Some Activities of the Athena SWAN Self Assessment Team (SAT) in 2020

October 2019

The Athena SWAN committee was formed following an open call for membership amongst staff. In addition to ensuring male and female representation on our committee, we included representation from staff at various academic grades and roles in the department, as well as student representation at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
In our first meeting, we became familiar with the Athena SWAN process and the requirements for application, and identified initial tasks and sources of data required. We also discussed what we might learn from the experiences of other departments in MU, such as the Departments of Biology and Geography, that had recently submitted their applications.
A Teams account was set up to facilitate sharing of documentation among members.
 

November 2019
Some members of the SAT attended two interesting and informative presentations by Dr Victoria Brownlee (Advance HE) who provided: (1) an overview of the Athena SWAN Process; and (2) guidance on action planning for departments. These were shared with other members of the SAT and later discussed.
 
December 2019
We considered how best to collect data from staff and students to learn more about their experiences in the department. Smaller sub-teams of individuals were formed to design these surveys, with the development of the undergraduate and postgraduate surveys being led by our student representatives.
We discussed a range of issues, including whether the Athena Swan process/actions will benefit the department in isolation, or have broader implications and/or give rise to “genuine equality” between males and females. The committee noted that, while action planning will ultimately be data driven, there may be other issues which may be considered in this early planning stage. 
 
January 2020
We finalised the design of three separate surveys for (1) undergraduate and taught MSc students, (2) postgraduate research students, and (3) departmental staff. These surveys were intended to capture a broad range of qualitative and quantitative data from members of the department.
We received data from student admissions which included information on numbers of male and female students in the department, as well as award classifications by gender.
 
February 2020

All members of the department were encouraged to participate in the three surveys as outlined above. In order to maximise response rates, students were invited to participate in class by SAT members, while staff and postgraduate students were sent email invitations, followed by two follow-up reminders.
 

March 2020

We began to conduct preliminary analysis on the survey responses (disaggregated by gender) and, at our meeting, discussed initial reflections of these results and provisional next steps to take.
Two days after our meeting, the University closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This required us to somewhat alter our original plans and identify strategies for remote working.
 

April 2020  
The SAT met online for the first time in late April to revise progress on Athena SWAN to date. A comprehensive analysis of data obtained and outstanding was presented, and a provisional timeline for future activities was proposed.
Given the context, we spent considerable time discussing possible impacts of Covid-19 on departmental functioning both for students and staff. A brief survey was circulated to students to understand how they were adapting to the new learning environment which fed into decisions made by the Teaching and Learning Committee. We acknowledged that a deeper reflection on these issues in the context of Athena SWAN would be required at a later stage.

May 2020
Further data on student performance was sourced and extracted, as well as benchmarking information and other relevant data.
Members of the SAT began drafting initial sections of the application based on data received to date.
The chair met with other Athena SWAN departmental chairs in MU to share experiences on the application process and, more generally, to discuss how departments were adapting to the Covid-19 situation.June 2020:
The committee met to discuss a revised timeline for our application. It was decided to develop this section on the departmental website to more widely disseminate our activities and increase visibility of Athena SWAN in the department.
The results of the relevant surveys were sent back to both staff and postgraduate students, who were invited to provide further comment and participate in focus groups. 
 
June 2020

The committee met to discuss a revised timeline for our application. It was decided to develop this section on the departmental website to more widely disseminate our activities and increase visibility of Athena SWAN in the department.
The results of the relevant surveys were sent back to both staff and postgraduate students, who were invited to provide further comment and participate in focus groups.
 

July 2020-August 2020

More data was gathered on staff and student experience, including though a focus group with a number of postgraduate research students.
We continued to work on drafting sections of our application over the summer.
 

September 2020

As we began a new semester, we completed a first draft of our self-assessment report.
Using the data gathered, we began to identify important actions targeted towards the department in general, as well as more specific actions designed to support undergraduate students, postgraduate students and staff.
We also carefully considered how actions should take into account the many potential impacts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

October 2020

Following completion of an initial application draft and action plan by SAT members, we circulated this to all staff in the department for comment. We were delighted to receive feedback from many in the department.
On 23rd October we held a wider departmental consultation workshop, with smaller working groups formulating additional actions in light of the data received.
 

November-December 2020

We were fortunate to obtain additional feedback on our application and action plan from a number of internal and external reviewers on the content of our application
The final weeks of 2020 were spent carefully revising this before receiving final approval from University Executive to submit.
 

January 2021

We were delighted to submit our application at the start of the year and look forward to implementing our action plan between now and 2024.