Autumn Term Institutional Self-Assessment Team meeting

The Institutional Athena SWAN self-assessment team met for the first time this academic year on 12th September.

Now we are working towards our institutional Silver award, the priorities of this group are to govern the delivery of the Bronze action plan, consider how we can advance gender equality for our Professional Services colleagues and embed the principles of Athena SWAN into our everyday working.

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Recruitment Review Update – Maternity Leave

As from 1st of July 2018, the University has had a Strategic Review of Vacant and Replacement posts in place. (Read more here).

The Athena SWAN team is pleased to announce, that with immediate effect, Maternity Leave cover will be considered as out of scope for the recruitment Strategic Review where the cover requested is no longer than the maternity leave period and it can be funded by the budget for the post. In these circumstances, recruitment to backfill can commence following the normal recruitment process and will not have to be submitted to the Review Groups first for consideration. If an appointment to cover maternity creates another vacancy (or other vacancies) then the back-fill posts will be subject to review by the panel.

The HR recruitment (Information for managers) web pages have been updated to reflect the above decision (FAQ 7 and 31):

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Funding success for Athena SWAN

Last year the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) invited bids for its £5million ‘Inclusion Matters’ programme.

The Athena SWAN team put ourselves forward as partners in two bids led by the University of Nottingham and University of Lincoln.

We are delighted that both were successful. For the next two years, we will be working on the University of Nottingham’s ‘STEMM Change’ project which will cover a range of initiatives to build and embed cultural diversity.

This includes a ‘Change Maker’ placement scheme for technical colleagues. The University of Lincoln’s project is ‘ASPIRE’ and will draw on best practice across the sector to create an ‘EDI impact framework’.

For both projects, we will be collaborating with a number of other Universities and commercial partners.



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Shining a light: reporting on equalities and protected characteristics

by Sarah Vickerstaff

As the first round of gender pay gap reporting hits the news, it is worth reflecting on the wider issues around equality duties and reporting on ‘protected characteristics’ as currently defined by the Equality Act 2010. Whilst the gender pay gap reporting can be criticised for its relatively crude analysis of the problem, it does have the merit of shining a light on an important topic and creating a space for talking about the kinds of structural and cultural inequalities which persist and manifest themselves in pay (and pension) disparities. As social policy academics, we should welcome the spotlight that has been put on pay disparities. Further, as a researcher into the impacts of age on employment opportunities and experiences, I wonder, is it worth considering whether there is any merit in extending duties to report on age issues?

Why report on age?

With aging populations, governments everywhere want to encourage people to keep working for longer and delay retiring, so that more money is saved for retirement and there is less pressure on public resources to support them through retirement. Yet, we know that older unemployed people find it more difficult to get back into work and there is also plenty of evidence of discrimination against older workers in work, in terms of access to training and promotion, for example. It is not only pay but other aspects of employment that potentially merit a duty to report. There is a little remarked upon duty on Northern Ireland employers (with 250+ employees) to monitor and report on the breakdown of staff by religion.

The Business in the Community Age at Work team, in the interest of increasing the presence of the 50+ age group in employment, have called upon employers to “publish the number and percentage of older workers in their workforce in order to create transparency”. So far, only nine businesses have taken this step.

The value of organisations knowing their age profiles (and revealing them) shines a light on potential areas of discrimination, but importantly, also lays a basis for not only identifying but more importantly, designing responses to inequalities. This is no less true for other areas of potential inequality or perhaps all protected characteristics. Equality, diversity and inclusivity managers across the private and public sectors know that ‘equality monitoring’ is the bedrock of strategies for improvement. Understanding your current workforce makeup and modeling the promotion and career pathways of different groups is the first step to policy development or change.

An example: equality monitoring in Higher Education

To take one example, many universities have signed up to the Advance HE Athena SWAN charter which focuses on the advancement of gender equality (formerly the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)). Individual university departments and the whole institution can apply for accreditation at bronze, silver and gold levels — a kind of equality kite mark achieved by rigorous analysis of current workforce data and the framing of action plans to respond to identified problem areas. More recently, ECU has developed a Race Equality Charter along similar lines which seeks to promote “the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education”. There is also the Disability Confident Scheme, in which employers can commit to at least one action that will make a difference for disabled people. Universities may also seek to demonstrate their commitment to all LGBT+ staff being “accepted without exception” in the workplace by joining the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme. This suggests that a lot of effort is going into understanding and improving the barriers that many different groups within the workforce may face, which is commendable. The question, now, is whether this level of effort should be extended to all organisations and all protected characteristics.

Who should report and on what?

There seem to be two problems with the way that things are going: the time it takes to report on all the different protected characteristics (and therefore, the problem of persuading private sector employers to do it) and the tendency to replicate activities for gender, race, sexuality, and age, etc., as separate and distinct entities when, in fact, the best theorising about the impact of structural inequalities concludes that they are intersecting and simultaneous in their occurrence. Understanding how gender intersects with age and disability, for example, is necessary to confront the realities of discrimination and disadvantage that someone may face.

Coming at this from a different direction, it is easy to argue that understanding the composition of an organisation’s workforce must be the benchmark for good practice across many areas of human resource policy: recruitment and selection, talent management, skills and career development, promotion and pay policies. The first step towards better equality, diversity and inclusion approaches might, therefore, be to expect all organisations that employ more than a threshold number of people (say, 250?) to routinely publish data on the composition of their workforces relevant to currently protected characteristics. This would give organisations (and the rest of us) a much more nuanced picture of workforces and provide a basis for developing a policy to combat inequalities. It would also signal, as gender pay gap reporting does, that this is something important and that we as a society expect organisations to be accountable for their employment policies and their potentially discriminatory effects. This, of course, is merely shining a light on unfair treatment and is not ‘an answer’ to the deep-seated power relations that structure and reproduce inequalities. But, perhaps robust equality monitoring is a reasonable first step in expecting compliance with current equalities legislation.

