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Athena SWAN good practice initiatives

Advance HE publishes digital resource bank of Athena SWAN good practice initiatives in higher education institutions

The Athena SWAN charter recognises and encourages initiatives and practices that address gender equality and barriers to progression of women and men across UK higher education institutions.

Since 2006, the charter has presented 1,039 awards to subscribing institutions, all of whom have demonstrated a dedication to facilitating progress towards gender equality.

In 2016, with funding from the Wellcome Trust, Advance HE’s research team analysed sixty-two successful departmental Athena SWAN submissions from medical and related disciplines (2007-2014) to identify good practice initiatives that had positive outcomes for gender equality at departmental level.

Advance HE recognises the importance of sharing these good practice examples with the wider sector, and has created an online digital resource bank showcasing these examples across a broad range of themes including recruitment, career development and culture.

Advance HE is delighted to share these initiatives with our subscriber institutions with the hope that institutions will use this resource to find and identify initiatives that they could transfer to their own context. A few examples of these initiatives are outlined below.

More initiatives are available in the digital resources bank.

We hope this online platform will facilitate the sharing of good practice throughout the sector, contribute to a community of good practice, and facilitate the ability of higher education institutions and research institutes to continue to promote and progress gender equality.

Examples of Athena SWAN good practice initiatives:

Recruitment >

Department: Primary Care Health Sciences (Oxford)

Target: Academic staff

Details of activity:

The department wanted to present itself as more attractive to potential female candidates to increase the number of women at senior level (Clinical and Non-Clinical) applying for advertised positions.

The underlying goal was to provide role models to current staff and create a more encouraging environment for women to progress in their careers.

A sub-committee was set up to assist in the recruitment of all senior and clinical academic posts by identifying those with the qualifications and skills required, and then approaching these potential female candidates.


The sub-committee identified potential female candidates applying for senior positions, resulting in the appointment of a female chair.

The department notes that it was successful in attracting applications from women for senior appointments, resulting in the promotion of seven researchers in 2013.

Promotion >

Department: Barts and The London School of Medicine (QMUL)

Details of activity:

In order to support the career development of departmental staff, the School developed their staff performance review and enhancement process to include a new policy that implemented the rotation of senior administrative roles every five years (e.g. Programme Director).

This was particularly targeted at junior members of staff in order to increase their chances of promotion by developing their professional, organisational and managerial activities (POMA) skillsets needed to meet the School’s criteria.


At the time of submission in 2014, four out of five programmes had female academic leads, including two junior staff who had previously shadowed, and later replaced, undergraduate programme directors. The School noted that this change in leads was primarily the result of the role rotating policy.

Culture >

Department: Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine (NDM) (Oxford)

Details of activity:

With the aim of creating a more inclusive environment, the department increased the amount of family friendly events that occurred, and ensured that these events were scheduled for the weekend or a bank holiday.

Further information regarding the events was highlighted through the department’s newsletter, e-mails and their website.

This was alongside a physical display of Athena SWAN ‘fact sheets’ on departmental notice boards, which provided information on family friendly policies.

Examples of events organised include cheese and wine tasting, barn dancing and a museum visit which had around 40 attendees.


As a result of these events, the submission states that a ‘cultural shift’ was felt, supported by feedback suggesting 94% of staff would have recommended NDM as a work place in 2013.