Athena SWAN

The University of Exeter's Sport and Health Sciences department is a proud holder of an Athena SWAN Silver Award.

Research fellow Lucy Gowing's book Sports Scientists can... make you faster! is targeted at primary school children, and aims to increase awareness of sports science among younger audiences.

Inclusivity, equality and diversity

In Sport and Health Sciences we are committed to maintaining an inclusive environment for all our staff and students, regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

This commitment includes the identification of areas where inclusivity, equality and diversity could be improved and the creation of subsequent actions. We have worked hard to embed activity within our committee structures and day-to-day practices to improve opportunities for all.

The Athena SWAN Charter has provided a focus and structure for this work, ensuring we use evidence regarding our current student and staff populations, and the environment and culture of our discipline, to inform the development of actions.

Athena SWAN

The University of Exeter's Sport and Health Sciences department is a proud holder of an Athena SWAN Silver Award. 

As part of our commitment to attaining this, a discipline level working group was set up to undergo a self-assessment process of the department, highlighting key issues and implementing actions in response to those issues.

» Read our application and find out more

The Athena SWAN initiative has provided the impetus for SHS to evaluate the importance of factors such as our culture, the visibility of role models and the influence of unconscious bias in creating a positive working environment for all.

We have worked hard to improve inclusivity across the department, with a team approach that involves embedding related actions in all our activity. Whilst this is a continuous process, we are proud of the commitment of all members of the department to developing an environment that is welcoming to all, and where all staff and students can achieve their potential.

One area of activity has focused on widening awareness of sports science in younger audiences through the development of a book targeted at primary school children, authored by research fellow Lucy Gowing.

Dr Sharon Dixon, who led the Athena SWAN application process

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

» More about Athena SWAN

» Athena SWAN at the University of Exeter

Student recruitment

We identified that the proportion of female undergraduates was decreasing year on year. This led us to look in detail at the factors influencing applicants and to create female-focused recruitment actions. These included:

  1. Ensuring gender balance at open days and offer holder visitor days, and reference to culture and facilities
  2. Creation and promotion of undergraduate women-only academic scholarships of £4000
  3. Development of partnerships with female sports teams to provide pathways for participation alongside study to attract more female students

Staff recruitment and development

We identified low proportions of female applicants and appointments for academic posts. To attract more female applicants we have:

  1. Utilised template adverts, job descriptions and person specifications, including checking for gender neutral language and provided links to important information on family friendly policies and the College Athena SWAN webpages
  2. Monitored training records to ensure that all academic staff involved in the recruitment process have undertaken recruitment and selection training, including awareness of unconscious bias
  3. Organised annual promotions workshops for academic staff

Professional Services career development

Feedback from the Employee Engagement Survey indicated that some Professional Services staff were not satisfied with the opportunities provided for career progression. Related actions included:

  1. Promoting awareness of the new Developmental Frameworks and utilisation of these Development Frameworks in PDRs
  2. Increasing awareness of academic and research staff of the mechanisms available for recognising the contribution of colleagues in Professional Services, where this recognition can be used to support future career development
  3. Promotion of mentoring and shadowing of PS colleagues

Culture of the department

We are keen to promote a vibrant and inclusive culture within the department. To consolidate a positive working culture we:

  1. Circulate a monthly newsletter to celebrate staff achievements, in work and outside
  2. Have weekly Friday morning coffee and informal networking
  3. Organise varied social events, including family friendly events
  4. Arrange regular sports activity including staff and students

As the Head of Discipline, I am committed to the work of Athena SWAN as I strongly believe that everyone irrespective of gender, ethnicity, disability and sexuality should be able to access equivalent opportunities. I have studied and worked in the field of Sports and Exercise Science for 25 years, and whilst we are increasingly achieving gender balance at undergraduate, postgraduate, and early career stages, there is still a large gender disparity at more senior levels both in academia and in industry. Athena SWAN provides an opportunity to interrogate the data, better understand the issues and create and embed solutions to improve the working environment for all.

Professor Jo Bowtell
Head of Sport and Health Sciences

Inclusivity committee members

Staff memberJob family
Sharon Dixon (Committee lead) Education & Research (Senior Lecturer)
Sam Bailey Technical Services
Jo Bowtell Education & Research (Associate Professor)
Matt Campbell Education & Scholarship
Sarah Denford Research
Matthew Ellison Postgraduate Researcher
Clare Fogarty Professional Services
Sarah Jackman Education & Research (Associate Professor)
Lisa Price Education & Research (Lecturer)
Hannah Rice Education & Research (Lecturer)
Sam Vine Education & Research (Associate Professor)