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Good Practice in Chemistry Departments Sarah Dickinson Royal Society of Chemistry and Caroline Fox Athena Forum.

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Presentation on theme: "Good Practice in Chemistry Departments Sarah Dickinson Royal Society of Chemistry and Caroline Fox Athena Forum."— Presentation transcript:

1 Good Practice in Chemistry Departments Sarah Dickinson Royal Society of Chemistry and Caroline Fox Athena Forum

2 Outline Numbers: women in science Career intensions of PhD students Work with Athena Good Practice

3 Both men and women benefit from good practice, however, women in particular are adversely affected by bad practice

4 Overall Students Numbers: HE is increasingly a female environment

5 Chemistry Student Numbers: getting there….

6 Chemistry Student Numbers: but its not all good news…

7 Percentage of female staff by grade in all subjects

8 Percentage of female staff by grade

9 Some comparisons….

10 Postgraduate surveys: 1999 and 2006 Women postgraduates were more likely to seek careers advice from careers services, and earlier than men. Equal proportions of men and women said that they had received careers advice at the end of three years but men were more likely to have spoken to supervisor as their sole advisor 79% of women and 86 % of men intended to use their science in their careers

11 Do you plan to be a research chemist?

12 Possible reasons for giving up Positive decision to do something else Negative experience of research in academic chemistry Pessimism about future job prospects in chemistry (salaries, job security, lack of promotion)

13 The results do have policy implications The findings of the research have serious implications especially as the proportion of women graduating in chemistry approaches 50 percent Any increases in the number of chemistry graduates may be counteracted by the leaky pipeline The need for action to encourage women to stay in chemistry is becoming even more important than it was!

14 Just a bit of fun…

15 The Athena Moment… Chemistry - 2038 Biosciences – 2015 Physics - 2102 Mathematics - 2237 However, parity in chemistry full professorships is not likely for eighty years the moment when the proportions of female and male staff are equal

16 Athena Project 1999-2007 ATHENA AIMS To advance and promote the careers of women in science, engineering and technology in higher education (HE) and research and to achieve a significant increase in the number of women recruited to top posts ATHENA FOCUS Working in partnership to encourage, support, develop, identify and disseminate good practice, which is simple cheap effective And changes how we do things round here

17 Athena successes Development grants – projects in 12 universities LAWNs – Local Academic Womens Networks in 15 universities 7 Royal Society Athena awards for good practice 27 Reports on good practice Athena Survey of science, engineering and technology (ASSET) of13,000 + scientists & engineers Athena SWAN Charter and recognition awards Some 80 universities have worked with Athena

18 Factors affecting career choices of graduate chemists Published in 1999, this study found that: Both men and women had concerns about long hours, low pay and career structure Women alone were concerned about: Poor working conditions Emphasis on results rather than process Isolation and segregation Working environment in academic chemistry deters large numbers of women from remaining Structure of departments and the nature of the subject creates barriers to their promotion

19 Recruitment and Retention of Women in Academic Chemistry 2001 A few chemistry departments were observed to have a significantly greater proportion of women staff than most Was this purely by chance or was there more going on? Study sought to find out through interviews with a number of female staff in a number of different departments

20 Conclusions The introduction of good management practice has a identifiable impact on the willingness of women to apply to and remain within departments The personalityand personal circumstancesof the head of department are significant in determining good management practice Institutions have a role in ensuring that selection procedures for department heads prevent departments selecting leaders in their own image The best departments do not target measures specifically at women

21 Strategic Messages I 1.The problem of increasing the number of women in chemistry and in senior positions is not intractable. 2.But good practice is patchy and needs to be spread to become the prevailing ethos: in UK chemistry departments in science departments in general. 3.Good practice is embedded in department cultures, histories and personalities: it will take time to become universal.

22 Strategic Messages II 4.The RSC, universities and departments need to: plan to sustain long-term culture change take short-term initiatives to improve the immediate position. 5.Both sets of measures should take account of needs: over the working week over the career trajectory. 6.Action to promote change: should largely be gender-neutral create a better professional and employment environment for men and women.


24 Good Practice Report 2004 To provide a tool to allow departments to assess themselves for good practice And to provide examples of good practice

25 Methodology Checklist sent to all chemistry departments and returned by 25 (about half). Followed up responses with telephone interviews Selected five departments with considerable good practice for visits Spoke to individuals to learn about their experiences

26 Good Practice Report 2 nd Edition 2008 Updated checklist sent to all chemistry departments and so far returned by 36 Followed up responses with telephone interviews Carried out departmental visits

27 University of Utopia

28 Welcoming Supportive Encouraging Accessibility Transparency Accountability

29 University of Utopia Open doors…. Open minds Good practice…. Good science Sustainable careers…. Sustainable departments

30 Athena Partnership Toolkit Good Practice checklist now based on five Key Performance Indicators, available as a checklist for university academic departments IOP, RSC are piloting a generic departmental good practice visit and benchmarking report, which can be undertaken by other science professional societies

31 KPIs of Good Practice = Juno Principles A robust organisational framework for action to deliver equality of opportunity and reward Appointment and promotion processes that encourage men and women to apply for academic posts at all levels Career progression arrangements that are actively managed and supported Departmental organisation, culture structures and systems that are inclusive Flexibility across the working day, working year and working life to maximise individuals contributions to SET at all life and career stages

32 Thank you Sarah Dickinson ( Caroline Fox (

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