University College London have produced a really interesting toolkit that will help to guide us through our Bronze Award application process. In particular, they have indicated some further reading that might be useful

•The UCL Athena SWAN website  –this includes links to workshop presentations and successful UCL SWAN applications.
Athena SWAN handbook and submission documents
•Rees, T. 2011. The Gendered Construction of Scientific Excellence. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 36(2). pp.133-45
•Curt Rice –6 steps to gender equality
European Commission –Gender in research toolkit
•Moss-Racusin, A. C. 2012. Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favour male students. PNAS, 109(41) pp.16474–16479
•European Commission –Structural change in research institutions: enhancing excellence, gender equality and efficiency in research and innovation.
•Nature –Women in science special




We will shortly be in a position to confirm who is on the Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team (AS SAT) for the School of Education. There is still time for you to become involved at this level if you wish – please come and talk to me.


Having an effective self-assessment team is important to the success of our application to the Athena SWAN Charter. These are the details that we are required to include in the submission:

  • members’ roles (both within the institution or department and as part of the team) including identifying the chair;
  • how people were nominated or volunteered to the role and how any time involved in being a member of the team is included in any workload allocation or equivalent;
  • how the team represents the staff working in the institution or department (eg. a range of grades and job roles, professional and support staff as well as academics and any consideration of gender balance, work-life balance arrangements or caring responsibilities);
  • when the team was established, including how the team communicated, for example, face to face, email, etc.;
  • how often the team has met;
  • the focus of the meetings;
  • how the team has consulted with members of the institution or department (and students);
  • consultation with individuals outside the institution: external consultation refers to consultation outside the institution or department, for example, a critical friend reviewing the application, consultation with other successful Athena SWAN departments/institutions;
  • how the self-assessment team fits in with other committees and structures of the institution. It is important to include information on the reporting structure. For example, is there a direct route for the team to report to, is Athena SWAN a standing item on the department/institution’s key decision-making board?

As you will have noted, we need a strategic approach to the membership of this group. We need both men and women, as well as range of work roles represented. We are currently reviewing the need for a more strategic approach to equality in the School of Education, and the AS SAT will play a key role in relation to this in the future. This will also form part of our AS submission and action plan.

Plans for the future of the self-assessment team

  • how often the team will continue to meet;
  • how the team intends to monitor implementation of the action plan, including how it will interact with other relevant committees and structures within the institution;
  • how the team intends to keep staff (and students) updated on ongoing work;
  • succession planning for where membership of the team will change, including any transfer of responsibility for the work, role rotation and how the workload of members of the team will be accounted for in workload allocation;
  • at institution level, how the team will engage with departments to encourage them to apply for award;

Understanding Unconscious Bias

At the recent UoB Athena SWAN Steering Group, a presentation was given by colleagues from University College London (UCL), where the Molecular Biology Department is one of only 8 Gold Award holders in the country. It highlighted how an awareness of the impact of unconscious bias across all aspects of the department’s work, has enabled them to create a more inclusive working environment that has enabled them to diversify their workforce based on:

FAIRNESS – equality of opportunity
EXCELLENCE – select the best
DIVERSITY – increased innovation

This a short description of unconscious bias taken from the Equality Challenge Unit website:
“Your background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes and cultural context can have an impact on your decisions and actions without you realising.

Implicit or unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environmentand personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications.

Impact of unconscious bias
Research has found that unconscious bias can heavily influence recruitment and selection decisions. Several experiments using CV shortlisting exercises have highlighted bias by gender and ethnicity. A study of science faculties in higher education institutions (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012) asked staff to review a number of applications. The applications reviewed were identical, apart from the gender of the name of the applicant.
Science faculties were more likely to:
*         rate male candidates as better qualified than female candidates
*         want to hire the male candidates rather than the female candidates
*         give the male candidate a higher starting salary than the female candidate
*         be willing to invest more in the development of the male candidate than the female candidate
Here, unconscious bias impacts not only on the recruitment decision, but the salary of the individual and the amount of development that is invested in their ongoing progression.”

An awareness of unconscious bias will start to help us generate some ‘quick wins’ in our Athena SWAN Bronze Award process. For example, UCL has introduced strategies such as the co-chairing of committees by both a man and woman who share the role, which creates positive role models. They have also instigated a process for selecting speakers for seminars whereby anyone nominating a speaker has to nominate both a man and a woman, so that seminars overall have a 50:50 balance of male/female speakers. An  appraisal checklist has been created for their SDR process, and promotion  is discussed at all SDRs with the baseline of an expectation of everyone going for promotion. If an individual is not applying for promotion, it is the SDR reviewer who has to give the rationale as to why this is not appropriate at that particular time.

