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Northumbria receive prestigious Athena Swan award for gender equality

7th October 2015

Northumbria University has received a prestigious national award, which recognises and celebrates support provided for women’s academic careers in science, engineering, technology, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

Established in 2005, the Athena SWAN Bronze award is part of a national charter designed to advance gender equality in academia. Institutions which meet Athena SWAN accreditation demonstrate their commitment to ten key principles and adopt these principles within their policies, practices, action plans and culture.

Northumbria already has an ongoing commitment to gender equality with a number of policies and practices in place. These include NUWise, a network established to support and develop the careers of female staff and PhD students working in science, engineering and technology areas at Northumbria, and Think Physics, a collaborative project funded by HEFCE using physics to inspire young people – particularly women – to work and study in these disciplines.

Ongoing and upcoming initiatives to ensure gender equality across the University include a review of marketing and recruitment materials to ensure they are appealing to female applicants and providing support to individual academic departments in their own Athena SWAN applications to recognise good practice at local level.

The accreditation process was overseen by Professor Glen McHale, Executive Dean of Engineering and Environment and Professor of Applied & Materials Physics, and supported by a number of representatives from across the University who conducted a rigorous assessment of many factors associated with equality of opportunity, training and promotion for women.

This process gave staff the chance to celebrate current practices, as well as reflect on ways in which the University could improve.  Looking forward, the University has drawn up a three-year action plan to address any inequalities in these areas.

Professor McHale said: “I am delighted with this award to the University. Ensuring a positive culture which supports career progression – irrespective of gender – identifies and addresses under-representation and its causes, and values all of our colleagues is critically important for the future of the University. We depend upon the talents of all of our people. The engagement and hard work of colleagues in the self-assessment team has been an inspiring example of our one-University culture. We all realise our Athena SWAN journey has only just begun, but it will help to create a brighter future for all.”

The Athena SWAN charter initially focussed on STEMM disciplines and was expanded in May 2015 to cover arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law and professional and support roles. This new focus will look to address inequalities more broadly and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

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