The 2016 Athena SWAN champion is announced!

The Kent Athena SWAN event held in Canterbury on 14th September 2016 and the first Athena SWAN Champion was announced as part of morning plenary sessions.

Members of the Athena SWAN working group (ASWG) nominated staff members who had shown outstanding ‘on the ground’ commitment, leadership and/or visibility with the Athena SWAN initiative at Kent.

Simon Kirchin, incoming chair of the ASWG and host of the Canterbury event, announced the winner as Professor Peter Clarkson, who received the most nominations from working group members.   One staff member wrote that she wanted to nominate Peter “in recognition for his major contributions to a significant number of changes implemented at School level that have changed the culture and greatly improved the quality of our work envrionment”.

The runner-up was announced as Dr Erika Nurmsoo.  One staff member praised Erika for her mentoring to other Schools at Kent for Athena SWAN awards and her work in the sector, including working as an ECU panel member and being an active part of the Critical Friends network for Psychology.

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Athena SWAN Canterbury 2016/17 event – 14th September

The theme for this year’s event is: what does Athena SWAN mean to us at Kent. The Athena SWAN initiative is focused on not just improving the representation of women in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics disciplines (STEMM), but recognising advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all. The morning of our September 2016 event will see an introduction by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow who will be followed by plenary sessions on what Athena SWAN means to Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Sciences. After the networking lunch, the afternoon will focus on practical, inspiring workshops and cover a range of topics, including:

• Content for your Athena SWAN submission
• Setting up a self-assessment team
• Barriers to Athena SWAN and how to overcome them
• How to move from a bronze award to silver
• …and more!

The day is designed to provide practical guidance and support for each School preparing submissions prior to 2020, whether they are just beginning their Athena SWAN activity or whether they are award holders looking to be awarded silver. The event seeks to provide context for all staff, including senior leaders, and embed the strategic value of Athena SWAN in all disciplines.  Athena SWAN is something that the University as a whole is committed to and by pursuing this agenda we create the best working environment for all staff.

This event will also see the first prize awarded for Athena SWAN Champion 2016! The Athena SWAN working group will be nominating an employee who has shown outstanding ‘on the ground’ commitment, leadership and/or visibility in relation to Athena SWAN.  The Champion will be announced in the morning of the event.

The event, the seventh at Kent, takes place on Wednesday 14th September 2016 with refreshments available from 09.30 in the Grimond Foyer.  The programme will begin at 10.00 in Grimond Lecture Theatre 1 and lunch will be provided from 12.30pm.  For tickets, please use the link on the right hand side of the webpage.

To book your ticket, visit our eventbrite site.  A full programme and further details are available on the Kent Athena SWAN webpage. Please print and share the poster should you wish to advertise this event to colleagues.

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Changes to childcare vouchers: act now to make sure you’re in the right scheme

This autumn, the Government is launching a new tax-free childcare scheme that will provide parents with a new way to save on their childcare costs. Staff at the University of Kent are currently able to save on their childcare costs through the Busy Bees Benefits Childcare Vouchers, and the Oaks’ Workplace Nursery Salary Sacrifice Scheme. For staff participating in Busy Bees vouchers and/or the Oaks’ scheme, the new Government initiative will provide another option which they might like to consider. If staff decide to stay in their existing scheme, they can do so.

However the Government has stated that, from autumn 2015, no one will be able to join any childcare voucher scheme other than their new tax-free childcare scheme. This means that staff won’t be able to join the Busy Bees Benefits Childcare Vouchers scheme after autumn 2015. It also means that those already receiving these vouchers won’t be able to opt out, and then opt back in after the new scheme is launched.

The Oaks’ Workplace Nursery Salary Sacrifice Scheme will not be affected: it will continue, and qualifying staff will still be able to join the scheme.

No couple will be able to be part of both Busy Bees Benefits Childcare Vouchers and the new government scheme. Your partner can’t be in a childcare voucher scheme if you are in the government scheme, and you cannot have one child in a childcare voucher scheme and another in the government scheme.

The University wants parents to have the time and opportunity to opt into the scheme that benefits them, and so has put together information which will allow staff to compare the different schemes, and the savings they could make. Which scheme is right for you will depend on your circumstances and what childcare you might need over the coming years. The “Changes to tax-free childcare/ Information for parents” guide, can be found here.

