Athena SWAN Action Plan
Our department's Athena SWAN Action Plan supports the promotion of inclusive working practices across four distinct themes: culture and continuous improvement for a better workplace, holistic development of our staff, improving job security and career progression, be a beacon for other institutions and groups.
The Action Plan was created in 2017 and was revised and extended by the Self-Assessment Team in 2020 to focus their work until the next Athena SWAN application in April 2022.
Here we present our top three actions across each of the four themes. View our full action plan to see the rationale for each objective and progress to date.
Culture and continuous improvement
We aspire to be a department where equality, diversity and inclusion is no longer an agenda item but a way of working, one which benefits all current and future staff and students.
To achieve this consistently across the department requires senior leadership who are actively learning and open to feedback and ideas so diverse perspectives are truly welcome by all.
Top three actions:
Ensure equality, diversity and inclusivity is embedded in the strategic planning of the department and data used to inform decision making
Encourage two-way communication with staff and students across the department
Improve support for staff and student wellbeing
"The 2018 staff survey unfortunately saw increases in reports of both experiencing and witnessing bullying and harassment in the department and across the wider Medical Science Division. It showed a more active approach to these issues as well as staff and student wellbeing was needed. In addition to all members of Senior Management Committee completing anti-bullying and harassment training we established a department Wellbeing Month in autumn 2019.
"This was repeated in 2020 where I interviewed Daphne Romney QC about her report into sexism and harassment at the British Medical Association. While working remotely, it has become increasingly important to encourage two-way communication in the department. Time for Q&A in the department open meetings with new opportunities for online anonymised question submission via slido, and the introduction of the pulse surveys to supplement the biennial staff survey with frequent and relevant feedback really supports with this."
Become a better citizen and colleague
We believe developing talent goes beyond supporting great academics.
To become a beacon of good practice in equality, diversity and inclusion requires a collective effort which is embraced across all aspects of working life.
Learning and development requires time and investment in people and from people for the benefit of the department, our colleagues and ourselves.
Top three actions:
Engage department members in equality, diversity and inclusivity issues
Personal Development Reviews: Improve uptake and consistency of completion
Develop and support new and future managers
“In the 2018 staff survey, while 93% of respondents found PDR useful only 61% reported having one in the last two years. Our department aim is for everyone to have the opportunity to have an annual PDR with their line manager.
"To improve the uptake of PDRs in the department, in 2018 we launched a PDR awareness month with improved guidance and training to try to break down some of the barriers to completing a PDR and improve their quality. In 2020 the senior management committee wrote statements of commitment reflecting on why PDRs are important to them and their team. We are currently moving our PDRs onto an online system to encourage completion and improve the accuracy of reporting while reducing the administrative burden of completing the process.”
Kamal Mahtani, PDR Working Group Lead.
Improve job security
As a foundation for career progression
We recognise the importance of job security as a foundation for career progression.
Working within the constraints of a national and university system which can prove challenging at times, we are committed to working together to provide support for all colleagues.
There are various work-life pressures which can impact the choices individuals make to progress their career. To support this, we strive to improve the transparency and management of contracts, workload, and long-term (including parental) leave.
Top three actions:
Support research staff to secure sustainable funding
Ensure transparent and fair approaches to workload allocation
Improve experience of part-time and flexible working as well as return to work after long-term leave
“In the 2018 staff survey we saw that 39% of respondents felt working part-time hindered career progression. Yet balancing part-time work with other responsibilities, like supporting a family, shouldn’t be a barrier to career progression for anyone, and our department aims to encourage and support all staff to thrive in their careers and progress to senior positions.
"In 2019 we developed a new set of guidelines for managers and staff to support this goal and collated and shared the experiences of others in the department who work part-time. During this period, we have seen 38 staff promoted, 29% of whom work part-time. We have also seen 30 staff awarded the title of university research lecturer, associate professor or professor and 23% of these were part-time workers.”
James Sheppard, Deputy Lead, Athena SWAN SAT
Share with the world
We champion and promote good practice across our priorities, to the wider community.
The process of sharing and exchanging will help us continue to challenge ourselves and reflect what further action we can take to sustain our advancements and achievements.
Top three actions:
Help to demystify academic careers in science
Develop information and support resources for staff with disabilities
Host a series of 'Better Workplace Culture' events
“As chair for the Athena Swan Self-Assessment Committee, I'm keen that we share our good ideas and learn from best practice in other departments.
"Our Beacon Projects to date include the NDPCHS department staff webpages (revolutionary in including all staff rather than just the academic leads!) and the Women in Sciences project which was funded by the VC Diversity fund. The study is based on interviews with women scientists working at Oxford University. This fascinating study was published on a dedicated website and illustrated with hundreds of video and audio clips from interviews with over 40 women. We also wrote articles based on the study (Chapple & Ziebland 2017, Ovseiko et al 2017) , and were invited to presented the findings at events and conferences. The site was later updated to include another 15 interviews beyond MSD.
"As we continue to challenge ourselves on topics of diversity and inclusion we hope there will be opportunities to share new 'beacon projects' .
"Two current examples are i) the NDPCHS Better Workplace Culture events and ii) a focussed research methods course to support teams working on equality and diversity to collect and present department data in imaginative ways.”
Sue Ziebland, Athena SWAN Lead and Self-Assessment Team Chair