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Athena SWANrace

Athena SWAN – my first step in inclusive diversity

21 June 2018

The opportunity to reflect is an essential part of improvement. Only when we look at where we are – assess our strengths and weaknesses – can we try to take a step forward in the right direction. Reflection requires time, reflection requires honesty, reflection requires feedback. Reflection lies at the heart of the Athena SWAN process. I’m taking the 13th birthday of the Athena SWAN Charter to reflect on how Athena SWAN has affected me and where I work, Cardiff University School of Medicine.

In our School, our first step in equality, diversity and inclusion was our application for an Athena SWAN award in 2012. It was the first time the School of Medicine had to look at itself in terms of the gender of our leaders and professors, in terms of our communication, in terms of the fixed terms contracts of our staff. I learned a lot.

To retain our award, in 2018, the School had to make more and deeper changes. Led by Dr Sam Hibbitts, Sub-Dean for Equality in the School, the number of people involved was transformed. EDI now includes more of our leaders and more of our staff with committees in every Division of the School. We’ve had broader engagement from professional services and academic staff. Staff development opportunities are uneven but actively discussed.

A key driver for Athena SWAN is money following a letter from Dame Sally Davies. Ideally it wouldn’t be, but it is. However, the Athena SWAN process has enabled real change. It has enabled changes that help people. It has led to more mentoring, more information and better facilities – for all staff – not just women.

In business, the argument for diversity is also about money. There is a relationship between a more diverse leadership team and better financial performance. Interestingly, ethnic diversity correlates with more money than gender diversity. I suspect, diversity in leadership encourages decision making that better reflects diversity of customers.

Building on our Athena SWAN success, I think it would be ideal to actively plan for a Race Equality Charter mark. Our student cohort is diverse and we need to find ways to reflect this. At Cardiff, over the last year, staff and students have done very interesting work discussing race, creating the African Caribbean Medical Association and facilitating disclosure reporting (Cardiff University Intranet link). I have learned a lot. There is lots more to do…

My EDI work has led to my participation in a Centre for Education Innovation funded project to build a more LGBT+ Inclusive Curriculum. It’s led by Mo O’Brien from HCARE. Working with staff and students from across the University, we have discussed how to reflect LGBT+ experiences in our libraries, our teaching and our offices. We’ve shared resources (developed by Caroline Ellis and Stonewall), teaching techniques and experiences. It has been truly inspiring. There will be more LGBT+ training days next year which should be advertised here (Cardiff University Intranet link).

For me and for the School of Medicine, Athena SWAN was a starting point in a journey of learning about diversity and making change. It’s been a journey of meeting people, learning and being inspired. It’s not even close to being over but I’m enjoying it.


Some interesting resources

More of my reading and viewing on this list from two years ago…