The University of Birmingham has scooped three new national awards for its work to further and support the careers of women in traditionally male strongholds of academia.

The Athena SWAN Awards recognise success in developing employment practices to advance the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) departments.

The annual gongs are awarded after an independent evaluation into the impact and effectiveness of Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Charter – launched in 2005 – has confirmed that the award scheme advances gender equality, as well as changing workplace culture and attitude, within participating departments and universities.

The University of Birmingham has been a bronze award holder since 2011, and – in addition – there are now seven schools and departments that hold individual silver and bronze awards. 

Dr Una Martin, Athena SWAN lead at the College of MDS, said: “The work of the Women in Academic Medicine and Science committee has resulted in a sustained, measurable and progressive change in the culture of the College over the last few years. We are delighted that this has been recognised by an Athena SWAN silver award. 

“We believe the changes brought about by the Athena SWAN initiatives have improved life in the College for everyone and we look forward to delivering and developing the objectives set out in our Action Plan, in line with the University’s Advancing Equality and Employment Initiative.” 

Dr Jessica Pykett, the School of GEES’ Athena SWAN lead, said: “The School covers many academic subject areas in which female staff and students are represented to different extents. We have therefore set out to identify positive actions we can take in each disciplinary area to address any imbalances. 

“The bronze award recognises that we have a rigorous action plan to support and promote women in academia, and we have committed to working together across the whole school to encourage female progression and ensure a positive workplace culture for all.

Mrs Lisa-Marie Winnall, Athena SWAN lead at the School of Chemical Engineering, said: “It is so important that we endeavour to fully enable the talents of both men and women within their chosen field of science. Participation in the Athena SWAN Charter will positively drive this process and surely this is of great benefit to us all.”

The University’s Provost and Vice Principal, Professor Adam Tickell, who chairs Birmingham’s Athena SWAN group, said the University was working towards applying for a silver award.

“As a leading international university, based in one of the UK’s most vibrant cities, we are committed to providing an inclusive environment in which all members of our community can achieve their potential.

“The initiatives we have implemented since receiving our bronze award in 2011 include giving staff members returning from maternity leave the opportunity to opt out of teaching or administrative duties for a period of time in order to focus on re-establishing their research. 

“Whilst we are proud of our achievements, we also recognise that there is still further work to do. The University has designated 2013-14 as a year of Advancing Equality in Employment (AEE) to signal a step-change in the University’s approach to equality and diversity in order to achieve a balanced workforce in the future. Increasing the number of female academic staff both overall and at senior level is a key objective of AEE and our work with Athena SWAN is key to achieving this.” 

Note to editors: 

As well as the above-mentioned award-winners, the Schools of Biosciences, Mathemetics, Chemistry and Civil Engineering all hold bronze Athena SWAN awards.

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