University of Reading: University Of Reading Leader Paving The Way For Greater Equality In Universities

The drive for gender equality in higher education has taken a step forward, thanks to the help of University of Reading Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Parveen Yaqoob.

Professor Yaqoob (pictured), the University’s first female Deputy Vice-Chancellor, chairs the Athena Swan Governance Committee (ASGC), which oversaw the transformation of the UK Athena Swan Charter and will be monitoring its impact.

The Athena Swan Charter is a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. In the UK, Advance HE members can apply for institutional and departmental Athena Swan awards recognising their commitments to gender equality.

In March 2020, an independent review of the UK Charter recommended a reduction in the administrative burden involved in applications, a shift to more autonomy and flexibility around priorities for institutions and a move to a more supportive approach. The ASGC was formed to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the review and to evaluate the impact of the new Charter.

Speaking of her role as Chair of the ASGC, Professor Yaqoob said: “I am proud to be part of the change that is driving greater gender equality across the higher education sector.

“To date, Athena Swan Awards have been a great tool for addressing challenges for women working in HE, by encouraging institutions to create more flexible, supportive environments for career progression. I speak of this from my own personal experience – Athena Swan played a significant role in my appointment as the first female deputy vice chancellor and the first non-white member of the University Executive Board at Reading.

“However, with heavy administrative burdens around applications and a more flexible, supportive approach required, there is no doubt that an evolution of the Charter was due.

“Working closely with my colleagues on the ASGC, we carefully considered every element of the Charter – ensuring it aligned with the revised principles, devising a transparent scoring system for the different award thresholds and consulting with the sector throughout the process.

“As we launch the new framework, we are already making plans for monitoring and evaluation. The long-term goal for success for Athena Swan is evidence that the sector views the Charter mark as an improvement tool rather than an end product, is open to sharing good practice, and is genuinely committed to dismantling inequality.”

A blog by Professor Yaqoob on the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter can be read on WonkHE.

Athena Swan Awards at Reading

In May this year, the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences (SPCLS) was awarded an Athena Swan Silver, and the School of Politics, Economics, and International Relations (SPEIR) an Athena Swan Bronze award.

SPCLS and SPEIR are among eight Schools at the University that hold an Athena Swan award.

In March 2020, the University of Reading was awarded an institutional Athena Swan Silver award. The University’s application highlighted progress made in many areas over recent years – including increased job-sharing at all levels, a reduction in Grade-9 gender pay gap, increased number of female professors, stronger female representation in the University Executive Board and the first female Deputy Vice-Chancellor.