Sometimes all it needs is for our traditional ways of working to be approached from a different perspective. I’d be interested in hearing about any ideas for quick wins that will enable us to create a more inclusive work environment which promotes positive role models.

The UoB’s HR department also announced at the meeting that it will shortly be incorporating unconscious bias training into all recruitment and selection process. The promotion process from Senior Lecturer to Principal Lecturer as well as to professorial level, is also under review in the university.


Equality Challenge Unit. (n.d.). Unconscious bias. [Online]. Equality Challenge Unit. Available at: [Accessed 14.7.17. 2017].

Moss-Racusin, C. A., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Graham, M. J. & Handelsman, J. (2012) Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109 (41), 16474-16479.


What is equality?

I’ve been exploring definitions, descriptions and statements relating to the benefits of promoting equality in the workplace. Such definitions do not apply specifically to women but also to all those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, and show that by resolving inequalities, everyone (including students) can experience a better quality of university life and work.

Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents, and believing that no one should have poorer life chances because of where, what or whom they were born, what they believe, or whether they have a disability. Equality recognises that historically, certain groups of people with particular characteristics e.g. race, disability, sex and sexuality, have experienced discrimination.” (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2016)

Addressing inequalities…

Neil Thompson (1997, 2006) designed a model that has been influential in both social work and education contexts to enable practitioners to understand the need to address inequalities:

Thompson suggests that individuals are affected by what he calls personal, cultural and structural influences that come together to impact on how we fit into the social world. What Thompson calls ‘cultural’ influences encompass broader shared approaches – such as what is seen as acceptable behaviour. Structural issues refer to the ‘bigger picture’ of how society is organised and include aspects such as government policy and the shape of the welfare state. Thompson calls his PCS model an ‘analysis’ because it is a way of examining different aspects of situations that [practitioners] come across. However, he emphasises that it is about action as well as thought. [Practitioners] (…) need to do more than understand how individuals are affected by social and other factors; they need to act on this understanding to challenge disadvantage and prejudice. The PCS analysis could be set out in a diagrammatic form (below), showing how the individual or personal experience is surrounded by cultural and structural influences.” (The  Open University, n.d).

Thompson’s PCS analysis model (1997, 2006)

 This is also the model that many of us in the SoE teach to students at all levels in order that they understand how equality issues are relevant to both themselves and their work, or future work practice.

 Why work for equality?

Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself.” (Women’s Equality Party, n.d)

The position of our university is clear:

The University of Brighton is committed to providing a fair environment that embodies and promotes equality of opportunity.  We value the different contributions and experiences of all who make up our community, promoting mutual respect and understanding as well as freedom of thought and expression.” (The University of Brighton, n.d.)

There are complex issues to get our heads around, and do not just apply to the purpose of Athena SWAN, but will probably also arise when exploring the data to support other equality charters, such as The Race Equality Charter.

I would like to put forward the idea of employing an outside facilitator to run a session for an extended whole school meeting (1 day?) in the next academic year. This would give  ‘professional’ support to help us all understand the issues of inequality that will be highlighted through our forthcoming Athena SWAN consultation process, and to support the building of our Athena SWAN action plan. Such an initiative would also illustrate the commitment that the SoE has to the achievement of a Bronze Award.  What do you think?



Equality and Human Rights Commission (2016). Understanding Equality. Available at:  Accessed 7.5.17.

The Open University (n.d.). Empowering Practice.  Available at Accessed 7.5.17.

The University of Brighton (n.d.). Equality, Inclusion and Diversity. Available at: Accessed 7.5.17.

The Women’s Equality Party (n.d.). About. Available at:  Accessed 7.5.17.

The UoB’s Athena SWAN Bronze Level Action Plan states that ” A need has been identified to ensure that Athena SWAN activity is explicitly considered within the future workload model“, and there will shortly be news about the resourcing this project.

Many of my colleagues, both female and male, have indicated a commitment to the process because they believe in what it represents and what it could achieve. The Athena SWAN guidance is very clear about it being a group of people who takes the self-assessment forward, so if there are colleagues out there who still want to get involved in our submission please contact myself or Andy Davies.

Not achieving the Bronze level award may have a direct impact on the SoE’s access to funding in the future, as funders are increasingly looking for organisational commitment to equality processes. So, as university lecturers, researchers and professional support staff,  we all have a vested interest in making this work.

Bronze Level requires the creation of an action plan based on the responses to the consultation process that’s yet to come. This will require us to look closely at the personal, cultural and structural  (thanks Mark!) make-up of the SoE, in order to determine the actions needed to comply with the Athena SWAN mission.


