The Athena SWAN Awards recognise success in developing employment practices to further and support the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) departments in higher education. STEMM subjects have traditionally suffered from an under-representation of women, meaning that education and research in key scientific disciplines are not reaching their full potential. The Athena SWAN awards process enables departments and faculties to develop an action plan aimed at improving the recruitment, retention and promotion of female academic and research staff.
In applying for the Bronze Award, the Department had to submit a variety of data, analysed by gender, including such information as academic staff recruitment, promotion and turnover, the demographics of committees and decision-making panels, paternity, adoption and parental leave uptake, alongside more traditional analysis of academic staff and student numbers. In addition to identifying particular challenges, the submission also had to lay out plans for the future and how these issues would be addressed.
Professor Dame Ann Dowling, Head of the Department, said: "I have for a long time been concerned about the gender imbalance in Engineering and so I am delighted that the Department has received this award in recognition of our commitment to equality. I believe this is crucial for a supportive, congenial and successful department. We have already started to implement our Athena SWAN action plan and are benefitting from it. Thirty per cent of our recently appointed academic staff are women and our Women in Engineering Forum provides a clear focus for activities, support and information for women across the Department from undergraduates to senior Academic staff."
In announcing the award, Sarah Dickinson, Athena SWAN Manager said: "The Charter continues to see an increase in applications and successful awards. There were 112 applications to this round (up from 96 for the April awards) and 87 successful awards (up from 68). There are now 257 award-holding institutions and departments across the UK. In the last round, overall only 47% of all submissions were successful at the level they applied for. We found that many departments were trying to go straight in at Silver level, or move up before they had developed the strong foundations recognised by a bronze award. In this awards round 58% of all applications were made at bronze level, and 61% of all applications were successful at the level they applied for."
The Athena SWAN Charter awards have been running since 2005, recognising the commitment of the higher education sector to address gender inequalities, tackle the unequal representation of women in science and to improve career progression for female academics. The University of Cambridge is a founder member of the Charter and has a Bronze Award.