Athena SWAN in the Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering

Jem Hebden Introduction Image

The stark under-representation of women in physics and engineering has been one of the few negative aspects of working in my chosen career field. Since I became Head of Department in 2008, we have been highly proactive in promoting Medical Physics to female school students and early-career women who might not otherwise consider physics or engineering as a career. However, it is essential that we are also able to provide the resources and friendly environment that will support female as well as male staff and students in developing rewarding careers in this exciting academic field. In 2012 we formed an Athena SWAN Working Group which reviewed our efforts to increase the representation of women among our students and staff, and examined our career support mechanisms. We also assessed the degree to which our departmental culture and processes take into account the particular needs of staff and students with childcare responsibilities. Our Working Group devised an Action Plan to continue our progress towards a 50:50 gender balance within the department, to enhance our career support for women, and to increase awareness of institutional and departmental family-friendly policies and schemes. As a result of our efforts, in April 2013 we were delighted to receive an Athena SWAN bronze award which recognised the positive changes we have implemented within the department, and the quality of our Action Plan for further improvement.

I hope that this online Athena Swan resource will prove helpful in highlighting the actions the department has taken to combat gender inequality in physics and engineering, as well as showcasing the recent successes of our female staff and students. 

- Professor Jem Hebden, November 2013.

What is the Athena SWAN Award?

The Athena SWAN Charter recognises commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education. The Charter was launched in June 2005. Any higher education institution which is committed to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in STEMM in higher education and research can apply for membership. The beliefs underpinning the Charter are:

  • The advancement of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine is fundamental to quality of life across the globe.
  • It is vitally important that women are adequately represented in what has traditionally been, and is still, a male-dominated area.
  • Science cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population, and until women and men can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.

More information on the Athena SWAN charter can be found here.

Our Athena SWAN Committee

Members of our Athena SWAN Working Group are as follows:

  • Prof. Jem Hebden, Head of Department, Prof of Biomedical Optics
  • Prof. Clare Elwell, Professor of Medical Physics
  • Mr. Andy O’Reilly, Departmental Manager and Departmental Equal Opportunities Liaison Officer (DEOLO).
  • Ms. Tracy Pearmain, Executive Assistant to Head of Department and Departmental Staffing Officer.
  • Ms. Gemma Bale, Research Assistant
  • Dr. Eleanor Martin, Research Associate

More information

Click here to contact the Athena Swan Committee.

For more information on our recent Athena SWAN application and our current work, visit the following links: