My name is Ana Juncosa and I graduated from the University of Aberdeen Business School last June, having completed my undergraduate studies in Business Management and Sociology. I have been a part of the Athena SWAN committee for the past two years, which has definitely been an enriching and empowering experience.
Our Athena SWAN committee fights for gender equality and diversity in the Business School and University, and ultimately in our local community. This is done through gender research as well as actions such as events, conferences, or our newly established newsletter. As a student member of this committee, I have had the opportunity to work with engaging and diverse teams and individuals, and I have been able to contribute with my viewpoints and ideas.
However, the most valuable takeaway for me was not my input but quite the opposite. I have been lucky to take part in insightful conversations with interesting and inspiring people from many diverse backgrounds and, as a result, I have often found my assumptions and beliefs were challenged and transformed, which is essentially what Athena SWAN is about. For instance, I took part in a super interesting focus group with a few other female students and Athena SWAN committee members, but these thought-provoking discussions could also take place in committee meetings and even casually after hours.
Besides gender issues, I have also had a chance to learn about the professional environment in our School, since it sometimes seems that staff and students live in two different worlds when this is not necessarily the case. Together we have explored the aspects of our University where higher levels of equality have already been achieved, and we have identified other issues where this is not the case, as well as possible ways forward.
As part of our actions towards equality, the committee agreed that hearing success stories from academics and businesswomen (and of course men!) could have a great inspirational impact on others. Therefore, our events were centred around raising awareness as well as motivating attendees – be they students, staff or even schoolchildren – to set their own goals and make life decisions without feeling limited by their gender.
The belief that we already live in an equal society is a dangerous misconception: sadly, actions still need to be taken to close the gaps between genders, and I firmly believe that the first step is always to recognise the problem. This is why I am proud to see Athena SWAN taking off, I am certain that all the hard work will eventually pay off, and I will be excited to follow their progress and help in any way possible now that I have left the University.