Equality and Diversity and the Athena SWAN charter

Athena SWAN Bronze AwardThe School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences has a historically strong female representation in Geography and most notably human geography where female students are in the majority, but has a weaker proportion of female staff.

Over the past years, we have developed its Equality and Diversity (E&D) agenda and this is now solidly embedded throughout all levels and activities. In April 2014, the School successfully achieved an Athena Swan Bronze Award. This demonstrates the School's self-assessment of barriers to female scientists' representation, career progression and all staff's work-life balance, in addition to a workable action plan for change.

The Athena SWAN Charter was established by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) in 2005 to encourage and reward Higher Education institutions in their support of the presence and progression of women in the STEMM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine). Besides extending into the AHSSBL fields (arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law), Athena Swan now also recognises efforts regarding HE professional and support roles. Beyond tackling barriers to women’s academic progression, the Athena charter presently covers broader issues of gender equality and of a fair working environment for all.

Our Athena Swan/Equality & Diversity committee is now striving to show the successful impact of our Bronze action plan. The Bronze award and action plan are part of a wider network of E&D and Athena Swan initiatives across the University of Birmingham, aimed at promoting equality and diversity, work-life balance and the careers of women in HE.

The School E&D/Athena SWAN Committee:

E&D committee Terms of Reference

Therefore, in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences we established the following practices:

  • The Athena Swan/E&D Lead sits in the School Executive Committee, reporting on E&D matters as a standing agenda item
  • A School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences Athena SWAN/Equality and Diversity champion and a student welfare and gender equality representative have been instituted and embedded in the wider UoB’s E&D / Athena Swan agenda
  • All school committees are assessed for gender balance
  • All job adverts contain an equal opportunities statement, welcoming applications from female and BME staff and all those seeking flexible working  arrangements
  • Online diversity training is now a compulsory requirement for members of interview panels in staff recruitment
  • Student handbooks and staff induction materials include dedicated sections and statements on Athena SWAN commitments and roles
  • Students are encouraged to get involved as E&D champions and sit on Staff-Student Consultation Committee. A role description for the Student E&D champions is in place and direct communication between the Student E&D champions and the School’s E&D committee has been established.
  • Caring commitments and part-time work are accommodated in the new block teaching timetable, and school activities (seminars, away days…) are held within core business areas to broaden participation from speakers and staff
  • Maternity leave workload remission policies are in place
  • PERCAT career development training for early-career and post-doctoral staff
  • School Seminars take place within core business hours ensuring that speakers and audience members with caring commitments can participate

As part of a wider network of E&D initiatives across campus, our school implements the following university-wide policies:


A family-friendly campus: Layla at the GEES Open Day and Bella posing with ‘Old Joe’ clock tower