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We are proud to announce that we have been awarded an Athena SWAN silver.

Athena SWAN in Geography

Geography at Streatham Campus has made a commitment to gender equality for all our staff and students. Our ongoing goal is to attract, retain and promote women throughout our pipeline.

We are proud to announce that we have been awarded an Athena SWAN Silver.

Introduction to Athena SWAN

Athena SWAN is a Charter that recognises the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM). Within STEMM disciplines, women are typically under-represented at senior levels and this is ubiquitous across the Higher Education sector. Athena SWAN recognition comes in the form of institutional or departmental awards of varying levels. Fundamentally, though, Chartership requires that institutions adhere to six key principles:

  1. To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation
  2. To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation
  3. The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine
  4. The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address
  5. The system of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the organisation recognises
  6. There are both personal and structural obstacles to women making the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career in science, which require the active consideration of the organisation

It is important that everyone with the Department works together to help to tackle the challenges that Athena SWAN highlights. Geography has brought together an Athena SWAN Working Group to look more carefully at these challenges and understand how they might be having an impact on the department, its staff and the working culture.

The Group meets on a regular basis to discuss these issues and has now gained a better understanding of the action that needs to be taken to improve the working environment for everyone within the Department. An Athena SWAN action plan is currently being implemented to address these local challenges.


The University of Exeter's Geography Department are now proud holders of an Athena SWAN Silver Award. The University is a member of the Athena SWAN Charter and has held a Bronze institutional award since November 2011, successfully renewing this in November 2014. All departments at Exeter are committed to holding an Athena SWAN award. As part of sharing good practice, the Geography Department’s Athena SWAN applications are publically available for download:

  • Geography Department Bronze Award (April 2014)‌‌
  • Geography Department Silver Award - to follow.

Additionally, further information on all University and Departmental applications are available on the Athena SWAN website.

‌The University was also pleased to be included in the Gender Equality Charter Mark (GEM) trial. The department of Classics and Ancient History participated in the trial and applied for and were awarded a Bronze Departmental Award (April 2014). Further information can be found on the Classics and Ancient History GEM webpages.

Activities and benefits

The Geography department here at Exeter is committed to the development of an inclusive culture whereby all staff and students feel that they can achieve their career aspirations and goals.

The Athena SWAN self assessment process has given us the opportunity to explore issues of gender within our discipline as well as a mechanism through which we can support both men and women. The Geography Athena SWAN group has genuine influence, which is already showing an impact upon the culture of the department.

Since embarking on our Athena SWAN journey, we have recognised key challenges faced by women within the department. In consequence to this, we have put in place a number of measures, including:

  • an established early careers network
  • increased completion rates for equality and diversity training, as well as recruitment and selection training for all staff who sit on interview panels
  • equal gender representation on our web pages
  • Athena SWAN principles are integrated into our recruitment procedure
  • A review of the PDR appraisal process
  • organised weekly coffee sessions which all staff are invited to attend.

During this time, we have seen an increase in the overall number of our staff and students whilst welcoming a greater proportion of women to the department. This is reflected in our data, which shows the gender ratio of our student and staff populations have become more balanced over time. We are extremely proud of the work we have done so far but recognise there is more to do. Women are still underrepresented at the most senior levels; we hope that through our Athena SWAN work, we can support the women already in our pipeline to progress on to those senior positions, thereby providing a gender balance of role models for the next generation of Geographers.

Geography Athena SWAN Working Group

Name and Role Contact
Jo Little - Chair
Ian Cook - core group>

Alastair Graham - core group

Jennifer Lea - core group
Lina Mercado - core group

John Wylie - HoD
Sean Carter - DoE
Andrew Nicholas - DoR
Louise MacAllister - postdoc rep 

Jack Stephens - PGR rep 
Sian Biggar - SSLC
Isabel Castle - PS Support

Core hours FAQs

What are Geography's core hours on the Streatham campus?

9.30am-3.00pm, Monday to Friday. These are based on 'school run' hours, assuming colleagues drop their children off at school at 9 and pick them up at 3.30.

Why has the issue of core hours come up?

Our Athena SWAN silver application form requires us to talk about:
'Timing of departmental meetings and social gatherings – provide evidence of consideration for those with family responsibilities, for example, what the department considers to be core hours and whether there is a more flexible system in place.'

Where can I find out more about Athena SWAN at Exeter?

The University's commitment to Athena SWAN is outlined on the central website. You can also follow developments on twitter via @UoEAthenaSWAN. Our Departmental Athena SWAN pages for Streatham Campus and Penryn Campus.

Why do we need core hours?

This is all about maximising the opportunities for all of our staff and postgrads to keep 'in the loop' of our discipline's research and governance cultures. Many colleagues, for life-work balance reasons (in particular to do with caring responsibilities, but also for other reasons), are unable to attend 'bread and butter' meetings because they take place too early or too late in the day.

Do core hours include teaching?

No. There is a longstanding and separate policy through which colleagues can request a change to their working patterns. Details of this and other available support for parents and carers are outlined on the parent webpages.

What should take place during core hours?

The most basic, regular get-togethers that colleagues need to attend to be 'in the loop' as far as Geography's research and governance are concerned. This includes, for example, all regular committee meetings, staff meetings, departmental seminars and research group meetings.

Who are these core hours for?

Academic staff, postdocs, and postgraduate students. Undergraduate students and Professional Services staff are not part of this core hour policy, at this stage.

Is it OK to organise meetings and events outside core-hours?

Yes, for one-off or maybe termly events during the academic year, but only if these are announced with plenty of notice (at least 6 weeks, perhaps) so that colleagues can arrange replacement care, etc. This includes, for example, research group residentials.
The established practice of arranging times to meet colleagues and/or students within and beyond core hours etc. are fine, if the people involved are happy with this.

What if I have any questions?

Please contact Ian Cook, Geography's Athena SWAN chair on or in person in Amory 409.

Links and further reading

Mailing lists:

Signing up to the following mailing lists is useful for keeping up to date with current research, events, best practice and policies relating to Equality and Diversity and Athena SWAN.

Athena SWAN JISC mailing list

The Athena SWAN’s JISC mailing list is useful for both learning from and informing individuals and institutions involved in the Athena SWAN Process about the research, events, and initiatives your Department and/or your Institution has been involved in. You can subscribe via emailing the Athena SWAN team.

Equality Link 

The Equality Challenge Unit’s Equality Link newsletter: Equalitylink - This is a monthly round-up of equality and diversity news, resources and ECU’s work with the sector. 

Geography specific

For Geographers, you can also sign up to the Geographer’s Athena SWAN Jisc mailing list

Equality: Government

Subscribing to the Gov.UK Equality Policy email alerts gives you regular updates to national changes in policy and information on ‘what the government’s doing about equality’. 

Women in Science and Engineering (WISE):

Sign up to getSET, the monthly newsletter from WISE.

Newsletters and Blogs:

Gender equality and Athena SWAN

CLES guidelines for the support of staff taking maternity, maternity support/paternity, adoption, parental or carer related leave:

Psychology Athena SWAN Guidelines for the arrangement of pop-up nurseries for events outside of core hours

Outreach Activities

Creating Cultural Change:


Gender equality in STEM articles:

Rethinking Language and Visual Representations

Gender in Recruitment

Unconscious bias


Throughout each year, the Athena SWAN Working Groups organise workshops, training sessions, and events aimed at creating an inclusive environment.