UCL SET for gender equality recognition

11 July 2008

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.

Female scientists

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. This was set up in 2005 as a recognition scheme for UK universities and their science, engineering and technology (SET) departments. It aims to assist the recruitment, retention and progression of women in SET and to promote good practice.

The Charter is run by the Equality Challenge Unit and the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET and was established by the Athena Project in 1999. The purpose of the Charter is to promote women in science, engineering and technology in higher education and to achieve a significant increase in the number of women recruited to top posts.

As a founder signatory of the SWAN charter, UCL was awarded Bronze status in 2005 for the University’s work towards advancing women in these disciplines. As a result, individual departments, institutes and divisions can now charter for a silver award.

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 received the silver award.

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; and improving the gender balance and representation of under represented groups on UCL decision-making fora and committees. The university also promotes work/life balance and sabbatical terms without teaching commitments to research-active academics returning from a career break.

To find out more about gender equality at UCL, follow the links at the top of this article.