The Impact of Athena SWAN - a student perspective

The Impact of Athena SWAN - a student perspective
2019-03-15

My name is Sarah Sophie Reick and I am currently in my final semester of my undergraduate degree in Business Management and Psychology at the University of Aberdeen. I joined the Athena SWAN committee nearly two years ago upon entering my third-year, and I have experienced joy and empowerment through working with such a diverse and compelling group of individuals.

Alongside my academic pursuits, my experience at university has been enriched through extra-curricular activities such as being on this committee. Thinking back, the four years spent at the University of Aberdeen have certainly been transformative (as they should be), and I have learned so much through engaging with a group of individuals with various backgrounds and aspirations. And yet, our commitment to breaking the glass ceiling continues to tie us all together.

Athena SWAN is all about surfacing the needs and basic assumptions within your institution, developing actionable targets and objectives around present issues, and then following through on those plans in an iterative and dynamic way. Any attempt at change however starts with opening up a dialogue. We are currently working towards managing the transition from the planning stage to the action stage, and I believe the next few years will be an exciting and fruitful time here.

Being on the committee has provided me with a platform to learn and grow while taking charge of my own projects and working together with others towards having a positive impact on our local community – all the while pursuing the overall purpose of gender equality and equal opportunities in our larger society.

There are a few standout experiences that for me exemplify the impact that Athena SWAN has had on me personally. Nearly a year ago, I helped organize and run a ‘Women In Business’ event in collaboration with the Economics and Business Society here on campus, which featured two prominent female speakers from KPMG who kindly shared their experiences of their personal and professional development. What I learned from this experience is the importance and the impact of sharing your story. For women (and men!) to share their experiences and provide real insight into the challenges and opportunities they have faced along the way is both motivational and inspirational.

In another example, I recently took part in a focus group discussion with two other female undergraduate students and two members of the Athena SWAN committee about our experiences of gender issues here at the University. We were a diverse group of women with different international backgrounds ranging from Germany/USA, Spain, Holland and Brazil. The key take-away message for me during our discussions was the importance of feeling and being empowered by the institutions and the people surrounding you.

In an attempt to tie everything together, I believe that Athena SWAN has provided its members and the people that we are supporting through our work with an important and hopeful direction for the future, and I look forward to continuing to follow and support the work even after I graduate from the University of Aberdeen this coming June.

If you would like to find out more about Athena Swan, join us on the 24th April for our Equality and Diversity event, as part of our ongoing commitment to the advancement and development of women within the Business School, and ensure equity and diversity into School’s research culture. We are inviting all members of staff and students who are working on gender issues to present their research in this event. If you would like to join us please email Dr Shamima Haque shamima.haque@abdn.ac.uk 

Published by Business School, University of Aberdeen

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