Athena SWAN
Athena SWAN

Gender Equality Survey

Survey of Gender Equality in the Schools of Clinical Sciences and Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences.

Athena SWAN 2019 Gender Equality Survey


Athena swan survey

Do you think that gender equality is fair and right?

Have you filled in the Athena SWAN 2019 survey?

Getting the views of all academic and professional services staff will enable us to find out what is good (or bad) and guide us to make the changes needed to achieve gender equality and make our workplace better for everyone.

Let’s keep our Athena SWAN Silver award so we can start aiming for Gold!




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Past Survey 2013


To better understand how individuals experience their working environment, to highlight existing good gender equality practice in the Schools and identify areas where improvements are needed to ensure equality of opportunity for women and men we carry out Gender Equality Surveys in our Schools. Below you can find some of the data from our first survery. [Note that since August 2015 our Schools have become Deaneries within the greater Edinburgh Medical School. This makes very little difference accept for their names]   In May 2014 we received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award and we applied for a Silver Award in November 2015. As part of this application, we conducted a second Gender Equality Survey in January 2015. For a summary of the results from this second survey, see our 4th Newsletter from December 2015.   The first Gender Equality Survey was conducted between December 2012 and February 2013 of all staff and postgraduate research students. The survey generated 722 responses across all Centres, 459 responses from females, 233 responses from males and 22 responses from individuals who preferred not to reveal their gender. Participants included 63 Professors, 16 Readers, 32 Senior Lecturers, 23 Lecturers, 41 Independent/Senior Research Fellows, 106 Postdoctoral Research Fellows, 31 Research Assistants, 165 Postgraduate research students and 175 members of support staff and 57 ‘others’, including those who elected not to disclose their current role.   The survey was divided into sections addressing  ‘Equal Participation’, ‘Culture’, ‘Information and Awareness’, ‘Management’, ‘Social responsibility and gender equality’, ‘Career development’, ‘Promotion’, and ‘Support and encouragement’.

For the purposes of deeper analysis ‘agree’ and ‘strongly agree’ responses were combined, as were ‘disagree’ and ‘strongly disagree’ responses, and any ‘not applicable’ responses were discounted.



Equal participation

Over 80% of both males and females agreed that staff and PGR are treated equally on merit regardless of gender, and that meetings and seminars are generally held within core hours. A number of free text comments highlighted instances of seminars/meetings occurring outside of core hours and the disadvantage this caused people with caring responsibilities. ACTION: Feedback to institutes/Centres, request and collate specific examples, discuss possible solutions (provision of slides on intranet, alternating times for seminars)

However, significantly fewer females than males agreed that staff and postgraduate research students who work part-time are offered the same opportunities as those who do not (p<0.01).  Even when the gendered differences in ‘don’t know’ responses are taken into account this difference

A few free text comments expressed the view that promotion prospects are limited for part-time workers and fewer job opportunities. Lots of free text comments throughout the survey suggested that part-time staff are expected to work/produce the same amount as full-time. ACTION: PI training will address the issues surrounding flexible working to raise awareness. We will highlight on the webpage the way REF took into account part-time working and other E&D issues.


Staff perceptions of the workplace culture were extremely positive with over 80% of males and females agreeing that unsupportive language and behaviour are considered unacceptable and over 90% of males and females in agreement that social activities are welcoming to both men and women. However, although 77% of females and 82% of males agreed that inappropriate images that stereotype men or women are unacceptable in their workplace, a number of free text comments identified the existence of such images. ACTION: The relevant Heads of Centre have been made aware of this.

Information and awareness

The responses to questions in this section highlighted a need to improve staff awareness and provide clear information on policies and legislation relevant to gender equality such as flexible working, parental leave, ‘keeping in touch’ days etc. Less than 20% of males and females have visited the University’s Equality and Diversity website. Of those that have, almost all found the information they were looking for. ACTION: Information to be provided on Schools’ Athena SWAN webpages and in the newsletter. These topics will also be covered at a series of lunchtime fora for all staff and at PI training courses.

More than 90% of females and over 80% of males reported that they have not undertaken any training in gender equality or in understanding unconscious bias during their time at the University.  A free text comment praised the University’s online E&D course and suggested that wider uptake should be encouraged and a further respondent said that they would have taken up the training had they been aware of its existence.  ACTION: Promotion of Online E & D training and unconscious bias training for all, including students, as recommended by recent UK Government report. These issues will also be covered at PI training workshops.


Staff perceptions of their line management were extremely positive. Only 7% of both males and females did not consider their line manager to be supportive of requests for flexible working. A number of free text comments highlighted how flexible working and more formal arrangements such as compressed hours had benefitted them.

While over 80% of males and females were confident that their line manager would deal effectively with any complaints about bullying or offensive behaviour, there was a significant gender difference with males more likely to agree than females (p=0.04).

Despite a positive view of management, two respondents explicitly expressed the view that training in gender equality and understanding unconscious bias should be mandatory for managers, and many more hinted at the need for it.  ACTION: PI training course.

Social responsibility and gender equality

Over 80% of females and over 90% of males believe that senior women as well as senior men are visible role models in their workplace. These figures were fairly consistent between centres with only CIR lagging behind.

However, there were significant gender differences in responses for some questions in this section as follows: 71% of females but 82% of males agree that senior managers understand the need to engage with gender equality, and 70% of females but only 54% of males believe that positive action is required to promote gender equality.