The launch date of the Government’s tax-free childcare scheme is not yet known, but it is recommended that parents act now, if they would like to join the Busy Bees Benefits Childcare Vouchers Scheme. Kent staff can join the Busy Bees Childcare Voucher scheme via the Staff Finance website.

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Five Kent science schools achieve Athena SWAN Awards for their gender equality work and supporting women’s career advancement in the sciences.

_WG48329The Schools of Biosciences, Computing, Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA), Pharmacy (MSOP) and Physical Sciences (SPS) have all achieved Athena SWAN Bronze Awards.

The awards recognise the schools’ commitment to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women in science in higher education.

A successful application requires a comprehensive and exhaustive review of current practices, coupled with plans for positive change.

The schools have all had to prove that they are serious about making their school a place where everyone is valued and all staff can enjoy similar opportunities.

All the schools have great examples of good practice:

  • Biosciences have a Researcher Committee and are instigating mentoring
  • In Computing staff are being supported to work flexibly and the School holds cake Tuesdays/Wednesdays
  • EDA’s outreach event for young women ‘WiRED’ featured in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s newsletter and EDA also run a wide array of inclusive School social events
  • MSOP staff can apply for up to £1000 a year to fund conference attendance and personal development.
  • SPS held ‘Unconscious Bias’ training and are developing in-house training sessions for early career researchers

All are excellent examples of activities which Athena SWAN promotes.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, responded to the news:

‘I congratulate the schools on their awards. This represents many years of working to improve the recruitment, retention and progression of women in the Faculty of Science. Each school is able to showcase a range of positive actions and good practice.’

The Dean of Sciences, Professor Mark Burchell, who chairs the Athena SWAN Working Group, added his congratulations:

‘In November 2013 the University achieved an institutional Bronze Award. The institutional award, the Bronze Award achieved by School of Mathematics, Statistics & Actuarial Science in 2014, and these five new awards show how our faculty-wide ambition for real change is being realised. The school awards attest to the excellent work that the schools have been doing over the past few years, ably supported by our central HR and Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity teams. Schools have examined their practices and have started to make real changes that are benefiting staff.’

The Athena SWAN Working Group first met in 2010. Since then, the membership has grown, awareness days have promoted the initiative across the University and the University has now been awarded seven Athena SWAN Bronze Awards.

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Athena SWAN Awareness Event at Medway, 7th May

Good Practice Benefits All. This is the theme of the Athena SWAN Awareness Event at Medway, and this is why the Athena SWAN Working Group would like to invite all staff to attend on Thursday 7th May 2015. Working to the Athena SWAN principles, means working in a place where all staff are valued.

Kent received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award in April 2014, which recognised our commitment to the Athena SWAN initiative. The initiative aims to advance the representation of women in science. By perusing this agenda, we aim to create the best working environment for all staff, and this year’s event will cover themes relevant to staff across the Faculties.

We invite you to join us in the Rochester Boardroom at 09:30. The event will run until 13:45 and includes lunch.

We can confirm that Lenna Cumberbatch, Diversity Manager at the Royal Society, will give the keynote address. A panel discussion, led by the Dean of Sciences, Professor Mark Burchell, will give participants the chance to discuss the initiative and find out what we’re doing here at Kent.

There will also be workshop sessions on: Promotion; Career Planning for Early Career Researchers (and those wondering what their next step should be); and a special Research Services’ Grant Factory Workshop.

We welcome all staff – men and women; Medway and Canterbury based – to attend the event.

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International Women’s Day and a year of events at Kent

EDA- international women's day8th March is International Women’s day, and this year the theme is ‘Make It Happen’. The theme and event aim to ‘encourage effective action for advancing and recognising women’. A goal shared by both the Athena SWAN Working Group (ASWG) and the 50th Anniversary Project, ‘Radical Women: 50 Years of Feminism at Kent’. This year, the ASWG and Feminism Project, will be holding events to further the aim of advancing and recognising women.

