Skip to main content


Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

Geography at Exeter has been on a deep and committed transition towards building a culture of equity across intersectional positions. Through our ongoing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we now know our challenges and areas for further work. We are no longer ‘reactive’ but feel brave and confident in creating innovative cultures of transformation which are rapidly changing our department and we are increasingly recognised as leading within the wider Geography community.

Our renewed Athena Swan Silver award and action plan prompted reflection in identifying our challenges and highlights, including our ongoing work to enable women’s career progression, and our sector leading REF environment statement which detailed the EDI transformation in our research community.

As one of the Departments within the Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy, we retain our integrity and have gained increasing autonomy. This creates a wonderful opportunity to tailor practices and be guided by the transformative EDI work within the University, in ways which work for our community. This means we can really dig into some important areas for Geography, for example, excellence in mentoring, and diverse and inclusive hiring practices.

Since April 2016, we are proud to hold a Silver Athena SWAN award.
The Athena SWAN Charter recognises the advancement of women in Higher Education (HE). Within STEMM disciplines, women are typically under-represented at senior levels, and this is ubiquitous across the HE sector.

Following the Principles of the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter and, in determining our priorities and interventions, we commit to:

  • Adopting robust, transparent and accountable processes for gender equality work, including: 
    • embedding diversity, equity and inclusion in our culture, decision-making and partnerships, and holding ourselves and others in our institution/institute/department accountable.
    • undertaking evidence-based, transparent self-assessment processes to direct our priorities and interventions for gender equality, and evaluating our progress to inform our continuous development.
    • ensuring that gender equality work is distributed appropriately, is recognised and properly rewarded.
  • Addressing structural inequalities and social injustices that manifest as differential experiences and outcomes for staff and students.
  • Tackling behaviours and cultures that detract from the safety and collegiality of our work and study environments for people of all genders, including not tolerating gender-based violence, discrimination, bullying, harassment or exploitation.
  • Understanding and addressing intersectional inequalities.
  • Fostering collective understanding that individuals have the right to determine their own gender identity, and tackling the specific issues faced by trans and non-binary people because of their identity.
  • Examining gendered occupational segregation, and elevating the status, voice and career opportunities of any identified under-valued and at-risk groups.
  • Mitigating the gendered impact of caring responsibilities and career breaks, and supporting flexibility and the maintenance of a healthy ‘whole life balance’.
  • Mitigating the gendered impact of short-term and casual contracts for staff seeking sustainable careers.

Geography's Athena SWAN Working Group meets regularly to determine, progress and assess our priorities and interventions as identified in our Silver Action Plan.

You can find out further information about Athena Swan on the University’s institutional award and departmental awards webpage.

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.

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.

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 Dunia Urrego and Saffron O’Neill co-Directors of EDI on

Directors of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion