Coventry University has been awarded the prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze Award for its work in recognising the commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in academia. An Athena SWAN Bronze university award recognises that the university overall has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.
The University signed up to the Athena SWAN charter in 2012. The Athena SWAN Charter evolved from work between the Athena Project and the Scientific Women’s Academic Network (SWAN). Any higher education institution which is committed to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in STEMM in higher education and research can apply for membership.
The six principles of the charter represent the cornerstone of Athena SWAN; to join the Charter, vice-chancellors or principals must indicate that their institution will take action to address these areas.
- To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation
- To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation
- The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine
- The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address
- The system of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the organisation recognises
- There are both personal and structural obstacles to women making the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career in science, which require the active consideration of the organisation
The Chief Medical Officer announced in 2011 that the National Institute for Health Research would only expect to shortlist medical schools for biomedical research centre and unit funding if the school holds a Silver Athena SWAN award. It is envisaged that other research councils/groups will follow that example in the future and so it is essential for Coventry’s continuing development in research.
In order to achieve the Bronze Award status the University had to:
- Demonstrate particular challenges and plan activities for the future.
- Use quantitative and qualitative assessment to identify challenges and opportunities.
- Have a plan that builds on this assessment, and lessons from any activities already in place.
Dr Caroline Lambert is the University contact for Athena SWAN, she commented: ‘The University is committed within the action plan to work on the areas of development and greatest need highlighted during the self-assessment process for the next 3 years. The self-assessment team will continue to meet regularly to monitor progress against the action plan and determine the long term direction required for any future applications. The Bronze University status does allow all of our STEMM departments and/or Faculties to pursue Bronze status for themselves. EC and HLS are now looking at the criteria and requirements as applicable to them, with that in mind.’