There was uncertainty on how the Schools take positive action with 50% of males and females stating that they didn’t know if females were encouraged to apply for posts where they are underrepresented.  ACTION: Text in job adverts will be amended to make this clear

There were a number of free text comments about lack of gender balance in selection and appointment of Chancellors Fellows in particular Institutes (notably IGMM).

Another respondent said that they experience more gender discrimination at the hands of students than colleagues and that this should be an area to address. ACTION: Unconscious bias training should be considered for all, including students, as above.

Career development

Both male and female responses to all questions in this section were extremely positive with no gendered differences in perception. Over 75% of males and females agreed that they are encouraged to take up career development opportunities and over 80% are aware of the range of training opportunities available within the University. A number of free text comments complain of fewer training/career development opportunities for support staff. ACTION: Implementation of universal PandDR should start to address some of these points.

Although over 80% of male and female respondents believe their workload to be fair compared to their peers, free text comments highlighted the difficulty in finding time to take up training opportunities.

There were lots of free text comments about workload, workload, workload  – and little reduction in it (if any) for part-time workers. One respondent has to come in and teach on non-workdays! ACTION: introduction of workload models for non-clinical staff will increase transparency and line manager awareness of workload. PI training and PandDR should also help.

One comment stated that “Clinical academic appraisal process is now so focussed on revalidation and the NHS paperwork required for that, that review of academic performance /career advice risks becoming lost”. ACTION: College actively lobbied the NHS for the reintroduction of the academic appendix into the clinical appraisal, and were successful.


There were significant gender differences in responses to the first two questions in this section.

80% of males but only 64% of females perceive that men and women are equally encouraged to apply for promotion (p=0.000002), and 67% of males but only 49% of females believe they clearly understand the promotions process and the criteria (p=0.0001). ACTION: A series of lunchtime fora on the promotions process will be held

Only 50% of females and 59% of males believe that a full range of skills and experience is taken into account when considering promotion. A free text comment summed this up by saying “the current system is still highly biased towards measurable outputs like publications and funding, and hasn’t found a way to incorporate things like career breaks for family into its calculations”. Many other free comments made similar points, particularly that teaching is undervalued. ACTION: introduction of workload models should make teaching contributions more visible to line managers.

One respondent believes that women with flexible working arrangements are not encouraged to apply for promotion and another said that those who work flexibly would have difficulties in meeting the criteria for academic promotion. (Note: it is unclear whether these comments really relate to flexible working or whether they might be addressing part-time working).

A number of respondents felt that promotion should be explicitly discussed in appraisals. ACTION: the P&DR form has been amended to prompt a discussion of promotion.

Support and encouragement

Responses in this section highlighted areas of good practice such as networking opportunities and support and encouragement to become involved in internal and external activities such as committees and conferences. However improvements are needed in opportunities to be mentored, and the helpfulness of annual review. Between 22-28% of males and females disagreed that their School provides them with useful opportunities to be mentored. ACTION: the mentoring program had only just been launched (piloted in our Schools) at the time of the survey; there has been another round since and almost all people seeking a mentor have been matched. Only 57% of females and 74% of males (significant gender difference p=0.00005) agreed that the School provides them with a helpful annual review. In addition 30% of females and 21% of males feel that they are sometimes overlooked when it comes to being considered for profile-raising activities. ACTION: we will adjust the question in the next survey to try and establish whether people are not having annual reviews (PandDR), or if they are having reviews but are not finding them helpful. We are aware that some reviews are far too short, and will continue to back up the recommendation from HR that each meeting should be scheduled for at least one hour.

In response to the free text question “What factors do you think hinder you in your job/career?” the overwhelming responses were short term contracts/ lack of permanence and a heavy workload.

Other relevant comments:

  • Issues around grant funding and maternity leave e.g lack of maternity pay, reluctance of PIs to employ those likely to start a family while on grant funding, time lost from funding means less time to produce work and publish etc. ACTION: publicise support available from School
  • “Lack of time/resources for work when balancing demands of a young family. Support from the school during this window to minimize impact on productivity” ACTION: we are actively contributing to the UoE’s efforts on this, which are likely to be central to their bid for an institutional Silver award

In response to the free text question “What more could your workplace do to support you in your job/career?” the overwhelming response was the need for mentoring as a source of advice ranging from combining an academic career with having a family to providing support when grants/papers are rejected. ACTION: further calls for mentoring scheme, lunchtime fora combining specific advice on promotion and so on with networking opportunities

Other comments:

  • Increased opportunities for postdoctoral researchers to raise their profile and better support to become independent researchers.ACTION: PI training, mentoring, networking events
  • Support for those returning to work after maternity leave and providing cover for those on maternity leave (including postdoctoral staff).ACTION: support from School
  • Compulsory annual appraisal to include discussion of promotion prospects.ACTION: this has now been included in the wording on the form
  • On-site childcare.
  • Better training and promotion opportunities for technical and professional support staff. ACTION: this should be covered at PandDR which are now compulsory, PI training
  • Encouragement and assistance with identifying funding opportunities and developing bids.
  • “More investment in staff training and development including funds to attend conferences”
  • “Don’t give all of the pastoral roles and jobs with heavy admin loads to women”  ACTION: Workload models should be reviewed on a regular basis
  •  “I feel that although everyone wishes that advancement came purely based on merit, the reality is that women “of merit” may require extra support and encouragement at a critical stage in their early careers which overlap with certain biological events. The University is still very poor recognizing this challenging, but temporary, window where outputs may be affected.”