A little over a year ago, I had never heard of Athena SWAN, and yet now I am nearing the end of my first year working to implement a raft of Athena SWAN initiatives at the School of Geography and the Environment. Not only has this year marked a significant change in my life - it has seen gender equality hitting the headlines around the world.
People sometimes assume that my role as Athena SWAN Officer (more recently, Equality and Diversity Officer) means that I only deal with 'women's issues' and work to promote women's career progression whilst leaving men to their own devices, but this is not the case. My top priority is to help make the School an inclusive, welcoming and happy place in which to work and study - for women and men. Athena SWAN is about gender balance, not singling women out for special treatment. As an example of this, we are working to ensure that all our recruitment panels, all our committees, and all our seminar series speakers include a similar number of men and women, and in the longer term, that our students are taught and supervised as often by women as they are by men.
"My top priority is to help make the School an inclusive, welcoming and happy place in which to work and study - for women and men."
When I see someone with a rather nebulous job title I often wonder 'what do they do all day?' So I can quite understand that you may well ask the same question of me. I should first explain that in actual fact I spend a good part of my week dropping off and picking up children from school, trudging round supermarket aisles, and dealing with the inevitable chaos that results from sharing our home with a 5 and 7 year old! In a way my work-life balance is the embodiment of Athena SWAN principles: I spend 18 hours a week in the office, and the rest of the time at home focussing on family life. I can work flexibly, to accommodate school plays or poorly children; I am given freedom to develop new projects and am judged on the outcomes of those projects, not on how many hours I spend at my desk.
Prior to joining SoGE I was a full-time mum for 7 years. I took a break from my career in research to be at home with my daughters, which was at times very tricky financially and mentally, but I will never regret it. I did a lot of voluntary work during those years, setting up a community café in my neighbourhood and organising events for local families. The skills I developed through this work (and through parenthood!) have come in very handy in my current role.
So, what do I do when I'm in the office?
My work is very varied and I have enjoyed getting involved with a range of activities over the past year, and getting to know people across the School in the process. Last Autumn I set up a new mentoring scheme in the department, with the snazzy acronym GEMS (Geography and the Environment Mentoring Scheme). It has been great to see how this has brought together men and women from different research areas, different countries and different backgrounds, with the shared aim of helping each other to develop both professionally and personally. I am looking forward to catching up with our first set of mentoring pairs later this year.
SoGE's Athena SWAN Officer Claire Hann (left) presented with the Bronze Award by Athena SWAN Patron, Professor Helen Beebee
SoGE's AthenaSWAN Officer Claire Hann presents Head of School, Prof Heather Viles, with the Bronze Award celebration cake
"It has been great to see how [GEMS] has brought together men and women from different research areas, different countries and different backgrounds, with the shared aim of helping each other to develop both professionally and personally."
I am a firm believer in the ability of food to bring people together, and so last summer I organised an Athena SWAN lunch to update staff on our activities, and have also introduced a monthly coffee morning, open to all staff and postgraduate students. My carrot cake seems to be developing something of a reputation… If only there was an Athena SWAN target for the expansion of staff waistlines, we could achieve that with ease!
Alongside this I have arranged new training sessions on implicit bias for staff; a careers event for students; and have enjoyed getting back to my roots in social science research by analysing a wide range of data relating to different Athena SWAN priorities. Most recently I have been looking at the ethnic mix of our students and differences in exam performance by gender, and I am looking forward to analysing the results of our next Staff Survey in the summer. Another of my upcoming projects this year is to set up a parents' and carers' network in the School and neighbouring departments.
One of the most exciting areas of work for me recently has been the celebration of our women alumnae, planned to coincide with the National Year of Women 2018 (marking 100 years since some women first gained the vote in Britain). In January we held a very successful event featuring 12 inspiring women - all former students and now working in a range of high-profile careers. Alongside this we are releasing films about women from SoGE, showcasing how an Oxford Geography degree often leads to great achievements beyond the University. We are also installing a new large-scale display, including a striking 'window of women' - a photo montage featuring 150 of our alumnae.
Now is a fascinating time to be working on gender equality, with the controversy around the continued gender pay gap, and global activism fuelled by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. In the coming year I hope to combine my research experience and Athena SWAN work, through some new projects looking in more detail at gender inequality in the workplace and more widely. I can't wait to get started!