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Gender equality and Athena Swan at MDX

Working towards gender equality in higher education

Our plans for ensuring and promoting gender equality are embedded within a range of intersectional initiatives, reports and action plans in line with our mainstreamed approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. 

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021, which assess universities against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has also recognised our commitment, ranking us #12 out of 776 institutions for SDG5 Gender Equality.

About Athena Swan

The Athena Swan Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in the higher education sector, spanning both teaching and research. In 2015, the Charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in non-STEMM subjects, and now includes staff in professional and support roles.

Athena Swan is managed by AdvanceHE. More information about Athena Swan can be found on the AdvanceHE website.

Bronze Award

We have been awarded a highly-esteemed Bronze Award by the Athena Swan Charter, which recognises that the University has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.

The Athena Swan internal Self-Assessment Team (SAT) undertook a rigorous self-assessment of data to assess gender equality across Middlesex's staff community. From this insight, the team developed a set of short, medium and longer term actions to help drive forward gender equality and representation across the University, including gender non-conforming individuals.

These actions include:

  • Reviewing the promotion and progression process
  • Further embedding the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion in new staff inductions and at local level across teams
  • Enhancing knowledge of the University’s parental leave policies and developing a more robust support mechanism for staff needing to access it
  • Embracing and embedding more engaging and affirmative communications in our approaches to recruitment to encourage applications from underrepresented groups.

Self-Assessment Team

The Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team (SAT) currently meets quarterly. The Athena Swan SAT is working together to identify and implement necessary actions to improve gender equality at MDX, using data and research.

The main focus of the Athena Swan SAT is to:

  • Reflect on a range of quantitative and qualitative data to identify both challenges and opportunities with regards to gender equality
  • Evaluate relevant policies, practices and activities
  • Respond to the findings of the above, and establish gender equality-based priority areas with appropriate aspirations and targets
  • Develop an evidence-based, comprehensive action plan to underpin advancement against the agreed priorities over the whole award period (five years), after which time the University will apply to renew or upgrade our award
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of actions undertaken on an ongoing basis, to ensure actions are delivering desired impact against objectives, and evolve the action plan in response to evaluation.

The Athena Swan SAT has representation from a breadth of career stages and staff types, including professional and support staff, research and academic staff, and students. Membership of the Athena Swan SAT is gender-balanced, taking account of intersectionality in its make-up so far as is practicable, and is representative of the diversity inherent within MDX.

MDX staff can meet the Athena Swan SAT on the staff intranet (please note, this page is for MDX staff only and requires a login).

Our approach to Athena Swan SAT activities

Middlesex University is committed to developing a distinctive, inclusive and sustainable research culture which fosters the skills, methods and ethos of practice-oriented, interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange.

Our approach to Athena Swan follows four strands:

  • Recruitment, promotion, picture of institution, supporting trans people and intersectionality
  • Parental leave, care and flexible working
  • Training, outreach, staff development, career progression
  • Senior level, governance, policy.

Gender Equality Plan

Our Gender Equality Plan (GEP) is predominantly set out in our Athena Swan submissions. We align with the Horizon Europe Gender Equality Plan requirements as follows.

Mandatory requirements for a GEP
  • Be a public document

The GEP should be a formal document signed by the top management and disseminated within the institution. It should demonstrate a commitment to gender equality, set clear goals and detailed actions and measures to achieve them.

Our Athena Swan application and action plan are available online and are fully endorsed by our Vice-Chancellor. The plan demonstrates a commitment to gender equality and sets out clear goals, which include specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound actions.

  • Have dedicated resources

Resources for the design, implementation, and monitoring of GEPs may include funding for specific positions such as Equality Officers or Gender Equality Teams as well as earmarked working time for academic, management and administrative staff.

The University has an Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team and Gender Equality Steering Group embedded within the structure of the University, reporting to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. Staff are given the time to undertake roles within the Athena Swan SAT.

  • Include arrangements for data collection and monitoring

GEPs must be evidence-based and founded on sex or gender-disaggregated baseline data collected across all staff categories. This data should inform the GEP’s objectives and targets, indicators, and ongoing evaluation of progress.

The Athena Swan submission contains comprehensive data on our gender composition. An annual report is provided to the EDI Committee giving gender-disaggregated baseline data. This data is then used by the EDI Committee to identify issues and commit to appropriate actions over the next five years.

  • Be supported by training and capacity-building

Actions may include developing gender competence and tackling unconscious gender bias among staff, leaders and decision-makers, establishing working groups dedicated to specific topics, and raising awareness through workshops and communication activities.

The University has an EDI Committee and Gender Equality Steering Group supported by a Gender Network; these are all involved in our gender equality work. The EDI team maintain EDI webpages for all staff, toolkits, and guidance, which are all available online (only accessible to Middlesex University staff).

In addition to these mandatory process-related requirements, the following five thematic areas are recommended for content:

  • Work-life balance and organisational culture – this is covered in the Athena Swan Application and Action Plan under 'actions' in sections 3,4,8,10,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,32,33,34
  • Gender balance in leadership and decision-making – This is covered in the Athena Swan Action Plan under actions in sections 1,2,3,5,9,17,18,19,30,31,32
  • Gender equality in recruitment and career progression – This is covered in the Athena Swan Action Plan under actions in sections 5,6,7,9,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20
  • Integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content – This is covered in the Athena Swan Application under actions in sections 3,7,30 and 'Further info' section and the University’s Inclusive Curriculum Project
  • Measures against gender-based violence including sexual harassment – This is covered by 'Changing the Culture initiative' and 'Report It To Stop It’ projects run by Student Affairs, and the Athena Swan application under action 31.1. The University also has an anonymous Report and Support tool for staff.

If you would like further information, please contact the EDI Team at inclusion@mdx.ac.uk

Read our application for the Athena Swan Bronze Award

As part of our commitment to the Athena Swan Action Plan, we are working hard to achieve the objective of addressing the continued masculinised/feminised nature of some academic areas to ensure greater gender balance. In 2022/23, we raised – both internally and externally – the profile of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) at the University, demonstrating that women role models can succeed in STEMM careers, and at Middlesex University.

In celebration of International Women's Day (IWD) and throughout March 2023, we invited colleagues to get involved in a variety of internal events and externally hosted events and activities.

Our Global Women's Breakfast event celebrated women in science and showcased their great research and personal experiences in the field. Watch the video below, which was filmed by a group of Middlesex University Film students, to find out more.

Gender pay reporting

Find out more about MDX's gender pay data on our gender pay policy page.

Information for staff

MDX staff can find further information on the staff intranet (please note, this page is for MDX staff only and requires a login).

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