17th June 2013, 11:04am  (updated 4th July 2013, 10:43am)
Bridging the academic gender gap
WiSE launch event With recent research showing that men in the UK are six times more likely than women to work in science-related careers, the University of Lincoln has pledged to ‘create a level playing field for all’.

By signing up to the Athena SWAN charter, the University has undertaken to develop employment practices to advance the representation, plus further and support the careers of women in science, engineering and technology (SET).

A new Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) website has been created to provide a one-stop shop for support, guidance, training and inspiration, while also being a platform to raise the profile of WiSE academics and researchers, at all levels, across the University.

Speaking at the launch Professor Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln, explained how the initiative would benefit everyone at the University.

She said: “We are determined to help people progress in their careers. Getting this right for women gets it right for men too. I readily support the Athena SWAN principles ‘to create a level playing field for all’, and here at Lincoln, I want to provide support for our women in science. To be a world-class university, we need to utilise the potential talent of our women and men, so that our SET areas can build on their strength.”

Belinda Colston, Professor of Analytical Chemistry in the School of Life Sciences, is leading the committee spearheading the University’s application for an Athena SWAN Bronze Award – the first stage of accreditation.

She said: “Published research shows that women in SET areas often find themselves on the back-foot in academia. This is usually caused by an unconscious bias (by both men and women), which is firmly embedded in our organisational culture. For example, how do we assess excellence in academia? Often by ‘weighing’ research output – not literally, of course, but we have a tendency to look at the number of research papers published, rather than the quality of the research being produced. This immediately affects women who have had career breaks, particularly when applying for higher-level academic positions. Hence, many women find themselves having to choose between family and career -– that’s not a choice they should have to make. I’d like to change how we define ‘excellence’ as an Institution. Athena SWAN is not about developing women-only policies – it’s about having gender-neutral policies. It’s about giving everyone an equal opportunity. This is not just something that affects women, this will bring about positive change for everyone.”

Professor Sara Owen, Pro Vice Chancellor College of Social Science, added: “We are working towards ensuring that staff have the opportunity and support to realise their potential, have access to continuous professional development, and receive meaningful appraisals and an opportunity to develop personal development plans. As part of this we are keen to find ways of supporting, encouraging and facilitating our women scientists to realise their potential and ambitions. In addition we are keen to make the most of the women’s talents in order to achieve the aspirations of the College.”

The wise.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk website is now live and can be viewed using Google Chrome.
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