The University of Southampton

ECS Athena SWAN Award for supporting women in science

Published: 
1 May 2013
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The University of Southampton’s Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) department has been recognised for its work tackling the problem of gender inequality in science with an Athena SWAN Bronze Award.

The Athena SWAN Charter was set up in 2005 and acknowledges the commitment of the higher education sector to address gender inequalities, tackle the unequal representation of women in science and to improve career progression for female academics.

ECS joins other University departments including Chemistry, Medicine and Ocean and Earth Science to receive the bronze award this year. The University of Southampton has received the Athena SWAN Bronze Award since 2006.

The national achievement recognises the work ECS has done to ensure women are encouraged into an area that historically has been dominated by males.

For the past six years ECS has been committed to promoting diversity across its courses and staff. A Diversity Committee has been set up to encourage a supportive and inclusive environment for work and study. This Committee has already supported a number of activities including diversity training and career coaching for women.

ECS for Women has also been started by students to support women across all levels in from undergraduate to research to academic staff. The group takes an active part in conferences promoting females in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, and organises events focusing on employability improvements such as self confidence building, CV and interview workshops, and networking meetings

Head of ECS Professor Neil White said: “We are delighted to have achieved the Athena SWAN Bronze Award that acknowledges our commitment to address the gender imbalance in science subjects. We have recognised for some time that our fields of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science are heavily male-dominated. The lack of women at all levels means we are not benefitting from the talents of the broadest cross-section of society and therefore not achieving our full potential.

“We have already put measures in place to counteract this. We have started being more systematic about ensuring female representation in key decision-making processes, are more comprehensive in our training and mentoring, and encourage a flexible work culture that enables good work life balance. We are also more proactive about encouraging women researchers from ECS and elsewhere to apply for open positions.”

Professor Michael Butler, Chair of the ECS Athena SWAN Team, added: "Applying for Athena SWAN was a team effort. We appreciate that this is only the start and we still have a long way to go. We have drawn up a plan of action detailing how we will continue our efforts to tackle this problem, how we aim to play a leading role in equality at University level, and how we can share our experiences with other science and engineering departments at Southampton.”

The Athena SWAN award will be presented at a special ceremony at The Royal Society of Edinburgh, in Scotland, in June.

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