Five ways we're winning the fight against inequality in academia


Athena SWAN

The Department of Medicine is celebrating a milestone in combatting inequality in the workplace with the renewal of its Athena SWAN Silver award.

The award recognises the advancement of gender equality in accordance to Advance HE’s Athena SWAN charter, initially established in 2005 to encourage commitment to advancing the careers of women in STEM. The charter now acknowledges work undertaken to address gender inequality more broadly, and has expanded its reach to the sectors of arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law. It focusses on upholding ten key principles, ranging from tackling the gender pay gap, to combatting discrimination against trans people.

“Improving working culture for everyone”

Since the Department of Medicine’s last Athena SWAN Silver Award application in 2014, a constructive effort has been made to introduce a number of mechanisms designed to address major gender inequality issues. This has included making promotion and recruitment processes more transparent, and increased investment in support for research grant applications. 

Dr Vicky Salem
Dr Vicky Salem, Athena SWAN lead for the Department of Medicine

Dr Vicky Salem, Athena SWAN lead for the Department of Medicine, commented: “We are so pleased and proud to have successfully retained our Athena SWAN Silver Award. Our Development and Opportunities Committee (DoC) is very well attended and supported by the Departmental management team and Head of Department, Professor Martin Wilkins.”

“The fundamental principle of our work is that by improving the working culture for everyone, underrepresented groups tend to fare even better – and this has been demonstrated by our results.”

Here are some of the Department’s key successes that have been achieved through its commitment to the Athena SWAN charter:

1) More women are climbing the academic career ladder

The loss of women across the career pipeline and their absence from senior academic roles are two key challenges that the Department has been seeking to address since joining the Athena SWAN charter. Since 2014, the Department has seen a 12% increase in the number non-clinical female senior lecturers, and an 11% increase in the successful appointments or promotions of female clinical senior lecturers.

2) More women are being promoted

The Department has made changes to how it coordinates academic promotions in order to make the process more transparent and accessible. Notably, all eligible candidates are now considered by a promotions panel, as opposed to relying on individuals to self-nominate.

In the most recent promotions round, six female academics applied (all at Reader level or above) with a 100% success rate. This means that women in the Department – who were previously underrepresented in terms of being put forward for promotion and success rates – have now caught up with their male peers.

Athena SWAN team
From L-R, members of the Department's Athena SWAN Self Assessment Team: Vanessa Powell, Joanna Thompson, Vicky Salem and Leah Grey

3) More women are now submitting applications for intermediate-level fellowships (successfully, too)

The most recent data show that the percentage of women applying for intermediate-level fellowships has risen since the 2013/14 academic year from 20% to 45%. Additionally, the success rate for women in obtaining this kind of funding (24%) now far exceeds that of men (8%). Increasing the availability and uptake of mid-career fellowships is crucial to addressing the problem of the 'leaky pipeline' of female talent in academia.

4) More staff now benefit from mentoring

Having access to a mentor in the workplace has been shown to play an important role in career advancement and boosting employee confidence. A mentoring scheme – designed by the Department of Medicine to systematically provide mentoring support to staff from all job families – has now been successfully rolled out across the entire Faculty, with excellent feedback from mentors and mentees. You can read more about the scheme on the Department of Medicine Staff Blog.

5) We're actively scouting underrepresented groups for talented job applicants

The Department has revised its recruitment processes to ensure it encourages applications from a wider talent pool. It has developed proactive search committees to seek out applicants from diverse backgrounds, and openly declares its commitment to flexible working and job shares so as to better support work-life balance for its employees. 

If you are a member of staff based in the Department of Medicine, you can find out more about joining the Athena SWAN team or its associated committees on the Department’s website.


Ms Genevieve Timmins

Ms Genevieve Timmins
Academic Services

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Equality, Women-at-Imperial, Staff-development
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