Athena SWAN is 13

Guest posts

Category: Staff

1 July 2018

It’s Athena SWAN's birthday! To celebrate, we're looking back at some of the great things we've accomplished in our pursuit to address gender equality at ARU - and in particular how the Charter has helped encourage an uptake of flexible working practices in our University.

What is Athena SWAN?

The #AthenaSWAN Charter was established by the ECU (Equality Challenge Unit) in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (women in STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

In May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. So the Charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

What have we been doing at ARU?

During our five-year membership, the Charter principles have contributed to a number of positive outcomes for our colleagues. However, the one we're most proud of is our flexible working practice. We recognise the increasing pressure on work-life balance that affects not only female colleagues with children, but potentially all our colleagues.

We have put in place a number of measures in place to help with these pressures.

The Part Time Flexible Working (PTFW) network

The PTFW network was founded by members of our staff via our already established and successful Women’s Network. Its aim is to recognise the importance of working flexibly, understand the issues managers are grappling with in the context of meeting work demands, disseminate good practices already in place and actively publicise our commitment to flexible working.

The need for the PTFW came, in part, out of a review of responses to questions on work-life balance in our biannual staff survey. As a result of our inclusive approach, PTFW members include part-time and flexible staff, but also those who are full-time and/or those who don’t work flexibly.

Some of the achievements of the PTFW network include:

  • greater knowledge among colleagues of how to further their career while working flexibly
  • targeted development sessions for part-time and flexible working staff to progress their careers, and for managers to embrace and support their staff (Managing Flexibly and Flexible Talent)
  • best practice advice guides
  • two guides for managers and flexible/part-time workers. These guides provide best practice advice as well as highlighting typical areas of resistance
  • greater knowledge among colleagues of the benefits of flexible working

Working together, our HR Manager team and PTFW network have been delivering staff development for line managers so they realise the importance of genuinely considering how they can make a request work.

Alongside the work of the PTFW Forum, we've begun significant work to enhance, improve and support our colleagues; work-life balance. This includes:

  • participating in the Go Home on Time Day scheme
  • adopting the 'Happy to talk flexible working’ logo
  • creating our own flexibility statement ('Committed to being inclusive and open to discuss flexible working’)
  • being one of the first higher education institutions to sign up to the Timewise Hire Me My Way campaign.

Working Families Special Awards

We were one of 24 companies nationwide to reach the final of the Top Employers for Working Families Special Awards – shortlisted in the Allen & Overy Best for Innovation category alongside Barclays, EY and Grant Thornton. We were proud to be 'commended' for our commitment to flexibility.

This award recognises companies that have been innovative in their approach to building a flexible, high-performance and family-friendly organisation.

Staff experience – happy to talk flexible working

As a Head of Department I have welcomed the work being undertaken in relation to flexible working and the guidance available at HR Online and through the Part Time and Flexible Working (PTWF) staff forum. It has allowed me to ensure I meet the needs of individual staff in my team and I have felt empowered to develop flexible working arrangements within the department. Full-time childcare can be increasingly hard to secure in particular areas in the UK and the guidelines have allowed me to work with staff to develop individualised flexible working plans. Early indications are that these arrangements have made staff feel trusted, valued, and less worried about their work-life balance.

I have recently been able to offer a highly valued part time member of staff a full time contract working flexibly, which benefits both her and the department. The new arrangements start in September, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works. I'd encourage all managers to read the guidance available in relation to flexible working and look at how this could benefit our staff and the organisation as a whole.

What’s next?

We are proud of our achievements but we remain committed to accomplishing more.

We would like to see a rise in the number of men applying to work more flexibly, and an increase in the number of our academic colleagues working more flexibly across our institution.

We're keen to promote our part-time role models to actively encourage more colleagues to consider how working flexibly could benefit them.

If you'd like more information about Athena SWAN at Anglia Ruskin University, please email our Athena SWAN Coordinator, Jade Craig:



The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.