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Athena Swan Gold Award for Gender Equality

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Aston University has become only the second university institution to receive the Athena Swan Gold Award, recognising its commitment to gender equality.

The Athena Swan charter is a framework which supports and transforms gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. It was originally set up in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), but has since been extended to address gender equality more broadly. Athena Swan is administered by AdvanceHE, a charity which works to improve higher education, and Bronze, Silver and Gold awards can be issued. The University previously held a Silver award.

The Gold award application process was led by Professor Hannah Bartlett, who has been Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion at Aston University since 2019, assisted by a core team consisting of Dr Olivia Hunt, Jens Klots, Claire Richards and Hayley Venables. More than 20 staff members led activities that contributed to the success of the Gold award application.

Aston University has been working towards the Gold Award since it was awarded Silver in 2018 through various schemes and initiatives. The University created the Inclusive Aston Community, within which 20 per cent of all staff are members of at least one EDI network or group. The University has held courses and events to support women in their careers, such as Young Women into Leadership, British Council Women in STEM Scholarships, Cyber Kali Explorer event, and the Innovation Women Conference, and developed inclusive support and policy around parenting, menopause, domestic violence, and miscarriage. The Inspiring Women at Aston staff network aims to support women to achieve and succeed.

The professorial pay gap has fallen from 8 per cent in 2019 to 5% in 2023, while the overall gender pay gap has fallen from 22% in 2018 to 17% in 2022.

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Multiple gender-neutral toilet facilities have been installed throughout the University, free personal hygiene products are widely available and gender-neutral clinic wear is provided.

As well as the institutional Gold award, the university holds Athena Swan awards at a college and school level. In 2022, the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences became only the second engineering department in the UK to achieve Athena Swan Gold certification, and the College of Health and Life Sciences holds the Silver award. The School of Social Science and Humanities, Aston Business School and Aston Law School have Bronze Athena Swan awards.

This achievement aligns directly with our Aston 2030 Strategy and our commitment to be a university that is truly inclusive, entrepreneurial, and transformational.

Professor Aleks Subic, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, says: “The Athena Swan Gold award at institutional level positions Aston as an equality, diversity and inclusion leader within the higher education sector in UK and around the world. This achievement aligns directly with our Aston 2030 Strategy and our commitment to be a university that is truly inclusive, entrepreneurial, and transformational. The award reinforces our commitment to embedding equality across the University in line with our strategic plan for inclusion.

“I am confident that we are embedding best practice into our everyday work and know that all staff have a shared commitment to making Aston University the best place to work, for all members of our community, a promise we have made in our Aston 2030 Strategy.”

Professor Bartlett says: “We are very proud of this achievement, but we will not stop here. We have developed an action plan for further progression towards gender equality and we will work hard to ensure that we continue the great work that has been carried out to get us to this point. The award will act as a catalyst for further advancement and engagement with this important agenda.”

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