progress so far

When we developed our University Strategic Plan in 2012-3, we were clear that we would not be able to achieve our goals without putting equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do – and we knew that we would need to have a sustained focus on this over a number of years to create an inclusive culture for our staff and students.

In terms of gender equality there are a number of actions we have taken that I am particularly proud of:

  • The appointment of the University’s first female Chancellor in 2014, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti. Shami was a great role model during her time as our Chancellor
  • The Women of the Future Scholarships Appeal raised over £500,000 and has enabled 30 inspirational women from across the world to undertake a Masters degree at Essex.
  • We have set out specific changes to tackle issues of workplace culture and to change our recruitment processes and practices. These include: using positive action statements in all recruitment material; embedding unconscious bias training across the University; running academic promotion workshops and talent development programmes; encouraging staff to engage in informal networks; encouraging flexible working; putting in place career and peer mentoring schemes; identifying and raising the profile of role models; and putting in place robust processes to manage any variations to salary.
  • Having undertaken equal pay audits, we are confident staff at our University, regardless of gender, receive equal pay for work of equal value.
  • Five out of 11 of our senior leadership team are women and 13 out of 25 of our governing body are women. We have increased our proportion of female professors by 5.7 per cent in the past five years to 29.8 per cent, which is 5.2 per cent above the sector average, and increased our proportion of female academic staff over the past four years by 2 per cent to 42 per cent in 2016-17.
  • We are also starting to see a positive impact of some of the actions that were included in our 2013 Athena SWAN Bronze Action Plan. This includes an increase in the proportion of women on our Senate from 27% in 2014-15 to 41.6% in 2016-17.

You can support our drive for equality

Last year, we approved a proposal that all Departments should apply for an Athena SWAN award by the end of 2019-20 and we have recently introduced a requirement for all members of University committees to complete unconscious bias training – and in the light of the recent gender pay gap audit we want to ensure we tackle this head on too.

As we work on developing our next Strategic Plan, we want to build on our achievements over the last five years and to continue to ensure our commitment to inclusivity is embedded in all that we do. This essential work will be difficult but it is not impossible and your support in taking these issues forward will make a significant difference to the progress that we need to make.

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