Athena Swan is a national gender equality charter issued by the Advance HE, which recognises work to improve equality and diversity in universities and colleges. The University of Oxford was a founder member of the Athena Swan Charter and has held an institutional Athena Swan award since 2006. The University has recently been awarded its first silver award. Across Medical Sciences Division, 16 departments hold silver awards, and NDPCHS is the first department in the University to be granted the top gold award.
Professor Richard Hobbs, Head of Department, said: ‘I am really delighted we have gained this standard, and due recognition of the sustained work of many colleagues and over many years. This new Gold award recognises our long-term commitment to trying to support the careers of all who work here and challenges us to continue to embrace diversity in its widest sense in the future. While we can be extremely proud of this award, we are also reminded there is more work to be done. Alongside our core academic missions to improve health and advance science, we are committed to making NDPCHS a better place to work for all our staff and students, as can be seen in our Athena Swan action plan.’
The Award submission was overseen by the department’s Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team, Chaired by Professor Sue Ziebland. It was primarily prepared by the Writing Group: Sue Ziebland, with James Sheppard, Kathryn Ungerer and Nicola Small.
Professor Sue Ziebland, Athena Swan Chair 2012-2022 said: ‘I am thrilled with this tremendous achievement. Over many years, the department has achieved a vibrant and open culture where Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are an accepted part of everyday life, providing a setting where the careers of individuals can flourish, regardless of who they are. However, this gold award is as much a statement of intent as it is recognition of work done so far, and we have robust plans in place and a dynamic SAT led by new chair James Shepperd focusing on areas in which we will be working to achieve further excellence.’
Progress made in recent years includes:
- At the time of our first Athena Swan application in 2012 we had no female professors - now celebrate five female professors and seven female associate professors.
- A substantial increase in female DPhil students; encouraging them during recruitment through to providing role models - leading to a 40% increase in the percentage of students with at least one female supervisor.
- The Personal Development Working Group initiated a bespoke leadership programme in 2021, open to all members of the department, regardless of role and grade. Also relevant across the grades is support in personal development and we have sustained consistent improvements to completion and reported usefulness of PDRs.
- The impact of intersectional inequalities has been a priority with collective work to help to raise awareness and increase understanding of intersectional issues. Examples include staff blog posts, ‘diversity in research’ seminars, a department anti-racist reading group established by early and mid career research (EMCR) colleagues, guest speakers invited such as Clara Barker, who talked about her personal story as an LGBTI+ person in STEMM.
The department submitted an action plan for the next five years. In particular, the department will undertake:
- Further initiatives to support all staff through the pipeline and ensure women continue to progress to senior grades
- Actions to help students to consider career development
- Work to reduce the gendered impact of insecurity caused by fixed-term contracts
- Actions to support staff with workload, particularly line managers
- Continue work to reduce bullying and harassment in the department
For further details about our Athena Swan application and action plan, visit the Athena Swan webpages