The University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering has become the first engineering department in the country to be awarded a coveted gold Athena SWAN award – an accreditation which rewards excellence across higher education and research in advancing gender equality.
Whilst the university holds a Silver Athena SWAN award at an institutional level and has a number of academic departments with silver and bronze accreditations, Engineering is the first at the university ever to have earned the elusive top award.
Athena SWAN is a charter established and managed by the UK Equality Challenge Unit that recognises and celebrates the advancement in higher education and research institutions towards the advancement of gender equality.
Founded in 2005, it sought to encourage and recognise commitment from HE institutions to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), but in May 2015, the charter expanded to celebrate work undertaken in the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL).
A Gold award recognises significant and sustained progression and achievement in promoting gender equality.
In an evolving educational and political climate, the charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and is a vital measure for assessing institutions’ commitment to positive change.
A Gold award recognises significant and sustained progression and achievement in promoting gender equality, a well-established record of activity and data demonstrating continued impact, and departments that champion and promote good practice to the wider community.
Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and People and Professor of Human Factors, said: “In both my role as PVC for EDI and People and a proud member of the Faculty of Engineering, I am absolutely thrilled with this tremendous achievement”.
Since the last round of awards in 2014, Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering has increased its number of women undergraduates from 25% to 28%.
“The Gold award is extremely rare but I believe it reflects the consistent quality and dedication of colleagues within the faculty who have been working towards this over many years”, she adds.
Since the last round of awards in 2014, Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering has increased the number of women undergraduates from 25% to 28%, and taken its total of women associate professors in research and teaching from 11% to 21%.
The Faculty’s work on the Technician Commitment, which ensures visibility, recognition, and career development for technicians working in higher education and research; the EPSRC funded STEMM-CHANGE: Uncovering Barriers to Inclusivity and Transforming Institutional Culture project; and trans inclusivity were also fundamental components of its gold-winning submission.
Professor Sam Kingman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty EDI CO-Chair, believes that a culture of diversity and inclusion is the key to maintaining these high standards. He added: “I am delighted we have achieved this award, it is the work of many colleagues over a number of years. Of course this is a milestone in our work, but we will continue to focus upon making Nottingham a better place to work for all students and staff”.
“This is a massive achievement for us following a period of honest and open reflection about what we do well and what areas we can improve upon.”
The university’s commitment to gender equality is therefore ongoing, and future plans include working to improve representation and knowledge exchange; supporting students by removing barriers in recruitment at all levels; and improving access to training, flexible working and uptake of parental leave.
The Faculty of Engineering Director for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, Dr Leah Ridgway, added: “This is a massive achievement for us following a period of honest and open reflection about what we do well and what areas we can improve upon, building upon the success of our first Silver Award in 2011 and renewal in 2014”. “I love my discipline and I’m passionate about reducing barriers to talented people at all career stages”, she adds, before summarising pithily that “engineering is ‘changing the world’”.
In the same round of Athena SWAN awards this month, the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology has also successfully retained its silver award gained initially in 2008, and can be seen to demonstrate the university’s far-reaching commitments to improving gender equality.