The Athena SWAN awards recognise and celebrate good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in science, engineering and technology (SET) within Higher Education. Athena SWAN awards are available at University and Departmental levels. The Clinical School is proud to say that it holds a silver award. In October 2014 the University of Cambridge joined a select group of only four other universities to be awarded a silver award, which would not have been possible unless a significant number of its constituent institutions, such as the Clinical School, had already achieved this prestigious award.
The Athena Scientific Women’s Advisory Network (SWAN) Project was established in the late 1990s to try to advance and promote the careers of women in SET in higher education and research in the UK, and to achieve a significant increase in the number of women recruited to top posts. The need for this is great, given the significant career attrition among scientific women. Now embedded within the government’s Equality Challenge Unit in London, its Charter is a membership organisation to which many UK Universities, including Cambridge, belong.
The Athena SWAN Charter is based on ten key principles. By being part of Athena SWAN, we are committing to a progressive charter; adopting these principles within our policies, practices, action plans and culture.
1. We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
2. We commit to 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.
3. We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including:
- the relative underrepresentation of women in senior roles in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL)
- the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)
4. We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
5. We commit to 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.
6. We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
7. We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.
8. We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
9. We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality.
10. All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.
The application for an Athena award demanded provision of a wide variety of data concerning (for example) recruitment, demographics across departments, committee structures, personnel turnover, and promotion.
Thereafter, an analysis both of good practice and the identification of areas where women are disadvantaged lead to an action plan to increase the former and remedy the latter.
Implementation of the Action Plan is being led by Professor Fiona Karet with support from Equality and Diversity Coordinator, Vicky Smallbone. In addition, every department and institute in the School has one or more Equality Champions.
In 2012, and again in 2015, the Clinical School undertook a full staff survey. Following this, focus groups have met to to address some of the issues raised and a number of initiatives have been put in place to improve the working environment of the School.