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Athena swan
DPAG Women's dinner, Merton College, February 2015

I am extremely proud of the achievements that have come as a result of the initiatives from our Bronze Action plan. Highlights have been the recent Associate Professor recruitment processes, which have been more gender-balanced than previously, and increased awareness of career development amongst staff, which has come from the implementation of a structured personal development review process. There is also a blossoming postdoctoral research society, allowing junior staff to discuss issues that concern them with both senior colleagues and peers alike and improved communication within the Department coming from a weekly email newsletter called the “DPAG Digest”. However, perhaps the biggest achievement has been the positive cultural change that has taken place within the Department. Issues of gender-balance are now openly discussed amongst all members of the Department and it has become a central focus in every decision-making process from initial discussion to implementation.

Overall, I am very pleased and encouraged by the results from our staff survey. The Department is a better place than when we started this process in 2011, and gender differences in the responses were relatively few and far between. We have all thought and know a little more about the origins of gender inequality within science than when we started on this journey, and one seminar that impressed a number of us with its evidence base was that on unconscious bias. For this reason, one focus of our Silver application will be on further raising awareness and understanding of this phenomenon.

Although many of the responses to our survey were encouraging, it has identified areas that need further attention within the Department. Those that particularly concerned me related to management and decision-making within the Department and the degree to which individuals felt remote from it. We have discussed this within our Departmental Committee and at our academic staff meetings and have concluded that for the more junior members of staff to have a greater say in the running of their Department, it is necessary to provide more substructure with more by way of devolved powers for each research theme. We aim to make these changes so that all members of the Department, both male and female, have an effective voice on matters that affect their particular academic subject area.

I’d like to end by thanking all the members of our Athena SWAN Committee, and especially the chair, Damian Tyler, for the energy, enthusiasm and sheer hard work that has gone into this. The Committee’s initial duty was to oversee the implementation of our Bronze Award action plan, something they did with great thoroughness. By assessing the effectiveness of the Bronze action plan they have developed an ambitious plan to take us forward towards our goal of a more equal, inclusive and transparent Department. I have been enormously encouraged by the overall attitude and approach within the committee and, more broadly, within the Department as a whole.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Peter A. Robbins