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Imperial College London, Business School: Transformed Athena Swan Charter Application Feedback

Transformed Athena Swan Charter Application Feedback
Target Group
Academic staff
Early career staff
Postgraduate students
Professional and support staff
Undergraduate students
Initiative institution
Imperial College
Application type
Athena Swan Initiative
Publication date

Institution and Department: Imperial College London, Business School

Level of award applied for: Bronze

Result: Award Conferred

Overall comments

This is a strong Bronze application which addresses three (of the four) criteria very well.

The application demonstrates evidence of leadership and senior buy-in. The panel commend the strong letter of endorsement from the Dean of the School which highlights a commitment to resource the delivery of the action plan and provides an open and honest reflection of the progress and challenges over the last 5 years. Diversity is embedded into the School’s governance and management structures in a number of ways and gender equity has been a key pillar of the School’s Strategy since 2014.

The self-assessment has been undertaken by a representative team and informed by staff/students. The self-assessment team (SAT) is representative of the School in terms of job families and grades and it includes a student representative. Workload associated with SAT membership is recognised as part of a faculty member’s service contribution; an explanation of the faculty’s member’s service contribution (e.g., allocated time) would have been helpful. The panel is pleased to note the School’s plans to widen membership of the SAT to cover gaps in academic departments and professional staff teams.

The creation of key performance indicators (KPIs) for all data-related actions, to support the monitoring and evaluation of progress, is commended. The panel also commend the wide range of consultation that has taken place and the approach taken to share information and progress with the School’s community.

The mandatory data are clearly laid out and, in many cases, the School has provided more than ten consecutive years of data (which goes well beyond the requirements for the award).  The data have been incisively analysed to evaluate progress against the previous action plan and to inform future actions. The panel consider that it would have been useful for the data to be cross-referenced more consistently through the application.

The submission provides an excellent evaluation of progress against key priorities (e.g., student and faculty recruitment) with consideration of ongoing challenges and future initiatives.

Section 2.1 provides a good overview of some of the key activities undertaken to deliver the School’s priorities, alongside consideration of what worked well, what worked less well, and what still needs to be done.

As a result of the thorough data analysis and evaluation of progress against the previous action plan the School has identified and justified its key priorities. While the priorities are clearly linked to the assessment of the current action plan and analysis of data, it would have been helpful to reference data in a more consistent way throughout section 2.2.

The action plan is ambitious, aligned to the School’s priority areas and is, for the most part, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).

The panel encourage the School to strengthen the action plan in the following ways:

  • Timeframes - many actions have a timescale of ‘on-going’ which does not support the School in prioritising and planning its key activities. The panel recommend the addition of specific start and end dates in the timescale column which will support the School to monitor the action plan and keep track of progress. Furthermore, the panel note that the action plan is front-loaded (with a large number of actions scheduled for 2021-22); the School is encouraged to reflect on the timeframes and schedule actions over the lifecycle of the award. This will support the implementation of the action plan and the development of a sustainable and embedded approach to gender equality activity.
  • Success measures - while success measures are, for the most part, clear and quantifiable, they are not universally so (for example Action 1.6) and in a number of cases the success measure is to ‘increase’ or ‘improve’ a KPI.

The RAG-rated action plan demonstrates significant progress; 92% of actions have been completed or are in progress. Only three actions have been categorised as ‘not actioned’ and a clear rationale is provided for these. The School reflects that its previous action plan included a number of vague success measures, which provides the rationale for several actions remaining as amber.

Where appropriate, actions have been revised to improve outcomes and there is good use of data to evidence progress (e.g. the gender disparity with respect to the length of time for academic promotion).

The evaluation of progress (section 2.1) provides a good overview of actions and impact with regard to key priority areas.  It is useful to see other initiatives (for example, the creation of a Student EDI Strategy) that have been added as a result of feedback and review.

Scores against criteria

A - Structures and processes underpin and recognise gender equality work

Score: 4 – Good. The application addresses the criterion very well

B - Evidence-based recognition of the key issues facing the applicant

Score: 4 – Good. The application addresses the criterion very well

C - Action plan to address identified key issues

Score: 3 – Satisfactory. The criterion is adequately addressed.

D - Demonstration of progress against the applicant's previously identified priorities

Score: : 4 – Good. The application addresses the criterion very well

Key Next Steps

In order to support the effective implementation of the action plan, the panel encourage the School to review timelines and success measures (in line with the comments above).

Good Practice Example

The panel consider the following to be good practice:

  • the practice of male faculty turning down or challenging requests to be speakers on panels or at conferences if there are no females represented
  • the Elsie Widdowson Fellowship Award, which relieves those returning from parental leave of teaching and service activities for 12 months upon their return to work, and has contributed to an increase in the number of male faculty taking parental leave.

See the application on the department’s website here.