The Department of Biology has applied for an Athena SWAN Bronze Department Award in the November 2018 round. Biology is the first Department in Maynooth University to apply for accreditation. Athena SWAN accreditation is awarded by the Equality Challenge Unit (recently reconstituted as Advance HE), which recognises work undertaken to advance gender equality, diversity and intersectionality for staff and students in higher education institutions and departments across Ireland and the UK. Maynooth University achieved a Bronze Institution Award in April 2018.
The application was prepared by the Biology self-assessment team (SAT), which includes the Head of Department, academic staff, technical staff, administrative staff, research staff, and student representation. The SAT is chaired by lecturer Dr Karen English, who also sits of the institutional Gender Equality Steering Group.
In summary, the Department’s submission indicates that while women are well represented in Biology (>50%) at all levels from undergraduate to Senior Lecturer, the proportion of women at senior academic grades is low. The cornerstone of Biology’s application is its comprehensive MU Department of Biology Gender Equality Action Plan 2018-2022. The 39 action items in the plan include:
- Establishing a voluntary mentoring programme for all academic and research staff, with a specific focus on women’s careers;
- Embedding gender equality issues into the Department’s Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes;
- Hosting an annual Phyllis Clinch Lecture to further enhance the visibility of women role models in the global discipline of Biology;
- Amending the annual PhD progress form and follow-up meeting with a student’s advisor to include sections on work-life balance and career development;
- Establishing a policy to formally put in place PhD supervision structures when staff take maternity or adoptive leave.
The Department will also seek to align departmental, institutional and sectoral work on the advancement of gender equality.
Head of Department Professor Paul Moynagh stated: “We are fully committed to supporting and implementing the Biology Gender Equality Action Plan 2019-2022. I look forward to championing this process as Head of Department and, together with colleagues, further enhancing our sense of value of gender equality and equal opportunity for all in the department to achieve their full potential”. The SAT Chair Dr Karen English commented: “One of the big things that came out of the self-assessment process was that research students wanted more rounded support, so we are now building that into the progress assessments. It will provide an important opportunity to talk about career development and general wellbeing for postgraduate students.”
Results from the November 2018 submission round will be known by April 2019.