As the University celebrates its 10-year anniversary of the Athena SWAN Gender Equality Charter, we explore its wider impact on the culture of our organisation.
2019 marks 10 years since the University achieved its first institutional Athena SWAN award. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) team are reflecting on the changes, successes and challenges that the Gender Equality Charter award has brought. This month we are looking at how students have engaged with Athena SWAN and what inclusion means for them.
One successful student-led gender equality initiative to address the under representation of females in engineering has taken place in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (currently, 11% of UG students in Dept are females, compared to 14% nationally). Final year students Rowan Saunders and Rupert Glover are leading Bath University Rocket Team (BRT) and, in consultation with staff, came up with a ‘Diversity Plan’. ‘We established links with WESBath (Women in Engineering Society), diversified our social media messages, set up diversity training (delivered by ED&I team) for current members to help create a welcoming and inclusive environment within the team’ said Rowan. Rupert added that members of BRT were lucky to be able to attend the recent Athena SWAN lecture by Dr Dawn Kernagis and were able to chat one-to-one with her about her research, the technology used and hearing her insights on gender equality in Science and Engineering.
The ‘Diversity Plan’ also included action on outreach activities. In February this year, BRT teamed up with WESBath to provide a day of rocket themed activities to pupils at a local primary school. This action-packed day involved teaching the children about the physics of rocketry, from Newton’s Laws to Aerodynamics, and imparting important engineering skills in the drawing of their bottle rockets before making and launching.
The Department’s Athena SWAN team has also been working with students to define their vision of what ‘inclusive engineering’ means. Hamideh Khanbareh and Richard Burke who head up Mechanical Engineering’s Athena SWAN team decided to run an annual first year undergraduate assessed video competition themed all around equality and inclusivity. In teams of 5-6, students were asked to create a short video entitled ‘Why is Engineering for everyone?’.
These videos will be used in future years as the Department continues its outreach work and engagement with schools in the local community. ‘Because it’s an activity that involved all first year undergraduates, it consequently engaged all staff and has opened up the conversation among everyone in terms of what inclusivity means for us and how we can use initiatives like Athena SWAN to create a community that is supportive and welcoming to all: students, staff and visitors’ said Hamideh and Richard.
Students are also getting engaged with Athena SWAN activities in other Departments, including in Architecture and Civil Engineering. Fiona Gleed has represented post-graduate research students on Departmental Athena SWAN committee and had the opportunity to raise any issues about gender equality in her Department. ‘It was very interesting and insightful to be able to look at our gender equality data for staff and students in such depth and to work collaboratively with staff’. Fiona was particularly interested to find that a wide range of topics were discussed as part of the Athena SWAN agenda: career progression for staff, raising awareness around flexible working, appropriately recognising public engagement activities in the workload allocation, working to address gender balance issues at influential committees and many others. As a PGR representative, Fiona was very happy to see that the Athena SWAN team placed a lot of emphasis on career progression from an undergraduate to postgraduate and then to postdoctoral early career researcher. Fiona was pleased to see actions for her Department in promoting and discussing academic career pathways and engage students into thinking about staying in academia as a viable career option. You can learn more about Fiona’s experience on her Department’s Athena SWAN team via her blog posts.
It is great to see students engaging with their Departments on the issues of gender equality and wider career progression. Athena SWAN has had a positive impact on both undergraduate and postgraduate students through many actions: from equality and diversity training, ensuring students have access to support and information on career development, opportunities for further study, access to networks, to involvement in outreach activities, helping them gain experience that will enhance their CV and also raising awareness of jobs within academia.