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Gender Equality (Athena SWAN)

Athena SWAN

The Athena SWAN Charter is a gender equality framework used across the higher education sector to both recognise excellence in gender equality, and to encourage better gender representation in the higher education sector. Institutions use this charter to improve the working environment for all staff and students. 

UCL Computer Science is proud to be a part of Athena SWAN and continuously works towards embodying these principles within its policies, practice, and environment. The Department has been committed to work in ensuring that both students and staff feel supported in their study and career progression, and that the working environment is inclusive, family friendly, fair, and allows all to feel supported and welcomed.  

Our Awards

UCL Computer Science was awarded an Athena SWAN Bronze award in 2012, and an Athena SWAN Silver award in 2015 and 2019. See more information on Athena SWAN and our 2019 Silver award.

We have also been recognised by Informatics Europe with presentation of two Minerva Informatics Equality Awards. The Minerva award recognises best practices in Departments or Faculties of European Universities/Research Labs that encourage and support the careers of women in Informatics research and education. The Department of Computer Science was presented with the Minerva Informatics Equality Award first in 2016 and then again in 2020. The 2020 award recognised the ‘outstanding support for the transition of female PhD and Postdoctoral Researchers into Faculty positions’ in UCL Computer Science. 

 

 One of our PhD students and Athena SWAN Representatives, Sheena Visram ran a Listening Campaign in 2020 to first listen to staff and students on their experiences and perceptions of race inequality, and then, to better understand the barriers to a tolerant and fair culture that may be encountered by under-represented groups. Each story offered an authentic and valued voice to reason on a more inclusive culture. The outputs and action plan from this initial campaign has now initiated several other activities designed to put in place measures such that all staff and students feel equally empowered to realise their potential. These will be progressed in partnership with other groups within the EDI committee. This includes outreach activities, allyship, role modelling academic successes across diverse ethnicities, and training on unconscious bias. Inspired by experiences of curating TEDx talks and community organising, it is hoped that listening campaigns of this type will be used again to open a dialogue on difficult topics and to establish a listen-first approach.

Our Approach

Our approach to Athena SWAN is structured around five key areas:

  1. ARRIVE: Changing perceptions of Computer Science in both girls and boys aged 9-18 years.
  2. ASPIRE: Showcasing Computer Science role models and presenting diverse career paths in CS.
  3. ACHIEVE: Providing training and support to under-represented groups in Computer Science so they can achieve their potential.
  4. ADVANCE: Increasing pathways to advancement in academic and professional careers in Computer Science.
  5. AMPLIFY: Sharing best practices, scaling up and broadening our outreach for national and international impact.
Student Support

Improving Engagement: During 2016-2018, we trialled a new platform ‘Unitu’ which provides a transparent and much more dynamic way in which to collect, and act in real time, to address issues affecting student experience. The Unitu platform was found to improve student experience (BSc, MSc, PhD) and subsequently adopted for full use from 2018. Unitu continues to be immensely important for improving staff-student engagement and student experience.

Mentoring: The Department has implemented a number of schemes to assist BSc and PhD students settling into their courses. BSc students can benefit from the in-house mentoring schemes originally set up by Athena SWAN. Each first-year student is paired with an experienced senior student (a “buddy Mentor”) who can help in settling in during the first year. Students also have access to “coding mentors” who can provide advice on coding-related issues. The Department has also implemented a PhD buddy scheme in which first-year PhD students are paired up with a more senior PhD student, who can help with settling into the first year of a PhD.

Events: The Department organises a range of talks, competitions, careers advice, and social events for all students. Please see our “News and Events” section and follow our social media pages on Facebook, and Twitter. The Department also arranges a range of trips for students, one of the most popular trip is the annual visit to Bletchley Park, complete with picnic!

Training & Workshops: For PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, Athena SWAN set up the Fellowship Grant Writing Workshops (see also the “For Staff” Section). These workshops have proven to be very successful, with increasing number of successful Fellowships positions awarded to those who had attended the workshop. Another annual event for PhD students (offered in the 2/3/4 year) is the 3-day funded Cumberland Lodge retreat (Windsor Great Park). The retreat programme includes talks and interactive sessions, and training in presentation skills, and personal resilience training. 

Staff Support

Induction: All new staff have a personal welcome meeting from the HoD, and an induction with the department HR Manager, their line manager and other key staff. Each group has its own events that support integration and we use larger social events such as Christmas, Summer parties, and Away Days, to promote collegiality. Athena SWAN have been involved in the development of a comprehensive induction pack for all new staff members. Each staff member receives a personalised induction document and checklist highlighting compulsory activities (e.g. Diversity in the workplace).

