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Celebrating ten years of gender equality

Published: 28/07/2015

ECU’s Equality Charters team marked ten years of the Athena SWAN Charter at a celebratory drinks reception hosted by King’s College London. Equality Charters Adviser James Lush gives us a rundown of the evening's events.

Athena-Swan-Anniversary-CakeProfessor Dame Julia Higgins, one of the founders of the Charter and a long-standing patron, drew smiles from an audience of academic leaders and staff, equality practitioners and enthusiasts, with stories about the history of the Charter, including the surprise of being granted such significant funding at the birth of the project. Dame Julia has attended every awards ceremony since she became patron in 2011, presenting hundreds of awards to successful applicants, both before and after the rapid growth the charter saw following Dame Sally Davies’ announcement linking specific NIHR funding to Silver awards.

ECU has since invited three further high profile figures within the academy to be patrons of the Athena SWAN Charter, reflecting the newly increased breadth of the Charter’s scope, all of whom were represented at the celebration. Professor Sir Paul Nurse spoke passionately about the need for diverse teams to produce the best science, as well as highlighting the specific need for genuine part-time contracts to be normalised, rather than full-time work being undertaken on part-time salaries. Sir Paul himself informed the audience that he himself always strives for 50:50 balance in his laboratories.

Professor Helen Beebee and Professor Sir Cary Cooper joined the event via recorded videos, which you can view below. The themes of their contributions were similar – that although gender equality in the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) receive less attention than science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), there is still a glass ceiling for women in these fields and this problem has been ‘unseen’ for too long. Both welcomed the extension of the charter to AHSSBL, as targeted action is needed.

Prior to these speeches, Professor Edward Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London welcomed the attendees and David Ruebain, ECU’s CEO, officially launched the expanded Athena SWAN Charter. David also revealed the criteria and prerequisites for a Gold HEI application. In order to achieve this level, HEIs must demonstrate their commitment to the new charter principles and show that they have taken an intersectional approach to analysing data and devising solutions. As part of this, for the first time ECU will ask questions around diversity in curriculum and pedagogy. Further materials, including application forms and guidance will be released shortly.

Before the audience were invited to tuck into the 10th Anniversary birthday cake and enjoy a networking reception, Dr Claire Craig, Director of the Government Office for Science and a King’s College London Council member, gave an insightful reflection on the importance of diversity in UK governance. The role of the Government Office for Science is to ensure that government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking. We were left with the salient point that in order to develop and communicate advice, ‘well-managed diversity results in better decisions’.

The event was supported by Pfizer.

You can download transcripts for both of these videos: