Researcher looking down a microscope in a laboratory 

Three Schools at the University of Plymouth have been collectively recognised for their gender equality work – receiving an Athena SWAN Silver Award.

Peninsula Dental School, Peninsula Medical School and the School of Biomedical Sciences were awarded the mark by Advance HE.

The Athena SWAN Charter is a framework used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. Originally launched in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM), the Charter is now being used worldwide to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Awards can be gold, silver or bronze – and this is the first silver award retained at the University.

Highlights of the Schools’ application included putting in place an equality pledges scheme – encouraging every member of staff to make a simple, one-line action committing to equality in their day-to-day activity – which is now being rolled out to students and more widely across the University.

The application also spoke about prioritising work (both leading up to the application and in the future action plan) to help professional services staff and early career researchers to develop their careers.

Dr Helen Watson, Associate Professor in Bioscience Education and Chair of the Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team, said: 

"We are so thrilled to have been awarded an Athena SWAN Silver Award. It’s the accumulation of small actions over time, such as our equality pledges, that have really helped to change our culture and make a difference. I’m very grateful to everyone involved across all three Schools in putting together the collective submission. There’s a lot of data, analysis and action planning needed to underpin everything, and it was a huge team effort."

Dr Watson continued:
“The key thing now is to look ahead at implementing our action plan – it’s not just about celebrating what we’ve already got, but looking at how we can make it even better. For example, men are underrepresented in dental therapy and hygiene at Plymouth and around the UK, which we are keen to address – and we want to increase the number of female professors by ensuring people feel empowered and supported to apply for promotion.” 
Biological chemistry video 1 with Helen Watson
Sube Banerjee
Professor Sube Banerjee, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Chair of the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, added: 
“This is a fantastic achievement for the Schools, and I’d like to thank all the colleagues whose efforts have resulted in this recognition. In order to achieve the Athena Swan Silver Award, we had to meet a set of exacting criteria, introduce ways of working which are sustainable and create an environment for equal opportunity, and then deliver on that. It shows what we can do with concerted effort and a willingness to embrace change. I know how much work goes into these submissions, but that time is well spent in identifying the ways in which we can help everyone at the University to reach their full potential. I’m very proud indeed of everyone involved.”