Department of Physics given Gold award while four Bronze awards also bestowed.

The University is extremely committed to progressing gender equality and we are beginning to see the impact of the significant resources and initiatives dedicated to improving the numbers of women across all career stages. The Department of Physics has played and will continue to have a key role in supporting and promoting women in STEMM.

University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz

The University of Cambridge has received its first Gold award for boosting the role of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) departments.

Athena SWAN Awards are given for success in developing employment practices to further and support the careers of women in academia.

Alongside the Gold award – which went to the Department of Physics - four other departments were also recognised with Bronze awards, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) announced today (Thursday, May 1).

University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz described the Department of Physics as a “beacon” within Cambridge: “The department was the first to gain an Athena SWAN Award in the University in 2010 and leads the way for other University Departments who now hold, or are working towards, Athena SWAN Awards”.

“The University is extremely committed to progressing gender equality and we are beginning to see the impact of the significant resources and initiatives dedicated to improving the numbers of women across all career stages. 

“The Department of Physics has played and will continue to have a key role in supporting and promoting women in STEMM.”

The Bronze award winners at Cambridge were the Departments of Zoology, Psychology and Pharmacology from the School of Biological Sciences, and the Faculty of Mathematics (representing the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics).

Professor Athene Donald, Professor of Physics and the University’s Gender Equality Champion said: “I am delighted that the Department of Physics has been awarded Cambridge's first Athena Gold. As the University's Gender Equality Champion, as well as a member of the department, it is excellent to see this recognition of all the hard work and far-sighted action being carried out by Physics. I hope this will act as a stimulus and inspiration for other departments in the University.”

Also commenting on the Department of Physics’ award, Professor Andy Parker, Head of Department, said he was delighted by the news: “We intend to build on this success in the future and to engage with other Departments in Cambridge and beyond to address the continuing under-representation of women in STEMM subjects.”

The future should involve a focus on the next generation said Professor Val Gibson, Head of High Energy Physics: “I am most proud of the Department’s engagement with our students and post-doctoral researchers. It is evident that their generation will be unperturbed by the gender-related barriers that influenced the careers of our generation. The next big step has to come from more girls studying STEMM subjects at A-level or equivalent. Only then can we look towards true equality within the higher education sector."

University Departments at Cambridge now hold 10 awards in total - one Gold, one Silver and Eight bronze, meaning 71 per cent of STEMM staff now work in departments that hold awards.

Professor Anne Davis Professor of Mathematical Physics and chair of the Faculty of Mathematics’ Athena SWAN committee, said of their bronze award: “We are proud to be recognised by this award. It is an important step in the right direction, but just the first step in our goal of nurturing all our members, particularly our women, to ensure they achieve their potential in a happy and supportive environment.”

The Department of Physics’ Gold award was one of three announced today – a record number.

Dr Ruth Murell-Lagnado, Athena SWAN Academic Lead, Department of Pharmacology, said of her department's award: "We are delighted to learn of the successful outcome of our Athena SWAN application. The Bronze award has provided the impetus for the Department to create the optimum conditions to enable the career progression of women in science."

Speaking of the Department of Zoology's Bronze award, Rebecca Kilner, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, said: "The really important thing to remember is that we have started some important, tangible and long-overdue changes in the Department as a result of the SWAN process. The Bronze award gives us the kick we need to ensure we implement the Action Plan and get a Silver award next time."

Overall, 125 departments and universities submitted for an Athena SWAN award in this round, and 89 were successful – a 71% success rate. The disciplines with the highest number of submissions were medical and dental schools.

The announcement of Cambridge’s success comes as an independent evaluation into the impact and effectiveness of ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter has confirmed that the awards scheme advances gender equality and changes the working culture and attitude within participating departments and universities.


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