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National award marks University's commitment to advancing gender equality

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 08 MAY

Birmingham City University has secured a national award which recognises its commitment to eliminate gender bias and develop an inclusive culture that values all staff.

The University received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) on Monday 8 May 2017, honouring its work to combat gender inequality.

To apply for the award, the University was required to submit an evaluation of staff data, policies, practices and organisational structures. It also presented a four-year plan building on the challenges and opportunities these present. 

Athena SWAN

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Professor Graham Upton, Vice-Chancellor, Birmingham City University, said:

“As a modern university centrally located in the UK’s vibrant and diverse second city, we are committed to creating a level playing field for academic and professional careers. Achieving the Athena SWAN Bronze Award offers solid recognition that we are heading along the right path, particularly in promoting the recruitment, progression and retention of female academics.

“Although the Athena SWAN principles echo the work we are already carrying out in terms of gender equality, the process of achieving such an award is rigorous and time-consuming. Therefore, the Bronze Award is a true testament to the hard work of a dedicated team led by Professor Maxine Lintern and Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas.”

Addressing inequality

Despite progress in many areas, higher education as a whole has yet to effectively address the loss of women across the career pipeline and the under-representation of women in senior academic, professional and support roles. 

This was the springboard for ECU establishing the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) Charter in June 2005. Initially its aims were to advance the representation of female academics in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics (STEMM). However, its scope was expanded in May 2015 to include gender equality in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law disciplines (AHSSBL). The Charter now also covers staff in professional and support roles and transgender staff and students.

Birmingham City University’s pledge for a robust and sustainable implementation of Athena SWAN principles was strengthened with the appointment of Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas, Research Fellow and Athena SWAN Project Manager. She said:

“Gender equality is everyone's business and Birmingham City University's success in gaining the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze award is a tribute to the commitment, hard work and mutual support of very many individuals right across the University, particularly of course, members of the Athena SWAN Steering Committee, Working Groups and Faculty Action Groups. 

“The outcome was never a foregone conclusion, not least because our Bronze is awarded under the new and much broader Athena SWAN framework.” 

Four-year action plan

Birmingham City University will now begin work on the four-year action plan, including the development of an organisational structure to carry proposed actions forward. The achievement of the Bronze Award also means that individual Schools are now eligible to apply for their own Athena SWAN awards.

Professor Maxine Lintern, Chair, Athena SWAN Steering Committee, Birmingham City University, said:

“The Bronze Award recognises that we have a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive workplace culture. However, this is the beginning rather than the end of the journey for us as an institution.

Vibrant community

Birmingham City University is one of 143 Athena SWAN Charter members, with its Bronze Award being valid for three years.

Dr Ruth Gilligan, ECU’s Athena SWAN Manager said:

“All applicants in this awards round have shown great commitment to and progress in addressing inequalities in policies, practices and culture, and join a vibrant community in higher education. Equality Challenge Unit and I would like to congratulate all Athena SWAN awards winners on their achievements towards gender equality.

“The increased success rate of applications under the expanded Athena SWAN Charter process is extremely positive not least because of the consideration the expanded criteria gives to how gender and race intersect to shape experiences. We are delighted to welcome all successful applicants under the expanded criteria all of whom are paving the way for real change in AHSSBL subjects and for professional and support staff within their departments and institutions.”   

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