School Commitment to Gender Equality
The School of Law is deeply committed to the principle of gender equality. In the provision of teaching, the management of research and other activities, and the recruitment, appraisal and promotion of staff, it aims to ensure equality of treatment of all staff members and students regardless of gender.
In 2014, the School was one of the first ever law departments to be awarded a Gender Equality/Athena SWAN Bronze award. Athena SWAN is a UK-wide scheme which exists to promote and recognise efforts to advance gender equality in the field of higher education and research. When originally established in 2005, the scheme focused on advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM). It has since expanded beyond STEMM, to encompass the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and beyond its focus on the careers of women to address gender equality more broadly understood. In winning a Bronze award, the School of Law received official recognition of its commitment to, and progress on, equality and diversity. Of course, much work remains to be done to advance the principle of equality of treatment, and it is in the spirit of seeking further and sustained progress that we are currently planning an application for a new Athena SWAN award in November 2017.
More information about Athena SWAN can be found here.
The University of Glasgow is divided into four Colleges. The School of Law is one of five Schools in the College of Social Sciences. The University is committed to the promotion of gender equality, and has held an institutional Athena SWAN Bronze award since April 2013. Its commitment to gender equality flows through its recruitment procedures, staff support and career development policies, and into promotion procedures. From the School’s perspective, it is important that key performance indicators (KPIs), targets, and institutional strategy are often informed by legislative requirements and determined at levels above that of the School, though consultative processes ensure that each School can feed into discussions and decisions as to the development and setting of these. Our obligations as a School include compliance with, and attainment of, the strategies, policies and KPIs set by the University or by the College of Social Sciences. However, the School of Law then has flexibility as to how it complies with certain strategies (should the strategy be, for example, to increase research income the School would have considerable scope to adopt its own approach to this). It is also free to introduce its own policies, which go beyond those determined for it, and which can be more ambitious than those set by College or University.
For the School of Law, then, the issues are in essence two-fold: one is how best to achieve compliance with externally imposed standards (whether these are legislative, University, College or Research Council driven); the other is to reflect upon whether and how we might attempt to improve upon those standards. It is important, in our view, not only that staff and students are treated equally, but also that they believe that their contributions are equally valued, and that reward is available without partiality, and with reference only to performance.
The School of Law has a long history. In recent decades, it has benefitted from strong female leadership in the form of Heads of School, Deans of Faculty and, latterly, Vice Principals and Heads of College. Recognition of the importance of gender equality has been an important element of the management style of these, and other, individuals. Under their leadership, a culture of equal treatment has been fostered within the School.
In August 2013, the School of Law created the post of Gender Equality Officer. A senior academic (Dr Ruth Dukes) was appointed as such, and tasked by the Head of School with leading a review of the issue of gender equality in the School. She was given time within the work allocation system to do this. The first priority was to ensure that, as a bare minimum, the School was complying with all of the directives and ‘best practice’ examples issued by University and College. Within the space of a few short weeks, the opportunity arose to participate in the Equality Challenge Unit’s national trial of the Athena SWAN/Gender Equality Charter Mark (GEM). The School of Law applied successfully to be allowed to participate in the trial. Efforts to assess and improve gender equality within the School were thereafter guided by the GEM framework, and the goal of submitting an application for a Bronze Award. In the intervening years, sustained efforts have been made within the School to formalise and make explicit existing policies, where these were already designed to ensure gender equality, and to identify ways in which other policies and practices could be improved upon.
In line with the requirements of the Athena SWAN process, a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) was established in October 2013. Within the framework of Athena SWAN, the SAT bears responsibility for gathering data and qualitative evidence to support the School’s periodic applications for awards; for taking stock of progress to date, and identifying areas for further action. Since 2013, the SAT has met regularly to discuss policy initiatives, and the implementation and recommendations from College or University. Membership has changed over time, but efforts have been made throughout to ensure that the SAT is always representative, insofar as is possible, of a cross-section of staff and students: senior and junior, male and female, research and teaching and professional and support, those with caring responsibilities, career breaks, dual career families etc.
As mentioned above, the School of Law has benefited from strong female leadership. It has also benefited from the example set by senior male colleagues with caring responsibilities and dual-career families. It is School policy to give consideration, when scheduling research or social events, to those with caring responsibilities. Insofar as is possible, all research events are scheduled to take place within normal working hours. Committee meetings take place at different times and on different days to avoid always falling at a time when one or more members are unable to make it. In 2013, we held the first of what we would like in future to make an annual ‘Family Day’ in the school – a social event to mark the end of the academic year to which staff were encouraged to bring their partners and children.
We have also made efforts, in recent years, to ensure that the physical environment of the School is welcoming and inspiring in equal measure to all students, staff and visitors regardless of gender. There have always been several oil paintings in the School of past Professors, all male. Since 2012, 5 portraits of the first 5 female Professors in the School have also hung in the main stairwell. In 2015, one of the meeting rooms in the School was renamed as the ‘Lady Cosgrove Room’. Lady Cosgrove is an alumna of the School, and the first woman to be appointed a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of Scotland's Supreme Courts. She herself attended an event in the School to honour her and to mark the renaming of the room. A portrait of Lady Cosgrove hangs there, alongside a short biography.