St Andrews gender equality efforts recognised with Silver Athena Swan award

Thursday 28 March 2024

The University of St Andrews has received a prestigious institutional Silver Athena Swan Award in recognition of its continued efforts to advance gender equality across the University.

This achievement marks a further step toward the University’s strategic vision to become a beacon of inclusivity, placing diversity and equality at the heart of everything we do.

In achieving the Silver Athena Swan institutional Award, the University demonstrated significant progress against its previous five-year action plan and success in addressing gender inequalities in at least two priority areas.

St Andrews’ successes include:

  • significantly extended support for carers, recognising that care continues to fall disproportionately on women. This includes extended leave provision for a wider range of situations including non-emergencies, enhanced maternity leave, and improved policies to support flexible working leading to an uptick in staff taking up flexible working arrangements
  • enhanced support for women’s careers, including changes to the promotion processes and introduction of the Elizabeth Garrett Mentoring Programme, contributing to a marked increase in the proportion of women professors since 2016
  • a series of measures to address gender-based violence (GBV) resulting in St Andrews becoming the first university in the UK to be awarded the EmilyTest Charter.

Vice-Principal (People and Diversity) Dr Rebekah Widdowfield, who led the Award application, said: “I am absolutely delighted by the outcome, which is testament to the sustained commitment of the Athena Swan self-assessment team, the hard work of the core project team and, most importantly, to the work that the University has been taking forward over the last five years to advance gender equality. The progress that has been made reflects the work of a great many people right across the University and the award is an acknowledgement of their efforts.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE, who sponsored the application, said: “As a career-long advocate for gender equality, I am very pleased by the University’s achievement of an Athena Swan Silver Award. It represents a tangible demonstration of all that the University has done and our unwavering commitment to advancing gender equality.

“While we are very proud of the progress we have made, we are ambitious to do more and have identified a number of key priorities for the coming years. These form part of wider work to enhance equality, and include actions to advance race equality – as part of our submissions for the Race Equality Charter – and to enable all our staff to contribute, thrive and perform at their best.”

Key priorities for the next five years include:

  • taking further steps to advance women’s careers in both academic and professional services and to increase the representation of women in senior roles
  • improving the representation and progression of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women by addressing specific inequalities identified in recruitment and promotion processes
  • continuing to make progress on reducing the gender pay gap, with a particular focus on senior grades where the gap is widest.

In addition to the institutional Award, all 18 Schools now hold Athena Swan Awards with five at Silver – including, most recently, the School of Maths and Statistics – and Biology holds a Gold award.

The Athena Swan Charter, run by Advance HE, is a framework which is used across the world to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. Established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment, the Charter is now used to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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