By Nessa O’Connor and Edel Hyland
Did you know that the QUB School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s holds a prestigious Athena SWAN Gold award? This accolade was awarded in 2013 in recognition of our outstanding progress promoting gender equality and addressing the unequal representation of women in science. We were the first School of Biological Sciences in the UK to achieve this prestigious award, with Queen’s becoming one of only three UK universities to hold a Gold departmental award. It is now time to renew our gold award and we are currently drafting our new Athena SWAN ‘Action Plan’, which requires support from everyone in the school. This Action Plan is the primary tool for articulating the principles of the charter and outlines the necessary actions to achieve this. You can download our current Action Plan in the 2012 Athena SWAN Gold department award application. If you would like to comment or make suggestions please contact a representative of the QUB Self Assessment Team (SAT).
We are also committed to promoting gender equality and diversity beyond QUB and together with gold-awardee University of York Department of Biology, have produced a useful video of tips for other institutes – to play click here.
But what is Athena SWAN?
The Equality Challenge Unit’s (ECU) Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. Queen’s University Belfast, was a founder member of the Athena SWAN Charter.
In May 2015, the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.
ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter covers women (and men where appropriate) in:
- academic roles in STEMM and AHSSBL
- professional and support staff
- trans staff and students
In relation to their:
- progression of students into academia
- journey through career milestones
- working environment for all staff
Why does this matter?
The advancement of science, engineering and technology (SET) is fundamental to quality of life across the globe. It is vitally important that women are adequately represented in what has traditionally been, and is still, a male-dominated area. Moreover, science cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population.
What can I do?
The SAT Committee are working hard to identify actions that will incorporate the core principles into our policies, practices and culture. For example, we are committed to: (i) 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; (ii) tackling the gender pay gap; and (iii) 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. But we need YOU! We all play a role in maintaining equality and fairness on a day-to-day basis. For more information see ECU Athena SWAN Charter.
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