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One way to increase numbers of women studying science, engineering and technology

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Over the last few years Meg Munn MP has been campaigning to improve the numbers of women who study science, engineering and technology subjects. She recently met Jo Lawton to discuss a scheme to do this in the university sector, and to learn how Jo is promoting it at Keele University. The Athena SWAN charter encourages universities to improve the numbers of women studying by changing their culture and systems in order to help support their subsequent careers.

The charter has been in operation since 2005 with institutions given different levels of awards depending on their progress. There are currently 90 academic institutions who have signed up to the charter which has been given a recent boost with a number of funders of research councils indicating that they will prioritise funding to institutions from 2015 that have achieved a silver award.

Meg said:

“This is an important scheme which has made differences in the academic world. It was very interesting to hear from Jo about her work. She stressed the importance of making changes throughout the whole institution. This will ensure that discrimination is removed, from admissions to appointment of teaching staff."

The principles of the scheme are:

         To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation,

         To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation,

         The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine,

         The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address,

         The system of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the organisation recognises, and

         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.

For more information go to: http://www.athenaswan.org.uk/content/athena-swan

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