Athena SWAN in the Bartlett – Bringing Us Together
By Emma Terama, on 8 March 2016
Athena SWAN is the process for accreditation in higher education and research for their work to support women’s equal opportunities and advancement. The Bartlett, UCL’s global faculty of the built environment, chose to seek this accreditation as a whole, instead of the comprising Schools/Centres applying separately. This is a reflection on that process that started in October 2015 by one member of the self-assessment team.
The Bartlett is a diverse faculty, and that was what we found when it came to the challenge at hand. The first point was to compile a picture of the Faculty in terms of the various points along the education and career pathways available. As part of the Athena SWAN application we started gathering data on the share of women in different career stages, recruitment and induction, career progression, work place culture and supporting women’s careers. We were assisted in our data endeavours by numerous professional services staff across the Schools, UCL HR, and many more staff and colleagues via responses to interviews, focus groups, survey and a mini-workshop.
What did we discover? First of all, we’ve discovered ways to work together across the Schools, putting aside titles and differences in backgrounds, learning from one another and with one another. We’ve found out about pockets of good practice and wonderful leadership models that should be propagated across the Schools to benefit all.
A few key things we learnt:
- Women tend to seek promotion later than men, but also that they feel less clear on the process itself, and less encouraged to engage in it. In the light of success rates (anecdotal), there is no reason for women to hold back;
- Paternal leave entitlement is often not fully utilised, and many may not be aware of the newest development: option of taking shared parental leave;
- Professional services staff tend to take longer maternity leave than academic staff.
Good practice examples include the work-load model implemented in the School of Planning that gives rise to equal distribution of core tasks in teaching, supervision and administrative duties while leaving a good proportion of time free to do research. We find that respecting the core hours (10-4) supports not only staff with caring responsibilities but also professional services staff. We have seen disciplined approaches to staff appraisals, such as conducting one per week, 50 per year, and good practices around recruitment: having an objective observer present in order to highlight instances where unconscious bias might be present.
It’s been an eye-opening journey personally, although I had already sat on several panels assessing other universities’ and departments’ applications. Being a member of a self-assessment team is a great way to work with new people across the Faculty or Department. In the Bartlett, it’s been essentially a massive research project, lead with the utmost professionalism yet with compassion by Alice Chilver of the Faculty Office. Many thanks to Alice for her enthusiasm and support!
We wish for all Staff and Students to reach their full potential and to thrive in the Bartlett irrespective of gender. A good, supportive working environment for women is a good environment for all. Here’s to a Better Bartlett for All!
UCL holds a Silver Athena SWAN award which recognises the university’s commitment to tackling gender inequality in higher education.
Written by Emma Terama, Research Associate, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources