Equality, diversity and inclusion in the School of Life and Medical Sciences

Athena SWAN Bronze AwardIn the School of Life and Medical Sciences, we firmly believe that promoting gender equality and establishing a fair and inclusive environment for staff and students ultimately results in improving the work and study environment for everyone, both men and women. We are committed to supporting a culture in which equality is practiced and diversity valued. We work closely with both our staff and students to ensure that we are continually researching, developing and implementing good practice to support individual success.

Meet some of our role models

How we support women in science

The School of Life and Medical Sciences first achieved the Athena SWAN Bronze award in November 2014. View our School Athena SWAN Bronze submission  (PDF - 2.55 Mb).

The Charter recognises good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women. It covers women in academic and research roles, but also progression of students into academia.

Athena SWAN has given us the opportunity to reflect on existing practices and prevailing cultures, acknowledge and celebrate current good practice and identify areas for improvement.

We also contribute to improving the profile of female careers in STEMM by submitting academic career profiles of colleagues from within the School of Life and Medical Science to the Academic Case Studies section of jobs.ac.uk.

  • Athena SWAN: Principles and impact

    The Charter was developed by the Equality Challenge Unit in order to encourage Universities and Departments to address the under representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) subjects. Since its inception, the charter has expanded to include the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law. Importantly, the charter also places emphasis on work undertaken to address barriers to progression more broadly, not just for women, and for staff across a range of roles including professional and support areas.

    Membership of Athena SWAN has a proven impact as a catalyst for change, leading to organisational and cultural transformation that makes a real difference for women and enables all staff to achieve their maximum potential.

    All Athena SWAN members sign up to the principles of the Charter.

    The Equality Challenge Unit has identified evidence of the impact that Athena SWAN has had for universities and is increasingly referred to as a 'requirement' or an 'expectation'.

  • Meet the Team

    The School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Team (EDIT) oversees activity to ensure that we are continually supporting equal outcomes for all. This group is chaired by the Dean of School, Dr Richard Southern. Members of the team include individuals from each Department within the School, alongside the School’s Executive Lead for Equality, Diversity and Widening Participation, Dr Shivani Sharma. Our Department’s include:
    - Biological and Environmental Sciences (BES) 
    - Clinical and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPS)
    - Psychology and Sport Sciences (PSS)

    Together the EDIT covers a range of roles, and the group includes students (undergraduate and postgraduate), and staff from different job roles such as early career researchers, academics, technical and professional staff. Collectively, they bring to the process a mix of life experiences including balancing home responsibilities and work, dual-career families, and recent experience of recruitment and promotion processes within the School .

  • What we do: actions and good practice

    The School of Life and Medical Sciences first received the Athena SWAN Bronze award in November 2014 and then again in April 2016.

    The School's EDIT is currently ensuring that our updated Bronze Award Action Plan is being implemented, alongside monitoring that other good practice is well embedded within the day-to-day ethos of the School. Actions range from monitoring quantitative data (including student applications and staff recruitment/promotions by gender) through to implementing and strengthening procedures to improve female career progression. Some specific actions include:

    • Promoting and advertising flexible degrees and raising awareness of part-time study options.
    • Supporting a range of staff development activities including internal and external opportunities in areas such as research, management and leadership.
    • Helping staff understand and engage with progression routes at the University including Readership, Associate Professorships and Professorial appointments.
    • Regularly canvasing staff opinions and researching and implementing practices to support success in the sciences.
    • Undertaking a range of outreach activities within Schools, Academies, Colleges and other organisations to provide opportunities that encourage students from diverse backgrounds towards the sciences.
  • CoCo Network

    In 2017-2018, the School’s Conversations and Connections (CoCo) network chaired by Dr Lisa Lione, ran a survey to identify barriers for progressing an independent research career alongside identifying enablers/good practice for enhancing research career progression. The results of the survey are informing practice across the School. Read on to find out more about the survey outcomes and associated actions that are being taken forward to help further gender equality in the sciences.

    Summary of Actions


    Action Identified

    Some staff reported a lack of clarity on how much designated research time they were allocate.

    Research Centre Heads and Line Mangers will work more closely to identify clearly within staff workloads what research allocation they have and the plans for use of this time.

    40-60% of male and female respondents reported that they were unsure about how their appraisal action plan might support progression in research in particular.

    Research Centre Heads will review relevant sections of sharable action plans to ensure that there are clear objectives related to research success.

    The School will also provide opportunities such as ‘Research Success Days’ and informal workshops to help staff better understand research trajectories within the University and to support those considering applications for promotion further.

    A lack of a research mentor was viewed as a barrier to research development by 30% of females as compared to 0% of male respondents.

    The School will scope and develop a mentoring scheme for those who wish to draw on such support. Similar schemes are running in other academic Schools and so this good practice will be drawn on.

    30-40% of male and female respondents would welcome research centre-based support for grant writing.

    The Health Research Methods Unit within the Centre for Health Services and Clinical Research are piloting an initiative offering researchers within the Centre the opportunity of internal peer review by a research panel for grant ideas or applications. The outcomes of the pilot including researcher feedback will be shared across the School.

    Most recently, CoCo held a one-day workshop themed around ‘Research Success’. The day included guest talks to help staff at different points in their research career better understand progression routes at the University, learn from experienced academics about their research journey, and to better understand how to enhance the impact of research. Feedback on the event was highly positive. Dr Caroline Formstone, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences commented: "An excellent opportunity to discuss career progression within the School via the research route and to network with fellow researchers at different points in their career-path. I also liked hearing about research successes within the School in the last year."

  • Case studies on how policies and practices within the School and University support staff success in the sciences.


See a list of Athena SWAN news from the University of Hertfordshire.

Any questions?

Contact Dr Shivani Sharma using this email if you have queries about Athena SWAN in the School of Life and Medical Sciences.