On the 19th July, six members of the Athena SWAN USAT were given the opportunity to meet with the Vice-Chancellor and discuss progress towards our Athena SWAN objectives. This provided not only an excellent opportunity to highlight the ‘good news stories’ that have been experienced along our journey, but also to consider and reflect on the many challenges that lay ahead.
In particular, our discussions focused on three main priority areas for developing our future approach. These included
(a) better addressing the needs of Post Doctorate Researchers,
(b) addressing the low number of females within senior roles across the university, such as Heads of Department,
(c) the requirement for a cultural shift across the university with, regards to gender equality issues.
The first of these discussion points, namely the needs of Post Doctorate Researchers, represents a new area of focus for the USAT. Discussion of the particular challenges experienced by this staff group was focused predominantly on career development and support issues and how these could be addressed, with a particular focus on improving line management skills and the role of Research Staff Co-ordinators.
In contrast, increasing the number of females in senior university roles has been a consistent goal of the USAT and one that proves difficult to remedy. Encouraging women to develop both management and leadership skills early in their career represents a crucial step in addressing this issue, in order that they feel both confident and empowered to apply for future opportunities that may arise. When considering how to address this within our USAT role, our meeting discussions highlighted the importance of both providing appropriate development opportunities and encouraging women to apply for these opportunities when they arise.
Our final discussion point perhaps represents the thorniest issue to be addressed by the USAT - that of cultural change. The majority of ‘tangible’ issues and impacts that form the primary objectives of the Athena SWAN admission can be linked to the more intangible concept of organisational culture. If gender equality is to be addressed across all roles and departments at the university, then achieving ‘buy-in’ and engagement with the Athena SWAN agenda across the wider university community is vital. In line with this, you are likely to be seeing and hearing a lot more from us in the future!
Dr Emma Williams, Post Doctoral Researcher Representative