I sit on the Physics and Astronomy school’s Athena SWAN and Project Juno committee. Athena SWAN was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. I believe it has now been expanded to include the arts.
Project Juno is an initiative by the Institute of Physics (IOP) the aim of which is to recognise and reward departments that can demonstrate they have taken action to address the under-representation of women in university physics and to encourage better practice for both women and men.
Project Juno is specific to physics whereas Athena SWAN is far wider reaching in the disciplines it works with but both have a clear focus on equality issues in science and on improving the situation in whatever way they can. The situation, by the way, is that women don’t go into science as often as men do. So either the system is broken or men are inherently superior at science compared to women. I’m inclined to believe the former and, as such, I’m interested in fixing it.
The School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow doesn’t do all that badly. We’ve held the title of Juno Champion since 2011, being the first physics school in Scotland to gain it. In recognition of that we also have the Athena SWAN silver award, and we’re aiming for gold. Gold is really challenging to get but I’m confident we’ll manage it soon.
My role in this isn’t too challenging. A couple of times a year I hold a postgraduate student forum. I bribe everyone to attend with a promise of free coffee and snacks and a chance to whinge about anything that’s bothering them. Although the focusses of Athena SWAN and Project Juno are on women in science, I’m a strong believer that whilst doing things badly disproportionately harms those who are under-represented, doing things well helps everyone. So all postgrads are invited, not just women, and I encourage people to bring up anything that needs to be fixed, not just the things that cause problems for the women.
I keep minutes during the meetings and then I write a report which I pass on to the Athena SWAN/Project Juno chair and the head of school. I anonymise these minutes so it’s not clear who said what, but I do make it clear whether the person raising a point was a man or a woman and what stage they are at in their studies. This is important because it’s not always clear which issues will exclusively effect a particular subgroup of students.
I think it works quite well. Not everything is straightforward to fix but I think the school management makes a real effort, which can’t happen if they don’t know about issues. Plus, I’m quite happy to be known as a person that students can go to if something goes wrong. Sometimes your PhD supervisor isn’t the appropriate person to discuss certain problems with but so long as there’s a named person, a peer, to talk to then these problems don’t have to be ignored or forgotten.
Does your university school or department have anything similar? Would you like them to if they don’t? Do you like it if they do?
Originally posted here: http://unazukin210.tumblr.com/post/130807788355/athena-swan-and-project-juno