Committed to gender equality? Learn more about Athena Swan at UWE.

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Athena Swan is a charter mark that drives UWE’s work on gender equality. The Athena SWAN Steering Group leads the application to the charter mark and ensures the development of strategic actions. The team are currently seeking new members from across the university to support UWE’s gender equality journey in a number of departments. This will be an excellent development opportunity, for those committed to advocating for equality, diversity and inclusion. 

What is Athena Swan? 

Athena Swan is a global charter mark, used in the higher education sector to support and transform gender equality. It is a framework to recognise gender equality efforts, and also helps institutions identify areas of development. Athena SWAN awards usually last five years and applications require institutions to submit gender-disaggregated data and provide an action plan, outlining key objectives for gender equality. During renewal processes, applicants must assess their development against their action plans. A key outcome is to ensure universities can be held accountable against their proposed action plans. As a Steering Group member, you will ensure the university is ambitious in its approach to progressing towards gender equality goals, feeding back concerns at a high level, and sharing best practices.  

Athena Swan at UWE 

UWE’s action plan, created in 2017, maps out key focus areas including; addressing issues related to the intersection of gender and ethnicity, reducing gender pay gaps, improving gender balances in promotional rounds and increasing awareness of family-friendly policies.  

The university currently holds a Bronze award at institutional award and several awards at departmental level: 

  • Department of Health and Social Science (Bronze) 
  • Departments of Allied Health Professions and Nursing and Midwifery (Bronze) 
  • Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics (Bronze) 
  • Architecture and the Built Environment (Bronze) 
  • Applied Sciences (Silver) 

Due to the upcoming re-structure within the university, these awards will be extended to allow colleges and schools to align. During this transition process, the Steering Group is responsible for ensuring that the university continues to have a robust approach to developing the outputs mapped out in the action plan.  

UWE’s Athena Swan steering group 

The Athena Swan Steering group is currently chaired by Martin Augustus and Sarah Grabham, and the Vice-chair is Clare Wilkinson. Suzanne Carrie and Vicky Swinerd are key representatives from EDI and Grace Biddulph is the EDI officer for the meetings. The Steering Group is made up of colleagues from across the university all working on gender equality. Currently, topics on our meetings agendas are family-associated leave, the impacts of COVID on different genders, trans health care provisions, levels of women in promotional rounds and much more.

The Steering Group should be representative of the university community and have at least two representatives from each department (soon to be college) and service across campuses. We are particularly keen to have representatives who may have lived experience of a protected characteristic (for example, race, sexual orientation or disability) but welcome applications from anyone interested in getting involved. Members may be designated areas of responsibility and should represent a mixture of grades and roles representing different stages of the career ladder, including students. As this work is focused on gender equality, we particularly welcome staff who identify with diverse gender identities, expressions or sexual orientations, for example, people who identify as trans, non-binary or gay. 

“Athena Swan is an important part of our university commitment to embedding equality, diversity and inclusion. Colleagues from all areas across the University play an important role in championing and embedding gender equality, enabling us to continually challenge ourselves to strive for excellence”. 

Amanda Coffey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

What next? 

Vacancies are currently available in:

  • Art and Design  
  • Education and Childhood
  • Business and Management
  • Law
  • Computer Science and Creative Technologies
  • EDM
  • School of Health and Social Wellbeing
  • Applied Sciences
  • Research Representative
  • Awards Officer
  • Marketing
  • HR

For an informal discussion about the roles please contact Martin Augustus (Martin.Augustus@uwe.ac.uk) or Sarah Grabham (Sarah.Grabham@uwe.ac.uk). 

Applications should be submitted to the EDI team on edi@uwe.ac.uk by Friday 20th May using the expression of interest form (Word). Please ensure you check with your line manager if this role is suited to your work commitments. Please state which vacancy you are applying for. 

Currently, meetings are held online on teams. We expect new members joining to be available for an initial in-person meeting, to meet peers and the Athena Swan team. This will take place Tuesday 14th June, 12-1pm.  


An Evening of Gender Exploration Through Performance and Art.  

