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Recognising commitment to the advancement of gender equality in academia, addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines, professional and support functions and removing the obstacles faced by women

The Athena SWAN Charter was developed by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to combating the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), and advancing the careers of women in STEMM research and academia. In May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women. The Charter now recognises work supporting and embedding equality in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. 

The University of Aberdeen has been a proud member of the Athena SWAN Charter and has been committed to the Athena SWAN principles since 2011, working to ensure a diverse, inclusive and empowering work and study atmosphere for staff and students. In 2012, the University was awarded the prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze award, our ongoing commitment to the advancement and promotion of careers and personal development of women in STEMM was further recognised in April 2017, when ECU renewed the University's Bronze Award for a further three years.

A dedicated Athena SWAN team work to ensure the Athena SWAN principles are embedded across the University and offer support to Schools and Departments with Athena SWAN actions and submissions.

The University's submission and Action Plan can be found here: University of Aberdeen Athena SWAN Bronze


Self Assessment Team

The Athena SWAN Charter requires Institutions to establish a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) to support submissions and monitor progress.  Our SAT has a diverse membership from across the University, comprising a range of career levels from undergraduate to Heads of Schools and Heads of College, and is chaired by Professor Neva Haites. The SAT are Athena SWAN Champions for their areas and meet every 8 weeks with a focus on reviewing the Athena SWAN Institutional Action Plan and associated impacts, linking departmental and institutional submissions and identifying short/medium/long-term activities. If you are interested in joining the SAT please email



Professor Neva Haites OBE (Chair)

Vice Principal for Development and Equality and Diversity

Anagboso, Chukwuemeka Anthony

HR Specialist Services Partner

Professor Elizabeth Baggs

Head of School of Biological Sciences

Dr Stephen Bowden

Lecturer, Organic Geochemistry

Christina Cameron

Policy Officer, Policy, Planning and Governance

Dr Maria Grazia Cascio.

Athena SWAN Co-ordinator in the CLSM

Janine Chalmers

Equality and Diversity Adviser

Genna Clarke

Welfare President, AUSA

Dr Julie Crockett

Senior Lecturer in Musculoskeletal Cell Biology

Dr Mirela Delibegovic

Reader in Medical Sciences

Professor Helen Galley

Professor in Institute of Medical Sciences

Professor Miep Helfriech

Professor of Bone Cell Biology in the Division of Applied   Medicine; Lead for Athena SWAN - School of Medicine and Dentistry Champion for the College mentoring scheme

Dr Ana Ivanovic

Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering, Programme leader for Civil Engineering discipline, the School of Engineering Equality and  Diversity Coordinator and a member of COPS Equality and Diversity Team as well as the School of Engineering SAT

Dr Margaret Jackson

Lecturer in the School of Psychology  

(2012-date; first lectureship position)

Dr Lucy Leiper

Senior Researcher Development Adviser

Centre for Academic Development

Susan MacLennan

Training and Development Partner, Human Resources Section

Dr Douglas Martin

Senior Lecturer, Psychology

Professor Judith Masthoff

Personal Chair, Computing Science

Dr Nimesh Mody

Lecturer in the School of Medical Sciences

Advisor for Research Staff Association

Personal mentor for Early-Career Researchers

Professor Margaret Ross

Professor of Law, Solicitor

Vice Principal and Head of College of Arts and Social Sciences

Jennifer Sewel

Director of Policy

Planning and Governance

Professor Jan Skakle

Head of School of Natural and Computing Sciences

Dr Kenneth Skeldon MBE

Head of Public Engagement Events and Festivals

Linda Sommerlade

Research fellow in the School of Natural and Computing Sciences

Carol Stannard

Assistant College Registrar


Dr Rhiannon Thompson

Athena SWAN Officer

David Vega-maza

Lecturer in Engineering


There are many benefits associated with Athena SWAN membership and institutional and departmental Awards. Subjects cannot reach their full potential unless they can benefit from the talents of the whole population, and until women and men can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.

