Introduction to Athena SWAN in Biosciences

Jakes Wakefield

Biosciences at the University of Exeter is proud to be an open and inclusive Department where the diversity of our staff and students contribute to our success in education and research.

As Head of Department, I am deeply aware of the importance of inclusivity in science. Since 2004, when I began my independent research, my group has comprised men and women with a wide range of nationalities, backgrounds, faiths and career stages. I have found that this diversity provides a collaborative and dynamic context, in which stimulating and novel ideas come to fruition.  

The work of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) committee ensures that we engender an inclusive working environment, a strong sense of community, and visible and approachable role models and mentors for our junior staff and students.

Our recent Bronze Athena SWAN award recognises our continued work in this area. My colleagues and I on the EDI committee are working together on a set of priority actions including:

  • Measures to increase the inclusivity of staff recruitment, at the stages of application, shortlisting and appointment, and to ensure that selection is unhindered by conscious or unconscious bias.
  • Training, mentoring and support to ensure the retention, promotion and progression of our female academics.
  • Family-friendly policies, such as a core hours rule for Departmental meetings, and increased support for staff and their colleagues during and following periods of maternity and paternity leave.
  • Support for Early Career Researchers, including a Director of Postdocs, to oversee the mentoring, training, and engagement in the department of our research staff, who are fundamental for our research and at a crunch point in their academic careers.
  • Support for our entire Departmental family, including our academics, professional and technical services staff, and postgraduate and undergraduate students. Our monthly Departmental newsletter celebrates the achievements of all members of our community.

Our Athena SWAN actions aim to ensure that staff and students have the same opportunities to fulfil their academic potential, irrespective of gender, race, faith, sexuality and any other aspects of their background. I look forward to continuing to work together with my colleagues to fully realise this aim.


Head of Department, Dr James Wakefield