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Continuing conversations after LGBTQ+ History Month, Arnolfini hosted an evening of visual work which included a performance of ‘Beyond the Buzzwords’ by internationally renowned queer artist and icon, Del LaGrace Volcano.  This was a collaboration with UWE’s School of Art & Designs Visual Culture Research Group and Social Sciences Research Group.



The evening was opened by UWE’s Rachel Miles, Senior Lecturer of Visual Culture, and Bristol performance artist Tom Marshman with a rendition of ‘Deuce 2’. The performance explored gender and sexuality whilst growing up in the 80s. The performance focused on finding solidarity and friendship in other LGBTQ+ individuals and was structured around a Vanity Fair cover, released in 1993, with Kd Lang and Cindy Crawford. The image was deemed progressive for the time for being a visual representation of queer relationships in media. 

Next up was Del LaGrace Volcano, an international photographer known for their work documenting LGBTQ+ lives, and promoting queer culture. Del LaGrace shared their creative inspiration, which is embedded in the firm belief in non-hierarchal societies and relationships. Their feminist methodology centralises working with people, rather than objectifying bodies as sites for consumption. Del La Grace talked openly about ageing, relationships, raising children as non-binary and the societal resistance they have faced in this decision. 

Del LaGrace shared their personal and professional journey through imagery, with an expansive archive of photographs taken throughout their career. From growing up attending political and civil rights events to years attending art school in San Francisco, Del LaGrace portrays the often-overlooked LGBTQ+ communities in America since the 80s. They also shared multiple, powerful images of global pride marches with well-known icons such as Ian McKellen.    

Del LaGrace was assigned female at birth but now identifies as a gender queer, intersex artist. They have focused on raising awareness of intersex, queer, trans and marginalised lives through photography, focusing on portrait images and images of the body as a site for exploration and expression. Threaded throughout the talk was the consistent message of making queer bodies more visible, and how they have been historically contested in media and society. They discussed the use of photography as a form of activism and as a way of celebrating gender non-conformity.  

The event was attended by UWE staff and students and the general public. Thank you to the event organisers for an insightful and engaging evening. You can read an interview with Del LaGrace Volcano, with Bristol magazine, 24/7 here.  

Why Transgender Day of Visibility matters

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by Cal Russell-Thompson, Project Officer, FBL

Transgender Day of Visibility takes place on 31st March. It was founded in 2009 by transgender activist Rachel Crandall to celebrate transgender and nonbinary people – and mark their struggle for civil rights around the world.

What is being transgender?

Gender identity is who you are, your self-perception, and how you would describe yourself.

Most people feel comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth based on their primary sexual characteristics (cisgender).

Some people are transgender (trans). Trans women are typically presumed to be male at birth, but actually feel feminine, and would much rather live as women. Meanwhile, trans men are typically presumed to be female at birth, but actually feel masculine, and would much rather live as men.

In addition, some people are nonbinary, meaning they don’t see themselves as strictly “male” or “female”.

Each trans and nonbinary person is unique, and the community is as diverse as any other. Being trans and nonbinary is not a “new” phenomenon; gender fluidity has a documented history spanning thousands of years, and is likely as old as human society.

What’s it like being trans in the UK?

It would be amazing for Transgender Day of Visibility to be a simple day of celebration. But while public attitudes are broadly positive, two thirds of British trans people still hide their identity, fearing that others might react negatively.

Many things motivate this fear. 25% of British trans people have experienced homelessness, while 28% have faced domestic abuse from a partner. Transphobic hate crime is also increasing, with trans people in England and Wales currently twice as likely to suffer crime. There’s also been an increase in negative coverage of trans people in British media over the last decade.

This is complicated further by legal barriers to recognition. You still can’t legally self-define your gender outside of the “male” and “female” binary; and if you’re a trans man or woman, you still can’t legally change your gender without medical permission.

Sadly, these system-wide factors have exacerbated poor mental health outcomes for many trans and nonbinary people in the UK.

What does the future look like?

There are glimmers of hope. Social attitudes are changing, and this is beginning to have an impact. A recent employment tribunal ruling extended protection against workplace discrimination to nonbinary and genderfluid people. Eventually, medical barriers to gender recognition will likely disappear altogether, as in countries like Norway, Brazil, France, India, and Ireland. And as trans and nonbinary voices become more prominent in the media, the world will start to feel like a safer place to come out.

