Imperial’s gender equality commitment recognised with Athena Swan Silver award | Imperial News

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The College has successfully renewed its institutional Athena Swan Silver award, awarded for commitment to the advancement of gender equality.

The Athena Swan Charter continues to provide a valuable framework for benchmarking progress and setting out our ambitions for the next five years Professor Stephen Curry

Imperial’s institutional Silver Athena Swan award was first granted in 2012 and last renewed in 2016. Imperial is the first university to renew a Silver award under Advance HE’s new transformed Charter, which is designed to be more flexible, transparent and supportive. 

Imperial’s Provost, Professor Ian Walmsley, said: “This process has provided a welcome opportunity to review our progress so far in advancing gender equality and consolidate our future efforts. The award is a recognition of the College’s commitment to supporting women’s careers, resulting in an increase of the number of female professors and targeted support for researchers after maternity leave or those with unusual career paths.” 

two women sitting at table with equipment talking
Dr Thulasi Mylvaganam and Benita Nortmann, Department of Aeronautics

Professor Stephen Curry, Imperial’s Assistant Provost for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), led the College’s renewal application, alongside Rob Bell, Athena SWAN Coordinator, and a self-assessment team made up of colleagues from across Imperial. “The Athena Swan Charter continues to provide a valuable framework for benchmarking progress and setting out our ambitions for the next five years,” Professor Curry said.  

“Increasingly it is embedded in a broader scheme of work at the College that aims to address not just equality, diversity, and inclusion, but the values and culture of the institution. As a result, we have endeavoured where possible to integrate Athena Swan actions with commitments that are part of other action plans. This is laying the foundation for a more intersectional approach to issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion that we hope to mainstream as business as usual.”  

Progress so far 

Imperial has embedded gender equality work at the highest-level of governance and leadership. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group, chaired by the Assistant Provost (EDI), reports to Imperial’s Provost’s Board. All Provost’s Board papers must consider EDI aspects before submission. 

two women looking at scientific equipment
Helen O’Brien and Maddie Tomes, Department of Physics

Specific achievements from the last few years that impact gender equality include: 

  • An increase in the percentage of female professors to 18.3%, and an increase in female undergraduates to 40.4%.  
  • Reduction in the gender pay gap from 9.4% to 6.3% (median) over the past four years  
  • Reverse mentoring scheme for senior leadership 
  • Introduction of the Report and Support tool – a single portal for staff and students to report bullying and harassment of any sort 
  • Introduction of free period products on all our campuses. 

What’s next 

The new transformed Charter asks universities to identify a small number of priority areas in their applications. Imperial’s action plan [pdf] sets out the following four priorities, with key targets for each to reach by 2027: 

  • Improve the way we value and support women’s careers 
  • Improve culture and day-to-day experiences, and learn the lessons of Covid-19 
  • Improve organisational systems capacity 
  • Boost the numbers and experiences of female students.

Specific commitments include: 

  • Appointing eight more female readers and professors in the next three years 
  • Increasing the percentage of female PhD students – the student cohort which has seen the least change – with a focus on the Faculties of Engineering and Natural Sciences. 



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