Implementing an Athena Swan action plan – reflections on successes and challenges

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


Background: This reflective presentation considers the implementation of the School of Education and Social Work’s Athena Swan action plan, which is in its final 6 months. This was written to accompany the School’s successful application for an Athena Swan Bronze award. This reflective presentation forms part of the process of evaluating the progress made since the Bronze award was gained, and planning for making an application to renew the award in the 2022–23 academic session.

Methods: Overall, the implementation of the action plan has been overseen by the School Equality, Diversity & Inclusion committee which meets four times per year. An annual report has been produced which summarises progress and identifies priorities for the coming year. Actions have been progressed by sub-groups and individuals, leading on actions which align with their interests and professional roles. Some actions were implemented by relevant School committees. The action plan has been mapped against relevant University action plans, for example the Race Equality Charter action plan which accompanied the successful University application for a Bronze award, the University’s Athena Swan action plan.

Results: The successes that have arisen from implementing the action plan, as well as the challenges that we have encountered, will be discussed. Successes have included the development of women’s career development workshops, held jointly with the Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Athena Swan staff and student surveys, both of which have been run twice. Comparator data shows a welcome increase in positive responses over the two years between surveys. Another success has been the introduction of a seminar series celebrating gender equality, this being jointly with the School of Business. The benefits of working collaboratively with EDI and Athena Swan lead colleagues from across the University, and how these relationships have developed, will be discussed. Inevitably, there has been a detrimental impact on the timing and capacity of colleagues to implement some aspects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most significant of these was the delay of over 2 years to the holding of the inaugural Mapstone lecture, celebrating the University’s first female professor who held a Chair in Social Work. Other challenges, including limited response rates to surveys due to ‘survey fatigue’, and how we might engage with staff and students differently in the future, will be discussed.

Conclusions: Overall, there have been sustained positive actions to support colleagues with a range of protected characteristics within the School. While the key focus was on developing opportunities for women, many of the actions in the Action Plan served to benefit others. We are in a strong position to move forward with an application for renewal under the transformed Athena Swan charter, which will have an increased focus on intersectionality and the culture within the School.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA62
Pages (from-to)27
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Proceedings
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Implementing an Athena Swan action plan – reflections on successes and challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this