So, there does appear to be a better future for trans and nonbinary people. But it can only be realised if progress continues to be made in how society represents, treats, and understands us.

It is for this reason that we celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility: as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.

Women’s Forum – LinkedIn and Building Your Personal Brand

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by Caris Rubenzer, Women’s Forum coordinator, and Immigration Advisor with Student and Academic Services

Women's Forum leaflets and biscuit tin

For the Women’s Forum June meeting, we invited Careers Consultant Tim Summers to come and talk to members over lunch (biscuits included) about LinkedIn and the benefits of creating and maintaining your ‘Personal Brand’.

For someone who was aware of LinkedIn as a concept, but had not managed to get past the profile creation stage (my account had been created back in 2013 and I had dutifully ignored it since then), I felt like this was a topic that would be useful for many women working in Higher Education.

Not only do studies indicate that women are less likely than men to apply for jobs where they feel they do not meet the job specification completely, but also that men and women actually employ different tactics to find jobs. Even more worrying, according to LinkedIn’s Gender Insights Report, recruiters are less likely to click on woman’s profile when searching for candidates.

Because of this, it is incredibly important for women to be aware of how valuable tools such as LinkedIn can be ultilised effectively to network, advertise and sell oneself as a unique individual with a wealth of expertise to offer employers.

Tim started the session by posing the following questions:

  • What does ‘Personal Brand’ mean to you?
  • How do you rate your social media confidence?
  • What positive change could LinkedIn support you to achieve?

From there, the Women’s Forum explored what LinkedIn has to offer and compiled a handy Top 10 Tips for creating your personal brand:

  1. Complete your profile! Include your work experience, job title and an engaging summary;
  2. Be engaging. ‘Add spice’ but don’t ‘over egg the pudding’. If your job title is Careers Consultant, it might be a bit over the top to label yourself as a ‘Transformation Specialist’;
  3. Edit your public profile URL. This will be easier to remember and share. You can also add it to your CV!
  4. Add connections. Don’t be shy! Write a note with your request explaining why you’d like to connect. You’ll be surprised with how effective this can be;
  5. Engage with the newsfeed. Commenting, posting and sharing on LinkedIn gets your name out there and you’re more likely to be recognised within your sector;
  6. Post questions. Posting questions can encourage others to engage with you and raise your profile;
  7. Join groups. Joining groups relevant to your sector provides a wider network and many more opportunities you may have otherwise missed;
  8. 5 minutes a day. Just 5 minutes engagement per day can inform algorithms to make LinkedIn much more relevant to you;
  9. LinkedIn Salary. Use this LinkedIn feature to compare salaries of similar jobs or to see what you can expect if moving into another sector;
  10. I’m free! Actively looking for another job or just keeping an eye out? You can turn on the “Open” option on LinkedIn to notify employers that you’re available.

Tim ended the session by providing some useful links for those who would like to find out more on the subject, including HE-specific resources created by LinkedIn:

UWE Bristol also provides career development support for staff. The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) (staff only) offers 1 hour career consultations.

Additionally, UWE Bristol runs a mentoring scheme (staff only) which assists all staff with their career development and finding professional opportunities.

To summarise, the session was a short but useful introduction on the possibilities of using LinkedIn to enhance the way you navigate the often intimidating world of job hunting or networking within your chosen sector.

For me personally, the session inspired me to go through my now ancient account and give it a little spruce. The idea that 5 minutes of engagement a day can enhance your professional life astronomically seems like a win-win situation. If you also take into consideration the statistics around women not feeling confident about applying for certain jobs, engaging with LinkedIn can give you that extra confidence to go for that job you may have previously disregarded as an impossible dream.

If you are interested in finding out more about this session or the Women’s Forum in general, please contact us at womensforum@uwe.ac.uk

You can connect with Caris Rubenzer on twitter at @CarisRubenzer, or on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caris-rubenzer/.

