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ECU’s Gender equality charter mark: Bronze award holder. Addressing gender inequalities and imbalance in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Posted on 12 September 2014

The University of York’s Department of Education has received national recognition under a new award scheme designed to address gender imbalance and underrepresentation in the arts, humanities and social sciences in higher education.

It is the first department at York, and one of only 17 departments and five universities in the country to achieve Bronze level in Equality Challenge Unit’s (ECU) trial gender equality charter mark – the first award scheme of its kind for these disciplines.

The gender equality charter mark is based on the principles of ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter for women in science. Bronze level is the first step in the process, showing a strong commitment to specific actions and building a culture that will improve the representation, progression and success of both staff and students.

While the charter has a particular focus on the underrepresentation of women in senior roles, it will also encourage progress on the underrepresentation of men in subjects such as teaching and social work, and also seeks to address the unfair treatment often experienced by trans people.

Dr Beatrice Szczepek Reed, Head of the Department of Education at the University of York, said: "I am delighted that the Department has achieved recognition for its good practice in gender equality. I would especially like to thank Professor Judith Bennett, Dr Vanita Sundaram and Dr Paul Wakeling for all their work in preparing and submitting the application. As a Department we will continue to make gender equality a high priority in the hope to achieve best possible practice and inspire others to do the same."

Many senior roles in York’s Department of Education are held by women, and women from the Department are now members of senior University committees.  This has been as a result of specific action taken to support staff in developing the skills and confidence to take on these roles.  Progression from fixed-term and junior positions into more senior permanent roles has been encouraged and facilitated, and flexible and family-friendly working practices adopted. Both male and female student ambassadors represent the Department in student open days and in publicity material to encourage male applicants to Education degrees.

Professor Judith Bennett, Salters' Chair of Science Education, from York’s Department of Education, said: “The key to success is two-fold, and involves both policy and practice.  The right policies matter, but real change comes about when these are backed up with individualised programmes of support.

“The award recognises the Department’s ongoing work addressing gender equality by following an inclusive process of carefully considering gender issues and providing targeted support and encouragement.”

David Ruebain, ECU's Chief Executive, said: “Following the success of this trial round, we are delighted that we will now be able to fully develop a charter mark that supports equality in the arts, humanities and social sciences – disciplines that have not until this point received the same attention as science subjects.

“We hope that the gender equality charter mark will have the same positive effect for these subjects as Athena SWAN has had on women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine. I commend the work of all the participants so far and look forward to seeing the impact of their actions as they move up to silver and gold levels in the future.”

An event to celebrate the progress participants have made in the trial will take place in December 2014.


Notes to editors