Events: Athena SWAN organises quarterly socials for academic, teaching staff, and postdoctoral researchers where we introduce new staff, showcase role models, and celebrate our successes.

Training & Schemes: The Department funds training of Professional and Support Staff in line with the needs of the role, the staff member, and the Department. We continue to work on identifying areas for development and easy pathways to achieve positive career development. The Athena SWAN Proleptic Lectureship Scheme (PLS), was developed by the Athena SWAN team in 2012. The PLS supports Postdoctoral Researchers that hold independent external Fellowships in their journey towards being appointed to a permanent academic posts.

Workshops: Since 2017, Athena SWAN has organised and run a series of highly successful Fellowship Writing Workshops, including mock panels in preparation for fellowship interviews. These combined strategies ensure that our Department has a very high number of fellowships with close to equal number of men and women. Academic grant writing workshops for staff are organised by the department every two years and are often held on off-campus locations.  

Outreach Activities

The Department of Computer Science has a long history in establishing and running a range of outreach activities both within the UK and across the world. Athena SWAN has been closely involved in these activities, encouraging the attendance of 50% boys and 50% girls in our summer events and other outreach activity events. Closer to home we run a range of activities every year for children in the surrounding Camden area of London.

We offer a full range of exciting outreach activities with plenty of opportunities for students and staff to get involved.

Summer School activities for schoolchildren: We have been running the Magic Cubes project since 2015 with schools across England (state-funded, independent, mainstream and special needs), the Emirates stadium, children affected by the Grenfell fire, Natural History Museum, Royal Institution, and the BBC. Magic Cubes aims to make computing more fun for schoolchildren (14-16 yrs), and introduces concepts of electronics and computing together in a cube with functionality.

Wellbeing

Workshops: Athena SWAN has been involved in ensuring that a number of workshops are held every year for staff, and are included in the probation period for new staff:

  • Harassment and Bullying staff workshops.
  • Unconscious Bias workshops
  • Where do we draw the line?
  • Tackling Sexual Harassment Workshop
  • Diversity in the Workplace

Contacts and Advocates: We have Wellbeing advocates and Departmental Equal Opportunities Liaison Officers that can be contacted by staff.

Post-Break Award: The Athena SWAN team set up a Post-Break Award, designed to provide grants after large breaks, such as long illness or maternity leave. The award is meant to help the awardee’s research getting back up to speed once the leave has finished.

Emergency Childcare Award: Athena SWAN also set up an emergency childcare award which provides paid emergency childcare if you are a parent who requires emergency babysitting service.

Flexible Working: Staff are entitled to take paid time off during working hours for antenatal care, e.g. scans, midwife appointments etc. This is the case for both new mothers and partners allowing them to play a full part in an important life event. Staff can also adapt their hours (e.g., flexible working or compressed hours working) to suit their needs (e.g., maternity or carer duties).

News and Event

Athena SWAN has been involved in the arranging and/or support of regularly activities and events for both staff and students. Some examples are Tech-She-Can: “We can change the ratio” and TEDxNHS: Women and BAME.

We have also been involved in delivering a series of “Adapt to Thrive” talks and panel participations at UCL. The audience included UCL and external Academic Staff, Postdoctoral Researchers and PhD students.

Women in Computer Science Lunch events, have been organised by Athena SWAN since 2012. These are especially designed to foster opportunities for sharing of the experiences, bonding and personal mentoring. At these gatherings senior and junior members of staff mix and this in itself provides further support for career progression. At these events we sometimes also host guest role models, such as the visit by Prof. Maja Aataric.

The London Hopper Colloquium: Athena SWAN has been organising the London Hopper Colloquia since 2013. London Hopper is an annual event that brings women in computing together from across the UK.  It is for academic researchers who are building a career in computing and features women and non-binary speakers talking about their research, a spotlight competition open to postgraduate students [MSc (Research) and PhD], and opportunities to network with other new researchers in computing. The 2020 London Hopper was the first online London Hopper event, which oncluded the following speakers:

  • Miriam Backens (Univ. Birmingham), Classical complexity of counting problems via quantum computing
  • Sharon Moore MBE (IBM), When is Innovation not Innovation?
  • Rebecca Stewart (Imperial), Challenges and Opportunities in working with E-Textiles
  • Emine Yilmaz (UCL), New Ways of Thinking about Search with New Devices.
Success Stories

Gender equality is embedded in all departmental events (talks, invited speakers) and publicity material (newsletters, updates and website). We strive to promote gender-balanced and diversity in our role models at all opportunities.