The University of Aberdeen's continued commitment to the Principles of Athena SWAN will have the following positive impacts:

  • The creation of a diverse and empowered community
  • A positive working environment for all staff, researchers and students
  • Attracting and retaining high-calibre staff, researchers and students

Departments benefit further by establishing action plans tailored to their staff and research needs:

  • Combating equality and diversity issues that may be unique to the field / department
  • Establishing good working practices, staff development and flexible working
  • Facilitating the creation of a working environment conducive to world-leading research
  • Some funding bodies require evidence of actions addressing gender inequality in research

The process of having staff and students involved in the Departmental SATs ensures voices are heard and local changes are made.

It is clear that Athena SWAN awards are becoming an indicator of progress on equality generally and a key eligibility criterion for research funders when awarding funding. In some funding areas, it is likely in that future Athena SWAN accreditation will be required for funds.

Research Councils UK (RCUK) stated in 2013 that Institutions in receipt of funding are required to evidence a culture change towards equality, identifying participation in Athena SWAN as a recommended source of evidence. They have indicated that membership of equality and diversity accreditation schemes, such as Athena SWAN, may become mandatory criteria for eligibility for funding.

Whilst Professor Dame Sally Davies (the Chief Medical Officer) wrote to the Medical Schools Council in July 2011 to provide notification that only Medical Schools with an Athena SWAN Silver Award would be considered eligible for Biomedical Research Centre and Unit (BRC/BRU) funding by 2016.

Case Studies

Flexible Working

J DuncanJackie Duncan, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health
I changed my hours when my first son started school in 2008, changing to Term time so I could have the school holidays. This also avoids having to pay for expensive summer camps or childcare to cover some of the six week summer holiday.

Then when my twin boys started school 4 years later I kept the Term time but also changed my hours to starting early at 7am and finishing at 2:40pm, to allow me to collect my children from school at 3pm. This allows me to take them to after school clubs such as swimming lessons, more homework time and avoids having to pay for 3 children at afterschool club (which at £8-50 per day times 3 kids would have amounted to £127.50 per week or £510 per month).

My husband who also works for the University so he comes in a little bit later at 9:15am after dropping the boys at school and works later. He takes the public holidays off and covers the inservice days. So between us we manage to work around school hours, holidays and in service days.

Starting early also fits in well with the human studies I am involved in as many volunteers like to come in early before they go to their work.

Masterclass for Women

Nooreen Akhtar, Division of Applied Medicine (Psychiatry)
Public speaking and research communication masterclass for Women in Science. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock’s enthusiasm and passion for science is infectious. As she talked about her journey from a PhD to the host of The Sky at Night, I found myself fantasising about having my own programme or becoming the next Brian Cox of the medical documentary world. The course itself was very different to the other public engagement workshops I had been to before. In between talks about projecting confidence and capturing your audience’s eye, there were sessions where we were put in front of the camera and asked to pretend that we were presenting our own research in a documentary. Initially I was nervous of watching the playback of the recordings but it was amazing to see the changes in my confidence and body language as the day went on. I had started out as someone who was constantly fidgeting and struggling to maintain eye contact with the camera, to someone who looked like they had been presenting all their life.

I’ve noticed that I still use several of the acquired skills in my professional and personal life. In meetings I find it easier to engage with the other attendees and discuss issues with colleagues a lot more senior to me. When it comes to meeting new people I am able to project a more confident version of myself rather than the shy girl who constantly fidgets and stares at her shoes.

Memberships and Awards

The University of Aberdeen became a member of the Athena SWAN Charter in 2011, embedding the 10 Athena SWAN Principles within our policies, practices, action plans and culture.

There are three levels of Athena SWAN awards: Bronze (planning), Silver (doing), Gold (sustaining), with the University currently holding a Bronze award, which it is expected to renew in 2015.

Get in touch!

Awards can be made at Institutional and Departmental levels. Departmental commitment to Athena SWAN and its principles has many benefits for all staff. Schools from the University of Aberdeen are strongly encouraged to consider submitting for an Athena SWAN Award and to email or call 01224 274006 in the first instance.

Applications for ECU’s Athena SWAN awards are accepted in April and November each year and guidance on submissions can be found here: Athena SWAN handbook

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