Gold Athena SWAN gender equality recognition for Nottingham engineers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering has become the first engineering department in the country to be awarded a coveted gold Athena SWAN award – an accreditation which rewards excellence in advancing gender equality across higher education and research.

Nottingham holds a Silver Athena SWAN award at an institutional level and has a number of academic departments with silver and bronze awards, but Engineering is the first at the university ever to have attracted the rare top award.

Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and People and Professor of Human Factors, said: “In both my role as PVC for EDI and People and a proud member of the Faculty of Engineering, I am absolutely thrilled with this tremendous achievement."

Sarah Sharples
The gold award is extremely rare, but I believe it reflects the consistent quality and dedication of colleagues within the faculty who have been working towards this over many years.
Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and People and Professor of Human Factors

She added: "This gold award is as much a statement of intent as it is recognition of work done so far, and we have detailed plans in place highlighting areas in which we will be striving to achieve further excellence to maintain this coveted accreditation."

Athena SWAN is a national gender equality charter issued by the Advance HE, which recognises work to improve equality and diversity in universities and colleges.

It was established in 2005, initially to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM).

In May 2015, the charter was expanded to include arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students, and now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

The Athena SWAN Charter is based on ten key principles around the equality agenda. The University of Nottingham was one of the first institutions to join Athena SWAN, committing to adopting the charter’s principles within its policies, practices, action plans and culture.

Significant achievement

A Gold award recognises significant and sustained progression and achievement in promoting gender equality, a well-established record of activity coupled with data demonstrating continued impact and those departments that champion and promote good practice to the wider community.

Since the last round of awards in 2014, Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering has increased the number of women undergraduates from 25% to 28% and taken its total of women associate professors in research and teaching from 11% to 21%, while five women were recently promoted to professor

The Faculty’s work on the Technician Commitment; the EPSRC funded STEMM-CHANGE: Uncovering Barriers to Inclusivity and Transforming Institutional Culture project; and trans inclusivity were all a fundamental part of its gold-winning submission.

Future plans include work to improve representation and knowledge exchange; supporting students by removing barriers in recruitment at all levels; supporting staff at all levels in preparation for promotion/regrading and identifying career development needs; and improving access to training, flexible working and uptake of parental leave.

Making Nottingham a better place

Professor Sam Kingman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty EDI CO-Chair, said the Faculty recognised that a culture of diversity and inclusion is the key to maintaining the highest possible standards. He added: “I am delighted we have achieved this standard, it is the work of many colleagues over a number of years. Of course this is a milestone in our work and we continue to focus upon making Nottingham a better place to work for all students and staff.

Sam Kingman PVC Engineering
I am proud of our recent efforts to encourage gender diversity in recruitment: working in partnership with Diversity by Design we piloted a new approach in recruitment for posts in our Faculty which is now being rolled out across the university and wider.
Professor Sam Kingman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty EDI CO-Chair

Dr Leah Ridgway, Faculty of Engineering Director for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, said: “This is a massive achievement for us following a period of honest and open reflection about what we do well and what areas we can improve upon, building upon the success of our first Silver Award in 2011 and renewal in 2014. We commit to understanding our data and identifying where we can improve representation and support for all our students and staff through our action plan taking us up to 2023. I love my discipline and I’m passionate about reducing barriers to talented people at all career stages – in three words engineering is 'changing the world'.”

Dr Tamsin Majerus, Athena SWAN coordinator at Nottingham, said: “It is so wonderful to see the recognition of the excellent EDI leadership stemming from colleagues and activities in the Faculty of Engineering. This Gold Athena SWAN award is the result of many years of hard, collaborative work, to remove barriers, improve and champion opportunities for all staff to achieve their best and recognise and reward achievements in a fair and transparent manner. The initiatives around recruitment starting with ‘Diversity by Design’ are a great and shining example of beacon activity and have real potential to positively transform the diversity of our workforce.”

In the same round of Athena SWAN awards this month, the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology has also successfully retained its silver award gained in 2008 and renewed in 2012 and 2017.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Leah Ridgway, Faculty of Engineering Director for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, University of Nottingham by email at:

Emma Thorne - Head of News
Phone: 0115 846 8092

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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