The Gold Standard: John Innes Centre receives Athena SWAN Gold award

The John Innes Centre has become the first institution in the UK to achieve an Athena SWAN Gold Award.

The Athena SWAN Charter was originally established to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths, and medicine (STEMM).

The Charter now includes addressing gender equality more broadly, not just the barriers to progression that affect women.

The JIC Athena SWAN application was overseen by a group of staff and students from a spectrum of roles within the organisation. This team is led by Dr Carole Thomas who remarked: “We’re dedicated to becoming a work place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. As we work towards this, it’s fantastic to be recognised with the highest award from the Athena SWAN charter, especially as it allows us to reflect on how we can achieve more.”

Director of the John Innes Centre, Professor Dale Sanders says: “Receiving the Gold award is a tremendous achievement. It celebrates a genuine commitment to our staff, and to equal opportunities, recognising the work of the whole organisation to become a diverse and inclusive working environment.”

“Taking part in the Athena SWAN Charter is a holistic and developmental process, requiring significant commitment to undertake targeted actions aimed at achieving measurable outcomes to change systemic inequality”, said Dr Ruth Gilligan, Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Manager.

“Congratulations to John Innes Centre on being the first research institution to be awarded the Athena SWAN gold award.  By achieving this very high standard this demonstrates the centre’s commitment to good practice and outcomes which is effecting cultural change within the research institute.”

The Athena SWAN Charter is one of two equality charters owned and managed by Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and provides a mechanism that enables the Institute to reflect on its practices and work towards embedding inclusion and diversity into the culture: “We believe that equality of opportunity is key in achieving our goals and are committed to the positive promotion of equality, diversity, and inclusion amongst all our staff and students,” continues Dr Carole Thomas “However, while this award demonstrates the progress we have made in our inclusivity and diversity journey, we know that there is much more we can do.”

Over the last three years, the John Innes Centre has worked to improve its suite of family-oriented initiatives to make them more inclusive. Initiatives include a Family Support Fund and new institutional fund that is designed to support staff on fixed-term contracts with an extension of employment of up to 6 months following their return from parental leave. These initiatives provide support for staff at what is often a critical time in their personal and scientific lives.

The John Innes Centre’s Athena SWAN submission will be made available on the JIC website as soon as possible and will be accessible through the equality and diversity pages.