Faculty of Biological Sciences

The Athena SWAN Charter aims to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. http://www.ecu.ac.uk/equality-charters/athena-swan/

The Faculty of Biological Sciences was awarded a Bronze Award in September 2014. Since then we have been implementing the action plan that we developed as part of this award. We are currently in the process of assessing a progress with this action plan as part of an application for a Silver Award, which we will submit in April 2017.

 Download application document (.docx)

This is led by co-chairs Dr Sue Whittle (S.R.Whittle@leeds.ac.uk) and Dr Julie Aspden (j.aspden@leeds.ac.uk). A whole team people from across the faculty sit on the FBS Athena Swan Committee and form the self-assessment team for applications. The members of the committee (as you can see here) include representatives from each of the three schools in the faculty, from postdocs, HR, academics (both research and teaching staff). We have recently recruited new members from the PhD student community, technical support, student service and professional services. This is to make sure our discussions and plans represent people from every part of the faculty.

What are we doing?

Through the work of the Self-Assessment Team, the Faculty strives to ensure gender equality. We were successful in achieving the Athena Swan Bronze Award in September 2014 and are currently preparing to submit our Silver Award application in April 2017.

Current activities include;

  1. We organise events to champion gender equality, e.g. Celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science Feb 10th 2017.

  2. Together with HR we work to provide useful support regarding Maternity, Adoption, Parental leave or Career Break policies, e.g. website and faculty coffee morning drop-ins.

  3. Develop policies and training to ensure gender equality in our work environment e.g. Unconscious bias, inclusion and equality training, and Equal Opportunities Guidelines for Seminar Organisers.

  4. Monitor people’s experience in FBS and develop action to improve the work environment for all members of our community, e.g. surveys and improving flexible/remote working support.

  5. Tackle the issue of the leaking pipeline in science e.g. run postdoc mentoring scheme.

Footsteps brochure; showcasing role models and career paths from the faculty community

Footsteps pathway of March; Dr Sue Deuchars

Other useful links and resources:

We all have unconscious biases. Test yourself and see what yours are


Athena Swan Highlights from the Staff Culture Survey (October 2016)

We have collated some key messages from the Staff Culture Survey from the perspective of Athena Swan.
Thank you for completing it! In future we will have a more tailored questionnaire for Athena Swan.

 Download document (.pdf)

BBC Academy's Expert Women programme

Applications for the programme, which aims to increase the number of expert female contributors on air, are now open. Click here for more information

June 2016: Frankie MacMillan - Advancing to Silver and Beyond

Frankie joined us from the University of Bristol to talk about her experience during their submission for Athena swan gold award. Download the presentation slides from the meeting.

The submission (including our action plan), sent to the Athena SWAN assessment panel in April 2014 can be viewed in full (.PDF)

The Athena SWAN Charter is supported at a national level by the WISE campaign for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology and the Equality Challenge Unit. Find out more about the Women in Science and Engineering campaign and the Leeds Women in Science Engineering and Technology (WiSET) network

External networks, organisations and publications of interest to women in SET

Recognising Excellence - Enhancing Equality

The University is committed to supporting all staff to deliver their individual personal best, achieve excellence in a diverse range of areas, and progress in their careers. To be a world leading University we must attract, retain, support and develop the best staff; this includes making sure that we represent the diverse nature of the wider community within the University. Click here for more information

Funding opportunities

Small Athena Swan Grants to support staff returning from a career break

We have a small fund to help support those returning to work from a career break in a flexible way – this could be used to cover costs for e.g. travel to/registration for a conference, travel arrangements for meeting with collaborators, childcare costs to attend a conference or other research-related activity, small consumables for pilot study etc.

Awards are likely to be in the region of £100-500, though requests for larger amounts (up to £1000) will be considered if funding permits.

 Download document (.docx)

Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

Photograph of Dorothy Hodgkin

This scheme is for outstanding scientists in the UK at an early stage of their research career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances such as parenting or caring responsibilities or health issues. Female candidates are particularly invited to apply.