  • 21st March- One day Symposium on Feminist Action at Kent (50th Anniversary Feminism Project)
  • 7th May- Medway Athena SWAN Awareness Event
  • 27th-28th June- ‘Austerity, gender and household finances’ conference (50th Anniversary Feminism Project)

The ‘Radical Women’ events will showcase ways that feminist academics at Kent have improved women’s rights and wellbeing.

The Athena SWAN Charter, aims to advance the representation of women in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics. While the focus of the Charter is on the Sciences, the work of the Kent Athena SWAN Working Group is aimed at improving the working environment of all staff- both men and women.

Engineering and Digital Arts recently submitted an application for an Athena SWAN Award, and today held a coffee morning to celebrate International Women’s Day. Profits raised from the purchase of refreshments from J’s Tea Bar on Friday 6th March are being donated to Women’s Aid, a national domestic violence charity that helps up to 250,000 women and children every year.

Staff in EDA will also be ‘Getting Their Purple On!’  Purple is the domestic violence awareness colour and was also one of the colours adopted in 1908 by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) to symbolise the plight of the Suffragettes.

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‘Radical Women Symposium’, 21 March 2015

Feminism projecblog
The University played a pioneering role in the establishment of Women’s Studies as a legitimate and respected discipline in UK higher education in the 1970s, offering the first UK course in this subject. Subsequently, Kent has enjoyed an unparalleled reputation for feminist research, primarily, but not exclusively, in the Social Sciences.
Throughout 2015, the Radical Women project team is planning a number of events and activities to celebrate feminist achievements at the University, setting them in the context of research over the past 50 years. The first of these, the ‘Radical Women Symposium’, takes place on 21 March 2015.
Speakers will include current staff and students, and also activists and experts from the local community, former students from the Kent Women’s Studies programme, and visiting speakers. The one-day event starts at 9.30am and will be followed by a drinks and buffet reception.
Booking is free and is now open, by clicking on the event registration pages.
For more information, please contact  Harriet Armstrong Viner.


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‘Still too male and white’- Article by Kent Researcher in Times Higher Education

An opinion article by Sue Shepherd appears in today’s Times Higher Education: ‘Still too male and white? Don’t blame the headhunters’. Read the full article online.

Sue is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent.

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Honorary membership of Biochemical Society for VC

By Gary Hughes | 5 January 2015

Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow made an Honorary Member of the Biochemical Society, joining 26 other distinguished scientists currently on the list.


Formed in 1911, the Biochemical Society exists for the advancement of the molecular and cellular biosciences, both as an academic discipline and to promote its impact on areas of science including biotechnology, agriculture, and medicine. It is the largest discipline-based learned society in the biosciences with 7000 members.

Dame Julia’s career began with an undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Bristol, followed by a PhD in biophysics at the Open University Research Unit in Oxford. After postdoctoral studies at Stanford University in California, she moved to the Department of Crystallography at Birkbeck, University of London. She became Professor of Biomolecular Sciences in 1995 and Head of the Department of Crystallography in 1996 at Birkbeck, University of London. She was appointed Vice-Master in 1998.

Her scientific studies pioneered the use of computational methods to study the structures of large biologically important molecules and used this to probe their function and dynamics.

Alongside her scientific research, Dame Julia has played an important role leading some of the UK’s major science institutions. In 2002, she was appointed Chief Executive of theBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council , which funds scientific research projects at British universities. She became the 5th Vice Chancellor of the University of Kent in 2007, and in July 2015 will take up the role of President of Universities UK.

Dame Julia was also the Chair of the British Science Association for five years and was appointed to both the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology in 2011. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, society of biology and Institute of Physics and has received seven honorary doctorates and is an honorary fellow of Birkbeck.

She was awarded a CBE in 2001 for services to biophysics and a DBE in 2010.

(Story taken from the News Centre)

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New Year Honours for Professor Sarah Spurgeon

Many congratulations indeed to Professor Sarah Spurgeon, Head of the School of Engineering and Digital Arts who has been appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to engineering.
Sarah told the Dover Express “I am absolutely delighted and very honoured to be recognised in this very special way. It has been hard work keeping the award a secret from my family!”

Sarah was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Athena SWAN Awareness Event, and features on the Case studies page.

To see the New Year Honours List 2015, click here



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