Our students' success can be seen in the videos below:

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXkXrCnbcPk

Body Movement Sonification for Chronic Pain Video by Lilly Neubauer (BSc Computer Science)

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8sB548W2dM

Cognitive VR for stroke patients (Proof of Concept) with Evolv by Richa Lad (MSc Computer Science)

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/b9lgo4qF4nY

MotionInput v2.0 supporting DirectX with Microsoft by Ashild Kummen (MSc Computer Science)

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/uOAjTeKzJzU

Intel Sight++ v3.0 by Lydia Tsami (MSc Software Systems Engineering)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our PhD students and Athena SWAN Representatives, Sheena Visram ran a Listening Campaign in 2020 to first listen to staff and students on their experiences and perceptions of race inequality, and then, to better understand the barriers to a tolerant and fair culture that may be encountered by under-represented groups. Each story offered an authentic and valued voice to reason on a more inclusive culture. The outputs and action plan from this initial campaign has now initiated several other activities designed to put in place measures such that all staff and students feel equally empowered to realise their potential. These will be progressed in partnership with other groups within the EDI committee. This includes outreach activities, allyship, role modelling academic successes across diverse ethnicities, and training on unconscious bias. Inspired by experiences of curating TEDx talks and community organising, it is hoped that listening campaigns of this type will be used again to open a dialogue on difficult topics and to establish a listen-first approach.

Another of our PhD students and Athena SWAN Representatives, Mar Esterellas has also created a monthly series of 10-minute friendly chats with women in Computer Science. These can be viewed on a dedicated youtube channel and on the facebook group Women in CS, UCL. These inspiring chats are aimed at aspiring young students to raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges for women in Computer Science. By talking with women in CS about their life inside and outside the department, we are hoping to help breaking the stereotype of what a woman in computer science looks like.

Staff successes: A selection of staff successes are presented below but many more can be found on the Computer Science News page

  • Professor Federica Sarro, was recently awarded the prestigious IEEE CS TCSE Rising Star Award for her high-impact, industrially relevant research on predictive modeling for Software Engineering. The award was presented at the 43rd International Conference on Software Engineering on May 28th 2021 
  • Professor Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in UCL Computer Science, and former IHE Deputy Director (Digital) was awarded the IFIP TC13 Pioneer in Human-Computer Interaction Award (2021) which ‘honours the greatest contributors in the development and growth of the field of HCI”.  
  • Professors Alexandra Silva and Yvonne Rogers have been honoured at the third Suffrage Science Awards for Mathematics and Computing.  The Suffrage Science awards scheme, curated by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, celebrates women in STEM subjects, and encourage others to enter scientific fields and reach senior leadership roles. 
  • Professors Alexandra Silva and Yvonne Rogers have been honoured at the third Suffrage Science Awards for Mathematics and Computing.  The Suffrage Science awards scheme, curated by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, celebrates women in STEM subjects, and encourage others to enter scientific fields and reach senior leadership roles. 
Career Advice & Development

Secondments: We actively encourage and support our Professional and Support Staff in considering secondments, short term posts in our or other Departments at the University that are designed to create opportunities for training and for furthering career development.

Appraisal and Training: UCL staff are expected to take part in the Appraisal, Review and Development Scheme. Each staff member has an annual appraisal meeting with their line manager in which they discuss work expectations/contributions, identify development and flexible working needs and review workload. The Department encourages staff to broaden their knowledgebase and enrol in UCL training which offers an extensive list of varied programmes often run with specialised external companies which can then be added to their training and appraisal record.

Workshops: Athena SWAN has been involved in running workshops to offer students a range of careers advice from representatives in Academia, Industry and the Healthcare Sector.

Recognition & Reward

Staff Promotion: All staff are automatically considered for promotion each year. Athena SWAN has also been involved in making the promotions and appraisal a transparent and regular process and all staff are now automatically reviewed for promotion every year.

UCL Professional Service Awards: We actively promote and nominate our PSS for UCL Professional Services Awards, achieving 7 in the last 4 years.

We celebrate successes of every kind for both staff and students, with a Departmental newsletter, mention on our website and social media pages and prizes (e.g., for student best projects, staff awards and grants successes).