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Athena SWAN

Is your University prepared for the new Athena SWAN Charter?

9 June 2016
Last week, I had the privilege of sitting on an Athena SWAN Assessment panel at the Equality Challenge Unit. The applicants were for an Award under the new Athena SWAN Charter. This encouraged me to think about the new Charter and how prepared Universities are for it.
The new Athena SWAN Charter is broader. It’s broader in three key ways:
  • It covers all parts of your University – not just STEMM.
  • It covers all staff in your Universities – not just academics.
  • It’s about equality – not just women’s careers.
Thus, the new Charter requires us to show opportunities for career development for ALL staff of ALL genders in ALL parts of the organization! This represents a real change in terms of what’s expected to win an Award and in terms of the information that needs to be provided in applications. It also represents a data gathering challenge….
By way of an example, a key aspect of career development is the opportunity for promotion. There is a question about promotions on the Athena SWAN form. In Cardiff University, promotion is not available to all members of staff. It is only available to Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers. In the School of Medicine, this is 220 of the 1,113 members of staff at our School – just 20% of staff! The majority of staff (443 Professional & Support and 534 Research Staff) are encouraged to develop their careers by moving to different roles or they can apply for re-grading – a feasible but rather bureaucratic process. The situation in other Universities is very similar to Cardiff University.
Professors (8% of staff at our School) apply for ‘senior salary review’ – a process not mentioned in most Athena SWAN applications. Maybe ‘senior salary review’ is part of the reason that there remains significant gender inequalities in professor salaries. The inequality in Professors’ salaries were dealt with dramatically at University of Essex. 
Gathering data on career development when staff move role is challenging. Often staff move to different parts of the organization and sometimes they get good opportunities by moving to different organizations. While this can weaken local parts of the organization it can represent real career development – something we should encourage. 
To try to address this issue, our School is developing a strategy for information capture. We are focusing on four key things that we believe we can get information about:
  • Are staff moving roles to develop their careers? If so, what grade and what gender? Can we capture career development data?
  • Are staff development opportunities available for all staff? Can we capture the data on secondments, mentoring, training and shadowing opportunities? Can we analyse by staff type, grade and gender?
  • If people are leaving the organization, can we find out whether it is a move into a role that they want or prefer?
  • We also plan to survey our staff on their perceptions of career development – do they feel that then can develop their careers at our School?
In this way, we hope that we will be ready when we apply for a new Athena SWAN Charter Award. Is your University or Department doing something similar? If not, it’ll be difficult to win those awards!