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Sussex pledges to attract, support and retain female scientists

The University of Sussex has joined a national scheme dedicated to improving the job prospects of women working in science, engineering and technology (SET) subjects within higher education. 

By signing up to the Athena SWAN Charter, Sussex has committed to improving employment practices in recruiting and promoting women to senior positions in SET* departments.  

Professor Michael Farthing, Vice-Chancellor, said that he was “delighted” that Sussex has joined the charter. He said: “We recognise that women remain under represented in many of our science and engineering schools and departments, especially at senior levels; we are seeking, through joining Athena SWAN, to take action to attract, support and retain talented female staff throughout our SET departments.” 

In Sussex’s application to the Equality Challenge Unit, which runs the national scheme, Professor Farthing outlined the University’s commitment to achieving these goals. He said: “I pledge the University to monitor our progress towards an organisational culture where all can thrive, are equally valued and experience equality of opportunity for career progression, and provide an annual account of the University’s work and future plans for improvement.” 

In joining the scheme Sussex has accepted the six charter principles: 

  1. To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation; 
  2. To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation; 
  3. The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine; 
  4. The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address; 
  5. The system of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the organisation recognises; 
  6. There are both personal and structural obstacles to women making the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career in science, which require the active consideration of the organisation. 

As a charter member, the University and individual SET departments will be able to apply for Athena SWAN recognition awards (bronze, silver and gold). 

The University’s Equality and Diversity Committee, at its most recent meeting on 28 November, urged the University to take swift action and, as a result, Sussex will be applying for a bronze award in April 2012 (the earliest opportunity). 

Discussions are already under way to create a self-assessment team at Sussex – a key requirement of achieving the bronze award. 

The University has nominated Mariana Trejo-Tinoco, Governance Officer, as its dedicated Athena SWAN Charter contact. 

*The definition of SET includes the fields of medicine, dentistry, subjects allied to medicine (eg nursing and pharmacy), biological sciences, veterinary sciences, agricultural sciences, physical sciences (eg physics and chemistry), environmental sciences, mathematical and statistical sciences, computer sciences and ICT, engineering, technology, architecture, and building and planning.


Posted on behalf of: Human Resources
Last updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2011

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