skip to primary navigationskip to content

Athena SWAN

The Department of Earth Sciences has received the Athena SWAN Bronze Award.

Athena SWAN is a national scheme to promote women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM).  Its Bronze, Silver and Gold awards celebrate good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in those subject areas within Higher Education.

The scheme is managed by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), and is funded by ECU, the Research Councils UK (RCUK), the Royal Society, the Biochemical Society and the Department of Health. The Charter evolved from work between the Athena Project and the Scientific Women's Academic Network (SWAN) and was launched in June 2005 at the Institute of Physics. The membership has steadily grown since then, and so has the number of award holders Nationally, Athena SWAN activity has significantly increased following the link between Athena SWAN awards and research funding. In 2011, the Chief Medical Officer announced that the National Institute for Health Research would only expect to shortlist medical schools for biomedical research centre and unit funding if the school holds a Silver Athena SWAN award. In January 2013, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) unveiled its new Statement of Expectations for Equality and Diversity, expecting those in receipt of Research Council funding to provide evidence of commitment to equality and diversity with participation in Athena SWAN specifically mentioned as one piece of such evidence. It may be expected that other funders (such as the Royal Society and charities) will follow suit.

The Charter has 10 principles at its core, the benefits of which include retention of highly valued female staff, access to a network of contacts, and external recognition of positive action already taken.

The University of Cambridge was a founder member of Athena SWAN Charter and the University won its first award in the inaugural round of March 2006.

Since then, the University has successfully renewed its Bronze Athena SWAN award in 2009 and 2012.  In 2014, the University successfully applied for a Silver Athena SWAN award.

Read more

The Department of Earth Sciences

Athena SWAN committee:

Name: Email: Telephone:
David Hodell (Chair) 30270
Sasha Turchyn 33479
Laura Bonesi 68336
Lucy Matthews 33470
Lotty Gladstone 65705
Camilla Penney 37059
Andrea Erhardt 64919
Michael Carpenter 33483
James Jackson 33481
Simon Redfern 33475
Andy Buckley 33421

Please contact anyone from the above list if you have any information, suggestions or complaints on equality related issues.


In April 2016, the Department received the Athena SWAN Bronze Award.

In December 2015, the Department of Earth Sciences submitted an application for a Bronze Award:
Main Submission

Part of the submission includes an Action Plan covering the next three years outlining steps, procedures and events to support our Bronze Award:

Action Plan

The Action Plan can also be viewed in Mind Map format:

Mind Map

Part of the submission included a Staff Survey, undertaken in January 2014
Here is the Survey Summary:

Staff Survey Results Summary

The Department of Earth Sciences conducted a survey for all staff and post-graduate students between 13th and 31st January 2014.

The response rate was 78% (194 responses out of 250 people), which is significantly better than that of other higher education institutions and we thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey.

The survey consisted of 74 questions which, in most cases, asked for responses to a range of questions by selecting one of five options:

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree

Below is a summary of the headline results, focused on the five questions that drew the most positive responses, the most neutral responses and those with the highest proportion of negative responses.

The five questions that received the highest percentage of positive responses (strongly agree and agree) were:

My immediate line manager / supervisor treats me with respect (85.0%) Q29

I am treated with fairness and respect in the Department of Earth Sciences (84.7%) Q51

I know where to find information about training and development opportunities (83.0%) Q12

There is effective cooperation between people within my immediate work area / research team (81.7%) Q24

I am satisfied with my working environment (80.9%) Q1

The five questions that received the highest percentage of neutral responses (neither agree nor disagree) were:

I am happy with the University's childcare provision (64.8%) Q43

The career development / promotion processes at the University are fair (46.4%) Q15

My probation was well managed (45.1%) Q6

I am satisfied with the support from the Department in managing stress (e.g. information about the Staff Counseling service, staff training and Occupational Health) (42.6%) Q34

I am happy with the redeployment support I received from the University (42.3%) Q19

The five questions that received the highest percentage of negative responses (disagree and strongly disagree) were:

I think there are sufficient opportunities for my career progression at the University (30.2%) Q14

There is effective cooperation between the Bullard site and the Downing site sections of the Department (29.6%) Q26

I expect to be working at the University of Cambridge in five years’ time (29.3%) Q17

I receive regular and constructive informal feedback on my performance (26.8%) Q10

Considering my duties and responsibilities, I feel my pay is fair (22.0%) Q48

Effect of explanatory factors

Gender, age group, staff group and site were interrelated. The Bullard Laboratories Site had fewer assistants (almost all assistants work at the Downing site) and staff were more likely to be younger. Furthermore, academics were more likely to be male.

Staff group and site were found to be the main factors associated with participants’ ordinal responses.  Assistants and academic-related staff were less likely to give positive responses compared with the academic staff, postdoc/JRF and postgraduate students.  In the majority of questions, staff in the Bullard Laboratories Site (including BPI) were more likely to give a more positive response compared with staff in the Downing Site.  Gender was found to be a significant factor in 4 questions (Q24, Q44, Q55 and Q57), see below. There was no evidence that the odds of a positive response were influenced by age group after adjusting for gender, staff group and site.

Gender balance

The survey showed that academics were much more likely to be male than female.  Gender was a significant factor in 4 questions:

There is effective cooperation between people within work area/research team Q24, with females giving a significantly more negative response.

It is important that meetings / seminars in the Department of Earth Sciences take place in core hours (e.g. 0930 to 1630) to enable those with caring responsibilities to attend Q44, with females giving a significantly more positive response.

I would feel able to report bullying or harassment without worrying that it would have a negative impact on me Q55, with female staff more likely to give a more negative response than male staff.

I feel able to speak up and give my views on the way things are done Q57, with female staff more likely to give a negative response.

 Supervision © B.Pennington

RSS Feed Latest news

International team head to Papua New Guinea to measure volcanic carbon degassing

Sep 01, 2016

An international team of scientists is traveling to the islands of Papua New Guinea this September to study degassing from active volcanoes in remote jungles there. Some of these volcanoes are among the most active on Earth, ejecting a significant proportion of global volcanic gases into the atmosphere.

Mistaken Point - Canada's 10th geological World Heritage Site

Aug 02, 2016

The ancient rugged coastline of Mistaken Point on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula face the winds and waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It can be a difficult place to work, but nevertheless it has been a mecca for geologists for over several decades now.

An underestimated Kevan

Jul 21, 2016

Douglas Palmer on the Sedgwick Museum’s giant Pliosaurus cf. kevani in the latest edition of Geoscientist

Oesia – a new tube worm from deep Cambrian times

Jul 21, 2016

Collections up close, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

View all news

Stories from the field...