Standard view Zoom in Zoom in more
Gender Equality in Science, Engineering and Technology


'The problem is not women scientists but why science and research, the way they are organised and their work ethos and culture, fail to retain or actively deter the women who were initially attracted to them as a career'. The Athena Project.

What are the issues facing women in SET in higher education?

In 2002 Baroness Greenfield published a government report - the 'Greenfield Report' - which looked at the obstacles to the career progression of females working in science, engineering and technology (SET). The high rate of attrition of women from SET identified in the report has been widely viewed not only as a serious loss of talent and but also evidence of discrimination against women throughout their careers.

Some of the main issues facing women in SET are the overrepresentation of women on fixed term contracts, the difficulty in making the transition from PhD to a sustainable academic career, the impact of maternity on career progression, the lack of work-life balance and the absence of female role models.

ASSET surveys

In 2004, 40 universities, and 6500 scientists took part in a survey to determine the perception of women and men in the progress and enjoyment of their careers. UCL's 496 responses from males and females in SET, was the highest number from any UK higher education institution. UCL also took part in the follow up 2006 ASSET survey to further investigate women's career progression in scientific careers, including academic medicine.

Professor Jan Atkinson, who coordinated the surveys in UCL, set up UCL's Athena Advisory Group to engage the UCL SET community in taking forward the Athena agenda. In following up the findings of the surveys, three main key areas for initiatives to promote careers for women were highlighted: the impact of career breaks, mentoring needs and the 'glass ceiling'.

What action is UCL taking?

The Athena Advisory Group is composed of academics representing all levels from post doc to professor in the fields of science, engineering and technology (including medicine and the built environment) and equality and diversity staff. This group meets regularly to advise on what action UCL should take, to act as champions in promoting the initiatives of Athena and to assess progress.

UCL's Athena coordinator is Professor Jan Atkinson (Psychology and Pro- Provost for North America. ) or

UCL SET data

Gender Equality Scheme and Action Plan

Gender Equality - Progress

Progress Report - June 2008

Useful ideas to promote gender equality

Lots of information exists about good practice and successful initiatives undertaken in other universities. These include developing mentoring programmes, setting up women's networks, encouraging applications from women scientists dismantling barriers and supporting career progression and changing institutional processes. An overview of the good practice in successful Athen SWAN award applications can be found on the good practice section of the website.

Useful information, statistics, courses, events and good practice initiatives in other universities and case studies are also available from the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET. This website is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry as part of their Strategy for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET)

How can your department, division or faculty get involved?

From 2005-6 all UCL Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) departments involved in Equality Action Planning have been required to develop an initiative that will work towards the advancement and promotion of women in SET. For more information about the Equality Action Planning process contact:

UCL's Equal Opportunities Coordinator : Tel: 0207-679-9762.

If you are interested in putting your department or faculty forward now or in the future contact professor Jan Atkinson or

For more information about what the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology is doing to promote women in SET visit the MRC Lab's Athena webpage

The International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology (IJGST)

The International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology (IJGST) is the product of a partnership between the UKRC and the Open University. It has an editorial board made up of some of the most well known and respected experts on gender and SET from across the world. Its authors come from a variety of disciplines and a variety of countries.

You can get free access to this journal at the website:

UCL Gender Equality Event - 18 March 2008

What you missed at UCL's Gender Equality Event

Over 24 UCL science departments expressed an interest in gaining recognition for good practice in developing the careers of female staff at a seminar held on 3 July.

The event was organised by UCL’s Equalities Officers to promote to individual departments the opportunity to apply for an award from the Athena SWAN Charter.

At the seminar, advice and guidance were provided by Professor Jan Atkinson, UCL coordinator for Athena SWAN, Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Visual Development Unit, and Pro-Provost for North America. She was joined by Professor George Banting, Head of Biochemistry at Bristol University and Dr Nathalie Signoret of the Biology Department at York University, whose departments have already been awarded silver.

Professor David Shanks of UCL Psychology said: “The speakers made a compelling case for the value to departments of obtaining the Athena charter.”

Fiona McLean, Equal Opportunities Coordinator at UCL, said: “Being part of SWAN builds on what is already in place and makes existing good practice more visible. It also stimulates change at a departmental and organisational level and facilitates collaborative working across UCL to spread good practice. Even small changes may have a major impact.”

As part of UCL’s Gender Equality Scheme, UCL has a number of actions underway which also support the aims of the SWAN Charter, these include: improved data monitoring; an equal pay audit; a pilot mentoring project for women in the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences; promotion of work life balance to manage a career and family life; promotion of a sabbatical term without teaching commitments to research active academics returning from a career break and improving the gender balance and representation of under represented groups on UCL decision making fora and committees.

To watch the presentations from the seminar scroll down and see the videos below.

Professor Jan Atkinson, UCL coordinator for Athena SWAN,
UCL Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Visual Development Unit,
Pro-Provost for North America 'UCL and the Athena Charter.'

Professor George Banting, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology,
Head of Bristol Biochemistry Department,
Silver SWAN Award Winner 'Experiences from the department of biochemistry.'

Dr. Nathalie Signoret, Biology Department York,
Silver SWAN Award Winner ' Getting an Athena Silver Award'




Last updated: 12th May 2014