University of Brighton Institution Bronze Award Submission (2016).  Available at:

Flexible working benefits us all.

Prompted by a colleague’s comment to one of the questions on this blog, as well as an April Fools joke from another colleague,  I thought I’d consider the impact of flexible working this week.

In relation to flexible working for employees the Women’s Equality Party states:

Enlightened businesses now understand that, managed properly, flexible working is not a cost but a benefit to all involved, regardless of gender. Opening hours can be stretched and doing business with other time zones is easier; home working can save money by enabling you to use less office space; and flexibility can enable you to retain talented workers who otherwise would retire, move jobs, or devote themselves full time to caring responsibilities at home.” (WEP, 2017)


This infographic shows that when colleagues are able to work flexibly it benefits us all, in that not only does it promote productivity, it also promotes health, wellbeing and motivation amongst employees.

6 Killer Benefits of Working From Anywhere

Microsoft have also recently published an e-guide on the benefits of flexible working and it makes for interesting reading as well as busting some myths. It can be accessed at:—The-ultimate-guide-to-flexible-working.pdf

Working towards workplace equality involves looking for patterns, and patterns of flexible working in the UoB are currently difficult to view since there is no one transparent process in place across the board for agreeing flexible working when it is requested, nor for recording what is agreed.  All employees (not just parents and carers)  who have worked for their employer for over 26 weeks, have the legal right to request flexible working. Employers in turn must manage such requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ by considering the advantages and disadvantages of the request, meeting with the employee to discuss the outcome, and by offering an appeal process should the outcome not be what the employee is seeking (, 2017).

Through our SoE  Athena SWAN survey which will be released in May 2017, we hope to gain more information about the SoE staff experience as related for requests for flexible working, but would also like to hear more through this blog.

Please comment.


WEP (2017). Because Equality is Better for Everyone.  Available at:  Accessed 3.4.17. (2017). Flexible Working. Available at: Accessed 3.4.17.

This was said by Professor Tom Welton at the Athena SWAN lecture last night as he was describing the journey to the Athena SWAN gold award at the Chemistry Department of Imperial College. He talked about the ability to ‘look in the mirror’ to not only identify where working practices need to improve , but also to identify the things that are done really well.

He talked a lot about the post-graduate, post-doctoral and professorial levels at Imperial and how these originally reflected the male dominated nature of chemistry as a discipline. Ten years ago they had  a ratio of one female professor to nineteen men but have since managed  to acheive seven female professors through a different way of looking at talent pools and recruitment. The ‘leaky pipeline’ analogy is one that is used frequently to describe the reasons why women leave STEMM subjects and/or do not achieve promotion or positions of responsibility in the same way that men do, and by examining the points where the leaks occur, Imperial has also managed to make a difference to  the flow of women leaving  the department after they had achieved their doctorate.

The issues for the SoE will inevitably be  different because the starting points are different to that of Imperial,  but one thing that occured to me whilst he was speaking and which is partly due to my own experience of trying to complete a doctorate whilst working full-time, was that of how many women have achieved post-graduate qualifications in the SoE compared to men in the last few years. What is the ratio of new staff coming in with a Masters level qualification, and are they more or less likely to go on to do a doctorate? How many people do not complete their doctorate, what is the ratio of women to men, and why do we think this is? Is there a correlation between the experience people have whilst doing their Masters and the liklihood of them going on to doctoral level? If there is an imbalance, what can we do about the support given to colleagues studying for post-graduate qualifcations in order to make it the norm that people will be successful rather than not? Such questions will need to added to the survey questions….

By encouraging colleagues in the SoE to study whilst they work, how exactly are we supporting them? Are we pretending that we’re giving post-graduate study equal status to other parts of our workload, or is the reality that other duties ‘trump’ an individual’s time to study and write – a call to a meeting, marking, or covering absence perhaps? How can we support individuals to preserve some semblance of work/life balance whilst undertaking post-graduate study without feeling guilty or defensive of taking legimate study time? I’d welcome your thoughts on this….


Please comment on these new survey questions:

These questions are based on the university’s template although we’ve added some.  What do we need to change, adapt or add?

