Woman working in the lab

Athena SWAN

Since 2014, the Faculty of Health and Medicine has held the Athena SWAN Silver Award, recognising our commitment to advancing the careers of women in higher education and research.

Athena Swan in The Faculty of Health and Medicine

The Faculty was awarded a Bronze Athena SWAN award in 2012, and then a Silver award in 2014. This was renewed in the April 2018 round. A summary of the key points contained within that application is provided below:


The Athena SWAN Charter works towards recognising advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all. The charter covers the following:

  • Women, and men where appropriate
  • Academic roles in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM)
  • Academic roles in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL)
  • Professional and support staff
  • Trans staff and students

In relation to their:

  • representation
  • progression of students into academia
  • journey through career milestones
  • working environment for all staff

Action Plan (2018-2022)

Actions, success criteria and predicted outcomes pertaining to students, professional and support staff, academic staff and research staff.

Action Plan (2018-2022)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDI) is responsible for the development and improvement of practical steps to reduce inequity and to further the advancement of equality within the faculty.

Whilst gender and intersectionality with other protected characteristics will often be the focus of the EDI, the Committee will consider issues relating to individual protected characteristics where appropriate.

The Committee will be a vehicle to ensure that the principles of equality are embedded throughout the culture of the faculty. It will monitor the faculty’s Athena Swan Action Plan and will be responsible for ensuring that the faculty maintains its trajectory to meeting the current plan and to developing and implementing initiatives in support of future equality enhancement plans.

EDI Committee Members

Loading People

Case study: Dr Elisabeth Shaw

Support for a researcher on a fixed term contract transferring to an indefinite contract

“I first arrived at Lancaster University in 2013 on a fixed term contract for 2.5 years, funded by a MRC grant, for my second PDRA position since gaining my doctorate. During this time it became obvious that there was money available within the grant and my position was extended for 4 months. In the latter part of my appointment my PI went on maternity leave and I was able to keep the research progressing in the lab and maintain day-to-day contact with her PGR students.

Upon her return my PI successfully secured funds from the recently established Maternity/Adoption Research Support (MARS) fund intending to use it to fund me for a further 3 months, allowing us to complete and publish our research. Around the same time the department Bio-imaging Facility Manager went on maternity leave and BLS organised to employ me for a further 10 months after my FTC came to an end, with 70% of my time covering the maternity leave and 30% using the MARS funds – now spread over more time – meaning I (and my expertise) could be retained for longer.

Throughout this time my manager and department encouraged and supported my career and personal development allowing me time to attend training courses on both specific scientific topics such as confocal microscopy as well as sessions on things like networking and life/work balance. I also had the opportunity to contribute to lecturing and delivery of practical classes with time available for training through the Support Learning Programme to be recognised as an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. This all contributed to feeling supported in my job with a good set of skills to keep me attractive to employers.

Therefore, when a permanent technical position was advertised in BLS (incorporating both research and management activities) I was here and had a wide range of skills and experience to assist me in being successful in securing the position. BLS was extremely supportive and flexible in the transition between the roles so publication of my research could be completed, I could support the returning Bio-imaging Facility Manager on her gradual return and also move into my new technical position without feeling overwhelmed.”

Dr Elisabeth Shaw – BLS Research Technician (Member of AS-SAT)

Case study: Dr Nicola Burns

Support to a new member of staff with flexible working arrangements

"In March 2015 I was offered a lectureship at Lancaster Medical School, teaching social sciences to undergraduate medical students and taking the lead on widening participation activities for LMS. I was delighted to be offered this opportunity after contract research work for many years. Personal circumstances meant that I was unable to relocate to Lancaster from Glasgow, due to shared parenting of my son. I raised the possibility of flexible working when I was offered the post, outlining ways in which I thought the arrangement could work. The department supported my request and I took up my post in August 2015.

Upon starting at LMS, senior management and staff were supportive of my decision to work in Glasgow for two days a week, asserting my right to ask for flexible working to ensure a positive work-life balance. In practice, colleagues and senior management have shown their support through organisation of meetings, teaching and administrative duties to accommodate my schedule where possible. They have also reminded me that I do not always have to be physically present in the department to carry out my duties. The genuine support of colleagues made a huge difference and helped me to settle into the post quickly. Flexibility goes two ways and there are times when I need to be on campus for most of the week. For example I am the widening participation lead for LMS and this requires a range of outreach work with schools and colleges throughout Cumbria and Lancashire. Reflecting over the past three years, a few things have helped make the use of flexible working ‘work’.

First, I was transparent about my need to work flexibly and set out a way for this to be realised. As far as possible, colleagues know when I am working from home in Glasgow or Lancaster. One of the departmental administrators has access to my diary to assist in ensuring people know where I am. Email, phone, VPN and skype have all afforded the opportunity to work effectively from home.

Working from home has allowed me to manage my work-life balance more effectively. Had the department chosen not to support my request, I would have been unable to take up the post. I feel in supporting flexible working, they offered me a chance to develop my career.”

Dr Nicola Burns - Lecturer, Lancaster Medical School