Sarah Vickerstaff is Professor of Work and Employment in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent. She is a co-editor of the volume Gender, Ageing and Extended Working Life, published by Policy Press in 2017. She also is the Academic Lead in Athena SWAN at the University of Kent. She tweets @VickerstaffS

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Athena SWAN – be the first to know!

There are a lot of gender equality events and activities going on in Schools and University-wide as part of our on-going work on the Athena SWAN charter.

In order to make sure that those interested in these events hear about them first, the Athena SWAN team are putting together a dedicated Athena SWAN mailing list.

If you would like to be added to this list, please write to

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Athena SWAN Charters Award Ceremony 2018

From left to right: Minna Janhonen, Amy Blakeway, Juliette Pattinson, Emily Manktelow

On Monday 17th of July, the University of Kent attended the Advance HE’s Charters Awards Ceremony at the brand new Swansea University’s Bay Campus in Swansea, Wales, together with 120 colleagues across the Higher Education sector in the UK.

With these awards, Advance HE’s Athena SWAN Charter and Race Equality Charter recognises and celebrates the commitment and hard work that’s being done at the Institutions and Departments in advancing good practices in these fields.

University of Kent’s Athena SWAN Bronze

The University of Kent was successful in renewing its Institutional Athena SWAN Bronze award. The redacted version of the submission can be accessed here.

The School of Mathematics, Statistics, and Actuarial Science collected their Athena SWAN Silver award. SMSAS is the first department at the University of Kent to hold a Silver award.

The School of History collected their Athena SWAN Bronze award. School of History is the first department in the Faculty of Humanities at Kent to hold an Athena SWAN award.

The Athena SWAN Team also collected the Medway School of Pharmacy’s Athena SWAN Bronze.

The Athena SWAN Team and the University of Kent know from experience that these awards are not a given and that getting an award is just the beginning. However, we would like to take this moment to celebrate the success, but also acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to do in advancing Gender Equality and in creating a fair work environment for all.



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Calling all current and future parents at Kent!

As part of our commitment to improving and developing services and initiatives for current and future parents who work and study at the University of Kent, the Athena SWAN team are running a series of focus groups to explore what support and networks parents would like to see established and how to improve communication and information about maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave policies to all staff and students.

We are looking for current parents and staff who are planning on becoming parents to share their experiences, thoughts, and ideas about how things can change and improve.

We are hosting four 1h workshops on the 10th, 11th and 12th of July. Places are limited!  

Dates are:


10th July                10.30 -11.30

11th July                10.30 -11.30

12th July             9.30 -10.30

Register via:

Medway              12th July                3.00 -4.00

Register via:

Please do spread the word!

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EqualiTeas at University of Kent

It’s 100 years since Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act 1918 which allowed the first women, and all men, to vote. The UK Parliament has invited us to celebrate this and other milestones in the UK’s democratic history and of course we want to be part of the festivities! Athena SWAN team decided that it is time to arrange a tea party; EqualiTeas.

Events took place at both Canterbury and Medway campuses. We invited all staff and students to enjoy a cuppa and to test their knowledge of equality-related issues.

UK Parliament sent us some props; amongst was a board game that challenged our knowledge and taught us some new details about the suffrage movement and its milestones. If you’re interested in learning more you can borrow the game from us!

It is important that we take a moment to celebrate and to acknowledge how far we’ve come in the last 100 years. However, as the dialogue during these events proved once again, we still have a lot of work to do.

Thank you for all who came to say hi and engaged with either the game or with the conversation.

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Booking is now open for the Athena SWAN Awareness Day!

Booking is now open for the Athena SWAN Awareness Day, taking place from 10.00 to 15.30 on 21 June at Sibson, Canterbury Campus.

This event is for staff and students who are involved in, or interested in being involved in, the University’s work for creating an inclusive work environment for everyone.

The highlight is an external speaker we are privileged to have at our event; Professor Sara Mole from the UCL, who is going to share her department’s story from Bronze to Gold.

What is Athena SWAN?

“Recognising advancement of gender equality: representation, progression, and success for all.” ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter

The charter, which launched in June 2005, was first implemented to advance the representation of women in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics (STEMM). In 2015, the charter was expanded to also include arts, humanities, social science, business and law (AHSSBL) disciplines as well as professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Find out more about Athena SWAN and the awareness day.

Picture: Athena SWAN Awareness Day 2016

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Significant rise in female professorships at Kent

(Text by Gary Hughes, Campus Online, May 26/2017)

As reported by Times Higher Education (THE), the University has increased its proportion of women professors to 27.2%, a rise of 8.2% since the last survey in 2012-13.

This, according to new Higher Education Statistics Agency figures obtained by the THE, places Kent well above the national average of 24% and at the top of those institutions to have achieved an increase.

Kent has for many years been committed to advancing gender equality in academia. It set up its Women’s Network in 2004 and through its participation in a range of national schemes and initiatives, such as Athena SWAN and Aurora, has sought to address the absence of women from senior academic and professorial roles, as well as those in professional service positions.

Commenting on the news, the University’s Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow said: ‘The recruitment, retention and recognition of women in higher education and at Kent, in particular, is an important part of the University’s mission. I am pleased that we are making significant progress towards gender parity within our professoriate and would like to thank all those who have contributed to this achievement.’

Dame Julia is the University’s Executive Group champion for equality and diversity.


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