Workplace culture
1. Irrespective of their gender, where I work staff are treated on their merits.
2. Irrespective of gender, successes and achievements of all staff are celebrated in my school.
3. Decision making in the SoE is transparent.
4. In the SoE, visible role models such as speakers and chairpersons (e.g. in examination boards, conferences, seminars, workshops, staff induction and recruitment events), give the impression of an equiatable gender balance.
5. In the SoE, meetings are timed to enable those with caring responsibilities or flexible working patterns to attend .
6. I think timing important SoE meetings within core hours (e.g. 10am to 4pm) is a good idea whenever possible.
7. Social activities are scheduled at an appropriate time to allow people with caring responsibilities to participate .
8. The SoE makes it clear that inappropriate language and/or behaviour are not acceptable (e.g. condescending or intimidating language, ridicule, stereotyping people, bullying).
9. If I were to be treated unfavourably because of my gender, I would feel comfortable making a complaint and would know how to complain.
10. I would feel comfortable reporting an incident if I witnessed someone being treated unfavourably because of their gender, and would know how to complain.
11. My induction to the university was ‘fit for purpose’ and took account of my needs.
12. In my induction to the university, I was made aware of the university’s core values.
13. In my induction to the university, I was made aware of the university’s commitment to equality and diversity.
14. I came into my current post from a visiting lecturer position and feel that I was inducted in the same way as someone new to the university.
15. If you have been treated unfavourably in your school on the basis of your gender (including when this was compounded by another protected characteristics e.g. age, pregnancy and maternity, race) please comment on the ways in which you think the school can prevent such behaviours happening in future.
16. Please suggest any ways in which your school could promote a more inclusive working culture  .
Career development 
17. I have received a staff development review in the past 12 months.
18. My staff development review was useful in reviewing my workload, performance and future objectives.
19. I am encouraged to take up mentoring opportunities (as a mentee).
20. I am encouraged to take up career development opportunities by my manager and/or the school more widely e.g. participating in conferences, sitting on school or external committees/boards/working groups, attending networking events.
21. I sit on a committee in my school, or at university level.
22. I sit on an external influential committee such as a charity management committee or national working group.
 23. There is fair access to training opportunities for everyone in my school.
24. In my school, staff who work part-time or flexibly are offered the same career development opportunities as those who work full time.
25. If you have attended the university’s Springboard Programme, please tell us whether it has made a difference to your work.
26. Please suggest any ways in which your school could promote a more inclusive approach to career development.
27.  In the SoE , work is allocated to staff on a fair and transparent basis.
28. I have been given opportunities to express my views about the work that is allocated to me.
29. Work I do outside of my contracted hours is recognised and appreciated by my manager/school.
30. My workload is manageable.
31. I feel confident that I can decide not to attend to emails outside of my work hours.
32. I am given disproportionate responsibilities for any of the following: Teaching, Research, Placement Visits, Administrative, cross-school duties, or other. Please comment.
33. Please suggest any ways in which your school could promote a more inclusive approach to workload planning.
34. I receive support and encouragement from the SoE to apply for promotion or internal jobs.
35. When I applied for promotion in the SoE , I was successful.
36. When I applied for promotion in the SoE , I was unsuccessful.
37. I applied for promotion a number of times before I was successful.
38. When I applied for promotion in my school, I received appropriate and useful feedback. Please comment.
39.  Everyone has fair and equal access to promotion opportunities in my school.
40. Please comment on the process of applying for promotion.
41. If you haven’t put yourself forward for promotion, why? Please comment.
42. Recruitment decision making panels in my school have an even gender balance.
43. I understand why positive action may be required to  promote gender equality. Please define or give an example that shows your understanding.
44. If you have attended the university’s Springboard Programme, please tell us whether it has made a difference to your work.
45. In  areas of the SoE’s work where there is a gender imbalance,  positive action is used to try to even up the imbalance.
46. Please suggest any ways in which your school could promote a more inclusive approach to applying for promotion.
Flexible working 
47. I am aware of how to request flexible working (e.g. part-time work, job share).
48. The SoE’s flexible working practices work well.
49. Flexible working is supported in the SoE.
50. I work flexibly (e.g. flexible work pattern, term-time working, working from my home, compressed hours).
51. I have decided not to request to work part-time or flexibly because I feel this would negatively affect my career e.g. taking longer to progress.
52. Please suggest any ways in which your school could promote a more inclusive approach to flexible working.
Access to family leave – maternity, adoption, parental and paternity leave 
53. I have received adequate support from the SoE leading up to maternity, adoption, parental or paternity leave.
54. I feel that there is sufficient flexibility and support to enable me to fulfil caring and/or childcare responsibilities, both planned and unplanned.
55. I have been/was kept up to date with work developments (e.g. using Keep In Touch days, Shared Parental In Touch days) during my maternity/adoption/shared parental leave.
56. I have received adequate support from the SoE when returning from maternity, adoption, parental or paternity leave.
57. I believe that taking maternity/adoption/shared parental leave has had a negative impact on my career e.g. ability to apply for promotion.
58. Do you have any suggestions based on your own personal experiences of taking maternity, adoption, shared parental leave or paternity leave for improving SoE practice around this?

Thank you!