Gender Networks: A Network for Network Leaders

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By Aimée Atkinson, Faculty and Service Liaison Manager on the Student Journey Programme, and one of UWE Bristol’s Women’s Forum Coordinators

Back in October I made the trip to London to attend a breakfast meeting hosted by Gender Networks. This is a network specifically for people who lead, chair or coordinate networks in their own organisations, across a broad range of sectors and industries. The Gender Network aims to support networks, at all stages of maturity, and offer to help network leaders find mentors from across sectors to help them take their network where they want it to go. Their meetings are an opportunity to be informed of the latest issues, as well as a chance to hear from a broad range of speakers, and an opportunity to share best practices. This is a membership organisation, and UWE Bristol’s Women’s Forum Coordinators had been invited to attend as guests of Vanessa Vallely OBE.

Vanessa, pictured above is an author, speaker and entrepreneur and is best known for launching We Are The City as a vehicle to help women progress in their careers. Vanessa also founded the diversity forum Gender Networks, the Rising Star Awards and TechWomen100 awards. A number of staff from UWE Bristol have won Rising Star Awards historically, including Jessica Coggins and Janice St. John-Matthews. Vanessa is an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to Women and the Economy. One of the highlights of my day was meeting Vanessa, who despite her status is both warm, and approachable, as well as inspirational.

The meeting was being hosted by Investec, who are part of the network. Members take it in turns to host the quarterly meetings, and they usually take place in London. Investec are known for their zebra, and attendees were delighted to see the zebra was also in attendance! (See image in top left of tweet above).

The whole event only took a total of 2 hours, beginning at 8am with a breakfast reception and an opportunity to meet fellow attendees. Most of the women I spoke to were based in London, however some had traveled from Manchester and Leeds, including Simone Roche, CEO and founder of Northern Power Women.

Despite being a short event, it was definitely action packed! After an introduction from Vanessa and a welcome from our Investec hosts, where they told us about their Taboo series, and the work they’d done to bring sceptics on board, as well as how they’d opened up their women’s network to male allies. We were then treated to a round up of gender related news from Harriet Minter who is a journalist and broadcaster. Harriet talked us through how companies can ensure maternity leave does not hurt a woman’s career, how Facebook have gotten into trouble for targeting their job adverts, the importance of gender allies in public as well as private spheres, the rise of working mothers, and the need to have women on boards.

Following the round up of the news, Vanessa encouraged us all to do some speed networking, with a twist. Vanessa encourages networking at all the events she hosts, and has noticed that people tend to network with people that look like themselves. All the blondes talk to blondes, the people with glasses find someone else with glasses. Therefore Vanessa set us the challenge of talking to someone who didn’t look like we did. I thought this was an interesting approach, and while enforced networking can often feel a bit forced, or awkward, fortunately this didn’t!

This was followed by table work, where the room organised themselves into small groups and shared their local successes, plans, and best practices.

Following this was a series of inspirational speakers, which began with Ann Francke, author and CEO of the Chartered Management Institute. Ann spoke about the gender pay gap, a topic she is an expert in, and one she has spoken about very regularly. Ann talked about the Broken Window Effect – this is a criminology theory, and refers to the work undertaken by New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton in 1990s in which tackling small crimes such as graffiti and broken windows lead to a reduction in crime rates. Ann argued that by tolerating small gender slights we are a long way off solving the bigger issues, such as the gender pay gap.

Ann was followed by Heather Melville, OBE. Heather talked about the need to diversify networks, and that by diversifying speakers it can encourage a diversified membership. Heather also spoke about the importance of sustainable networks and the need to encourage new leaders. She talked about the risk of a network hinging on one person, and that if that person leaves, it is possible the whole network can fall apart. Not only this, but it is a good development opportunity to bring new leaders on board, and it doesn’t have to mean you, as a leader, leaving the network entirely.

Heather was followed by Sherry Coutu, CBE. Sherry spoke about Founders4Schools and the importance of children, and particularly girls, needing role models, and how these are not always evident in their family or local community. Therefore Founders4Schools aims to inspire school aged children to reach their potential by providing them with role models, and in particular role models that they can relate to.

All in all it was an action packed, inspiring couple of hours, and there’s definitely lessons that UWE’s Women’s Forum can learn from the speakers. And what’s more these lessons are easy to share with any of the other staff networks at UWE, particularly around sustainable networks and diversifying speakers, to in turn diversify membership.

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