Athena SWAN Bronze Award

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

Athena SWAN in Biosciences

Biosciences 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 bronze.

Introduction to Athena SWAN

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

Impact and initiatives

As a self-assessment team we are hugely enthusiastic about ensuring that individuals have equal opportunities to progress in Biosciences. Athena SWAN allows us to bring about genuine cultural and structural change in areas where we feel individuals can be better supported.

In order to do this we have written an action plan which we are continually developing as we aim to promote gender equality throughout the department.

Some of our proactive actions include:

  • Focus groups and workshop events
  • Cross college mentoring
  • Securing Daphne Jackson fellowships
  • Enhanced media profiling of female researchers
  • Greater support for early career academics
  • promotion of Athena SWAN principles throughout the department

Since Athena SWAN has been core to our business strategy, we have seen an increase in the proportion of female staff members, especially around Grade F (Lecturer/Research fellow). While we are proud of this success, we acknowledge there are further strides forward we can make.


The Biosciences Department on the University’s Streatham campus are proud holders of an Athena SWAN Bronze Award (successfully renewed in November 2017 after our initial award in November 2014).  This award recognizes the department’s work towards addressing gender inequality, tackling unequal gender representation and improving career progression for female academics. 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, all University and Departmental applications are available for download here.

Self assessment team

Rob Wilson Senior Lecturer and group Chair View web profile
Jonathan Ball  Research Fellow View web profile
Lori Borgal Research Fellow View web profile
Sara Burton Senior lecturer View web profile
Helen Dawe Senior Lecturer View web profile
Helen Eyles Research Fellow View web profile
Andrew Griffiths Lecturer View web profile
Alison Hill Senior Lecturer View web profile
Samantha Mitchell Laboratory manager View web profile
Jenny Porrett Departmental Administrator  
Mark Ramsdale Senior Lecturer View web profile
Nicola Rogers Research Fellow View web profile
Eduarda Santos Senior Lecturer View web profile
David Studholme Associate Professor View web profile
James Wakefield Associate Professor and Head of Department View web profile

Links and further reading

Links to societies

Further reading, research, and links

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. You can subscribe here

Geography specific

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

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’. You can subscribe here.

Women in Science and Engineering (WISE):

Sign up to getSET, the monthly newsletter from WISE.

Newsletters and Blogs:

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.