Athena Swan

Here at WBS we are proud to be the first business school in the UK to obtain a gold award. 

Athena Swan was originally established in 2005 to encourage and recognise a commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education employment and research. In 2015 the Athena Swan charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women. The main principle of the Athena Swan charter is to recognise the advancement of gender equality and enhance the career opportunities for women.  

At WBS we are committed to the promotion of gender equality and the Athena Swan eight key principles. Whilst we believe there is a strong business case for providing equal opportunities for men and women, our commitment to Athena Swan exists because we believe it is the right thing to do. At WBS the programme of work is given high priority and is led by a self-assessment team including the Dean, Professor Andy Lockett, and the WBS executive team. 

The challenge is considerable. Across UK business schools as a whole, the representation of women in senior positions is poor. Globally, reflecting the gendered nature of management as an occupational group, MBA courses tend to recruit more men than women. These are well-known and general problems in the business school community, which we are working hard to address within WBS. 

Initiatives and successes

The Athena Swan charter has created a range of good practice initiatives to contribute to a community of good practice and facilitate the ability of higher education institutions and research institutes to continue to promote and progress gender equality. At WBS we have worked hard to deliver on our action plan and progress our work even further.  

Some of the key activities and achievements in this area include:

  • The introduction of schemes that promote gender equality, including the Academic Returners Fellowship and the Conference Care Fund
  • An increase in the proportion of female academics as a whole, including female Professors and Professors of Practice
    1. The proportion of female academics has increased from 31.2% in 2016/17 to 41.7% in 2022/23
    2. The proportion of female Professors has increased from 13.8% in 2016/17 to 23.3% in 2022/23.
  • Supporting career progression
    1. Extending our mentoring programme 
    2. Raising awareness of the promotion's framework
    3. Introducing a range of career pathways, including Houlden Fellows and Post-doctoral Fellowships.
  • Work on marketing and recruitment to our courses at all programme levels to increase gender balance, including
    1. Scholarships to promote female diversity at Postgraduate level since 2015
    2. Review of materials in brochures and a review of recruitment processes
    3. Partnerships with The Female Lead, WeAreTheCity and The City Women's Network.
  • Reshaping our PhD programmes to be more focused on enabling students to progress in academic careers
  • Introduction of the CORE Development and Leaders programmes to support career progression for Professional Services staff and Academics
  • Providing leadership within the sector through the development of an Athena Swan Network for business schools across the UK. We now have over 100 Professional Services and Academic colleagues from 48 business schools who are part of the Network
  • Acting as a critical friend to other business schools through reviewing and advising on submissions.

Strategy and practice

Alongside key initiatives and policy changes, we have been working hard at changing day-to-day practices. In a large department like WBS, linking goals and values to everyday work activities is a central challenge. 

Data collection 

For academic programmes, through a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, we actively monitor: 

  • Gender composition of our courses 

  • Student performance and attainment by course and gender 

  • SSLC membership and seminar membership by gender 

  • Representation in promotional marketing materials 

  • Structure and delivery of open days 

  • Culture of the classroom.

Devolved action plan 

We have created an Athena Swan action plan which relates to the main areas of activity within the school; academic subject groups, professional sections, and academic taught programmes.  

Associate Deans within WBS are then tasked with diagnosing problems and proposing and delivering actions that ensure we continually improve. This has led to numerous initiatives, such as the development of a whistle blowing policy, designed to protect students who wish to complain about the use of gendered language in the classroom. 

Strategy and practice are enabled by the fact we have world-leading academics at WBS whose research and teaching centres on the roe of gender in the workplace. Illustrative papers include: 

  • Deborah Dean (2015). Deviant typicality: gender equality issues in a trade union that should be different from others. Industrial Relations Journal, 46(1): 37-53. 

  • Fernando, W. D. A. and Cohen, L. (2014). Respectable femininity and career agency: exploring paradoxical imperatives. Gender, Work & Organization, 21(2): 149-164. 

  • Harding, N., Ford, J. and Fotaki, M. (2013). Is the 'F'-word still dirty? a past, present and future of/for feminist and gender studies in organization. Organization Studies, 20 (1): 51-65. 


WBS has an active Equality and Diversity Committee which meets termly to discuss actions which can be taken to improve the culture and working environment. The University of Warwick offers a wide range of further support and information related to Equality and Diversity which includes: 

  • Training courses (online and face to face) 

  • Guides for line managers and staff 

  • Video clips 

  • Awareness raising talks and events such as WIDE and Dignity at Warwick days