Gender equality awards for Essex departments

  • Date

    Thu 15 Oct 20

A female academic, wearing a white lab coat and plastic goggles, holds a piece of scientific equipment in her hands

The University’s ongoing commitment to gender equality in the workplace has been given a boost with three more departments earning Athena Swan awards.

The Department of Psychology and School of Life Sciences have both been awarded Silver awards while the Department of Government has gained a Bronze. This brings the total number of departments with awards to 11 – the aim is for all to have at least a Bronze.

Athena Swan awards are managed by Advance HE (formerly the Equality Challenge Unit) to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing gender equality in higher education for staff and students.

Professor Paul Hibbard, Head of the Department of Psychology, said: “I am delighted that the culture of the Department that I am fortunate to work in has been recognised with this Silver award. It reflects our ongoing, critical self-evaluation, which allows us to be proud of what we do well, and understand where we need to do better.

“While led by a dedicated and enthusiastic team, this project has depended on the hard work and contributions from staff and students alike. We are committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment for all.”

Dr Louise Beard, from the School of Life Sciences, said: "We have made improvements to our departmental procedures regarding recruitment and selection, career progression and family-friendly working, and this is now paying off as we have recruited seven female academics and promoted five to Senior Lecturer in the past three years.

"We have established a mentoring scheme for staff at all levels and we are sharing information about opportunities and support for women. We have also demonstrated support for the career development of our Post-Doctoral Research Assistants as three have recently been appointed lecturers in the School. We have updated our workload model to ensure all activities such as outreach and Athena Swan activity itself is recognised as well as teaching and research, and have been commended for our 'returning carers fund' which can be used to pay for childcare to enable academics to attend conferences.

"Implementing these initiatives during lockdown, when many of us were homeschooling our own children, was not an easy process and we are so pleased to have been recognised for the efforts we are continually making to improve gender equality and to provide a fair, inclusive and supportive environment for all our students and staff."

All departments are implementing challenging action plans to ensure they are even more inclusive, respectful and fair.

Those that already have a Bronze awards are: the Department of History, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, Department of Language and Linguistics, Department of Mathematical Science, Department of Sociology, Essex Business School and Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies. The School of Health and Social Care holds a Silver award.

Athena Swan awards are also given at institutional level. The University currently holds a Bronze award and will be submitting an application for an Institutional Silver award in November 2022.

Julia Greenwood, the University’s Athena Swan lead, said: “These latest awards reflect the continued hard work that goes on in departments to realise our collective commitment to diversity and inclusion, and are crucial to the University’s ambition to put diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do.”