Working from home and flexible working and access to IT resources off campus

To enable more effective flexible working FBS IT have some guidelines to help access resources from off campus.
For additional assistance email itsupport@fbs.leeds.ac.uk

 Download document (.docx)

Equal Opportunities Guidelines for Seminar Organisers

These guidelines are to aid seminar organisers to ensure equal opportunitites in the selection of speakers. Bias in the selection of invited speakers is not usually intentional; rather it usually results from subtler mechanisms, such as implicit bias. A pro-active approach can reduce these biases and facilitate diversity.

 Download document (.docx)

Returning to work following Maternity, Adoption, Parental leave or Career Break?

The faculty has introduced a new policy to support staff returning to work following a period of long term leave. Click here for more information

Breast feeding facilities

 Download document (.doc)

The University of Leeds has developed a Trans Equality Policy

It sets out our commitment, intent and principles for trans equality and it applies to all our prospective applicants for employment and study, employees and students, contractors, visitors and partners.

 Download document (.docx)

Coffee and Careers, 3pm in Astbury seminar room level 11

Upcoming sessions:

24/03/2017 Katarzyna Makowska: The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)
21/04/2017 Claire Sarell: Ministry of Defence
19/05/2017 Sam Stephen: Viral Vectors Senior Scientist, National Biologics Centre

Coffee and Careers event on Friday 24th February:

Kevin Tipping - Trainee Patent Attorney

"Kevin is a part-qualified patent attorney working for Gill Jennings & Every LLP in the Chemistry and Life Sciences Group. He joined GJE in October 2015, after completing his PhD at the University of Leeds."

You can find out more about Kevin at: https://www.gje.com/people/kevin-tipping/

Photo from the Coffee and Careers event on 24th Feb 2017
Photo from the Coffee and Careers event on 24th Feb 2017


The first “Coffee and Careers” event on Friday 27th January, was a great success.

We had ~50 people from across the faculty turn up to hear a great talk from Dr Janet Saunders from MedImmune... As well as enjoy donuts and coffee.

The audience included PhD students, postdocs and technicians.

Looking forward to the next event on 24th February!

Comparisons for a research scientist Talk delivered to a full audience The coffee and careers team Donuts all round! Coffee and careers talk

Upcoming coffee and careers events:

Athena Swan Coffee Morning - TBC

University Mentoring Scheme

Mentoring is rapidly becoming recognised worldwide as a highly effective developmental process for employees. If you would like support and guidance from a colleague in order to help and manage your own learning and development then please register as a mentee by following the link provided below.

To sign up as a mentor or mentee please click here

For more information, and to find resources for mentors or mentees you can visit the mentoring website or contact Sarah Farrell, SDDU

The University has invested in a web based tool to support mentoring (Scottish University Mentoring and Coaching System). SUMAC supports University wide mentoring and is available for all University staff regardless of job type or grade. The system allows mentors and mentees to sign in via an on-line short form that asks you to outline your background and interests, mentoring can be over a wide range of topics that you're either seeking assistance with or offering support on. These details then enable mentors to be matched with mentees.

FBS Postdoc Mentoring Scheme

To support the career and personal development of Postdocs within the Faculty of Biological Sciences (FBS), Postdoctoral Association of Leeds (PAL) and Athena SWAN run a mentoring scheme for postdocs and early career researchers. The mentoring model we have developed is that of "Mentoring Circles"; with a group of 4 mentees to 2 mentors. This mentoring circle format delivery is also an effective way to utilise informal peer support networking and maximises the use of the mentor's time.

The basis of the mentoring scheme is that:

  • Participation is on a voluntary basis.
  • Mentoring conversations are confidential and private.
  • The mentor is outside the mentee's direct line management chain, but is a PI within FBS.

If you are interested in participating or would like to find out more about the scheme, please email Julie Aspden (j.aspden@leeds.ac.uk)