Athena SWAN Gold Award – Secrets of Success

Posted on 5 September 2019

The Department of Chemistry's Athena SWAN Gold submission document has now been made freely available on the University web pages.


Members of Equality and Diversity Group receive the Athena SWAN Gold award. Left to right: Dr Julia Sarju, Dr Leonie Jones, Dr Derek Wann, Dr Helen Coombs, Prof David Smith and Dr Ruth Purvis.

The Athena SWAN document is packed with data, information and case studies. It is hoped that other academic departments and research institutes, both in the UK and beyond, will find it useful – both for benchmarking their own performance, and developing new approaches to improve inclusion and diversity in their own policies and practices.

“Our submission document is a mine of useful information and we are delighted to be able to share the ‘secrets’ of Chemistry at York’s Athena SWAN Gold success with the wider community”, says Employability and Diversity Officer, Dr Leonie Jones.

Chemistry at York has held the Athena SWAN Gold Award continuously since 2007, making it the longest-held Gold Award in the country. This award recognises the advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all, to which the Department is committed. The submission was the culmination on an enormous amount of hard work by a core team of EDG members led by EDG chair Dr Caroline Dessent. It was particularly praised for its wealth of good practice and inspiring case studies.

The Department of Chemistry received its Gold Award at a ceremony held here in York this summer, alongside the Department of Biology who were also recognised with Athena SWAN Gold. The award was accepted by Equality and Diversity Group (EDG) members Dr Derek Wann, Dr Helen Coombs and Dr Leonie Jones, who gave a keynote talk highlighting some of the Department’s key achievements, such as the development of family friendly and flexible working arrangements, the introduction of an unconscious bias observer scheme and support for professional and support staff.

The Athena SWAN document sets out an ambitious action plan designed to drive further change in York over the next four years. In particular, the Department will focus on improving the recruitment processes used for senior academic positions, as well as enhancing support for mid-career academics through promotion to Professor and up through the Professorial bands, including support for leadership training. The career progression of professional and support staff will be further enhanced, for example through the Technicians’ Commitment. There will also be increased focus on well-being and support for BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) individuals. The Department will continue its sector-leading ‘Beacon Activities’, which aim to spread some of the best practice developed here both nationally and internationally.

The Athena SWAN documentation for the Department of Chemistry can be found on the university webpages.