Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Results of women's focus group


A fruitful and energetic discussion took place in the Hub last Wednesday, with nine female members of staff representing most research groups and job titles. Out of the many topics raised, certain themes appeared time and again, which are summarised here. Although some issues are ultimately applicable across the university, most can/will be moderated by small changes at the departmental level.


  • University-wide: 
    1. PARKING!! Car parks fill up long before school starts, leading to complicated arrangements over school run duties, renting parking spots from local residents and harried staff before the day even starts.  
    2. The University Nursery is only open to staff if there is spare capacity, yet staff are more likely to have caring responsibilities (and main carers are generally female).
    3. Better and clearer information about maternity benefits, post-maternity policies (i.e. part-time working) and general support for female staff offered by the university, especially for non-permanent staff (postdocs/research staff). Make these details visible outside of the university intranet, and include in application information packets to demonstrate this commitment to potential new staff. [Note added after the meeting – the University’s Women’s Staff Forum has launched a Moodle site which is starting to gather these details.]


  • Departmental: 
  1. Communication and dissemination of information particularly relevant to women is poor 
  2. Activities, meetings and seminars held out of working hours restrict access to information and research news to parents/carers (especially those currently on leave) 
  3. Work to increase the number of women applying to, accepting and being promoted through positions in SEES 
  4. There can be a “blokes” culture in the department that sometimes excludes, offends or discriminates against females 
  5. More support for those on short-term contracts (mostly women at present)
  6. Gender balance on field trips and division of responsibilities could be improved


We look forward to discussing these, and any other topics staff wish to raise, at the next focus group on Wednesday the 12th November.

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