Students Staff


Essex Women's Network

Essex Women's Network

Launched in 2015, the Essex Women’s Network exists to provide a forum for staff and PhD students to share ideas and provide mutual support. The network also provides informal mentoring and networking opportunities, access to a range of role models and a variety of initiatives to improve retention and promotion for women. It's a member-led initiative run by women for women, but all staff are welcome to attend events, participate in activities or submit comments.

Parents' Network

Parents Network

Our dedicated support package for parents and parents to be was established following actions from both Athena SWAN and the Gender Equality Charter Mark. It includes a mentoring scheme, seminars and a network of over 140 members. The support provision aims to:

  • address any difficulties faced by parents beginning or returning to work after a period of maternity/adoption/paternity leave and the potential loss of self-confidence
  • support working parents to flourish as parents and as members of our University

Flexible working, family leave and work life balance

Two women chatting by a lake

In May 2016, in direct response to the work of Athena SWAN, the University’s Work Life Balance policy was revised to actively encourage a work life balance culture and to include a wider range of flexible working options (including career break and homeworking).

The People Supporting Strategy action plan has a target to increase use (greater than) 10% of flexible working offering by the end of the academic year 2016.

Care leave

Statue in a park

As part of our new Special Leave policy (.pdf), introduced in March 2016, we now provide employees who are carers with five days paid leave within any 12-month rolling period, plus additional unpaid care leave if appropriate.

This was developed following our Caring for Carers project which found employees who are carers often have to use their annual leave to fulfil their caring responsibilities which can lead to stress, as there is little or no time available for activities outside of work or caring.

The policy also includes provision for long-term care leave, provided workload can be appropriately covered. Staff granted long-term care leave are entitled to return to work in the same job at the end of the period of agreed leave. Leave can be granted for a maximum period of 13 calendar weeks in any 12 month period.

Closing the gender pay gap at grade 11

Two women talking

Following the Capita Equal Pay Review in 2013, the work of Athena SWAN and the Gender Equality Charter Mark (.pdf) have helped support the reduction in the gender pay gap for female Professors (at Grade 11) from 7% in April 2013 to 3% in October 2014. A decision was taken by the University (January 2016) to pay all female Professors an additional three increments on base salaries from October 2016-17 onwards.

Although no significant pay gaps have been identified at other grades and for other staff groups, we will be conducting another Equal Pay Review during 2016 across all pay grades and staff groups to ensure this remains the case.

Increasing the number of women in Grade 9 and 10 senior support roles

Group of women talking

In June 2013 the Strategic Leaders Programme was developed to increase the number of women in Grade 9 and 10 senior support positions. As of March 2014 we offer staff the Future Leaders Programme to develop their leadership skills and networks, widen their sphere of influence and find out how decisions are made across the University.

Fixed-term contracts

Fixed-term contracts are regularly monitored by Faculty Executive Deans and HR Managers. A process to reduce fixed-term contracts is in place at faculty level.

Dedicated recruitment advertising to attract women into the sciences

Women with robot

From 2014-15, the University has been encouraging applications from females in under-represented STEMM areas by using positive action statements on academic recruitment advertising in areas where females are under-represented. We now include the Athena SWAN logo on all recruitment advertising and Human Resources ensure all academic recruitment panels have at least two female members. It's now the responsibility of chairs of panels to ensure that everyone on the committee has received recruitment and selection training and only those who have done this training can take part in recruitment activities.

Monitoring the number of women in the senior management team

Two woman at computer screen

The revised Equality and Diversity Framework and Sub Strategy 2015-18 Action Plan regularly monitors the equality profile of all committees of Senate and Council. Since July 2014 all Chairs of committees and external representatives (on Council) now receive Equality and Diversity online training before their first meeting. 2015-16 Council membership data shows that the gender balance is still relatively even with 48% female representation. USG now has observer roles to allow all staff to have the opportunity to see what happens at this high level committee meeting.

Central online resource for women

Woman with laptop

Following an action from the University Athena SWAN Bronze Award, a selection of resources were created offering support networks, training and funding opportunities specifically for women.

A greater representation of women in decision-making positions facilitates progress towards more gender balanced organisations. For this reason, we're looking to target those who are directly responsible for making decisions that affect the composition of more senior decision-making teams.

Appraisal and personal development

Two women talking

From 2014-15 it became mandatory for all Heads of Departments/Schools/Centres/Sections to discuss career development at the annual appraisal process and to actively encourage all female academic members of staff, who meet the necessary promotion criteria, to apply for promotion.

All fixed-term staff who are employed for 12 months or more will be offered the opportunity to have an annual appraisal. In 2016 Essex employed the services of an external consultant to review our appraisal process and to make recommendations for change. Further information will be released in due course.

Unconscious bias training

Group of staff

Unconscious bias training was introduced in 2015-16. Five interactive, two hour workshops with sixty participants took place. Further sessions are planned for 2016-17 and you can register through HR Organiser. From August 2016 all staff have the opportunity to complete a 60-75 minute online unconscious bias training in Moodle.

From 2016-17, the following training will be in place:

  • training will be embedded in other relevant training courses (ie recruitment and selection, induction and leadership and management development
  • mandatory training for Academic Staffing Committee members who make decisions concerning Academic promotion and probation
  • tailored training to our senior leadership team (a subset of whom are also members of the Professorial Salary Review Group)
  • tailored training to our Council members (a subset of whom are members of Remuneration Committee who approvesalary reviews for Professorial staff)

Improved awareness of equality and diversity issues

Group of staff in training session

To improve a general lack of awareness of equality and diversity issues (including gender) across the University, all new staff are now required to successfully complete the University’s online Equality and Diversity Essentials programme within the first six months of their employment. Furthermore, each Department/School/Centre/Section now has a training co-ordinator who monitors participation in training for their area.

These initiatives, borne out of the University’s Athena SWAN Bronze action plan, clearly demonstrate the positive effect that Athena SWAN is having on the advancement and support of women’s careers.

Improvement of the Academic Annual Review procedure

The Academic Annual Review procedure was revised in autumn term 2014-15 and is well communicated via termly workshops delivered at both Colchester and Southend campuses. Furthermore, a suite of training for senior staff and Head of Departments, who are involved in the promotion decision making process, is being made available to help ensure consistency.

Ensuring senior staff are leading and supporting on gender equality

Group of women talking

Individual members of USG act as 'champions' in relation to each of the nine protected characteristics. The champion for gender is Professor Aletta Norval. Diversity Champions aim to act as role models, taking actions when appropriate addressing behaviours when necessary and checking that diversity in its broadest sense is recognised, understood and considered during evaluation and decision making processes. Aletta has been instrumental in leading the Women's Network and supporting the University’s Athena SWAN progress.

International Women's Day

Group of students

Every year in March, we celebrate International Women’s Day with a programme of events. The 2016 event included exhibitions in the Silberrad Student Centre and The Hexagon, an International Women’s day reception in The Hexagon, a showing of Rosa Luxemburg, Margarethe von Trotta’s 1986 masterpiece and a performance of The Vagina Monologues in the evening at East 15.

An award ceremony was also held to recognise motivational, empowering, inspirational women at our University. The event was opened by Diversity Champion for gender, Professor Aletta Norval.

Women in STEMM conference

In 2016 the Faculty of Science and Health organised a half day Women in STEMM conference which aimed to raise female student aspirations and to supporting graduate progression towards diverse STEMM careers. The event brought together students, industry representatives and University staff. A further event is planned for 2017.


  • October 2016

    Athena SWAN newsletter

    Adobe PDF File

    A termly newsletter sharing news, helpful guidance and updates on our Athena SWAN work.