The Annual Equal Opportunities Lecture 2013

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Professor Dame Athene Donald, FRS and Master-elect of Churchill College, Cambridge, was the keynote speaker at Swansea University’s Annual Equal Opportunities Lecture 2013 which took place at the University on Tuesday 12 November.

‌Professor Dame Athene Donald is Director of WiSETI (Women in Science and Technology Initiative) and became University Gender Equality Champion and Chair of the Gender Equality Group in 2010.  She is Chair of the Athena Forum (national group) and a member of the Royal Society of Equality and Diversity Advisory Network.  

Equal Opportunities Lecture 2013 3‌Swansea University Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies gave the welcome speech to a capacity crowd at the event.  He said: “While we are moving ahead on some important agendas, and, as a university, have strong meritocratic ethics, our outcomes do not demonstrate equality on many levels.  We must never be complacent, but proactive, no less in encouraging a balance within science and technology.”

Professor Dame Athene Donald’s speech, entitled “Who needs to do what to facilitate women’s progression?” addressed a range of issues, including:

  • the policies that universities need to implement to ensure equality, such as the importance of having visible commitment ‘from the top’;
  • good news stories celebrating the success of minorities;
  • family friendly practices;
  • the sharing and dissemination of good practice across departments.

Professor Donald said: “Departments should ideally be offering advice regarding promotion; offering formal mentoring; and giving early-career people the confidence to ‘step-up’.  There should also be committed leadership and visible individuals championing the issues.”

Equal Opportunities Lecture 2013 1She also stressed the importance of the individual taking responsibility in the workplace and how crucial self-confidence and self-promotion is in the workplace.  She said: “As an individual, you need to be positive about what you have to offer and the aspirations you have.  Be ready to seize opportunities and try out new things.”

Jane Elliott, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee gave a speech to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Equal Opportunities Committee. Jane has been the Chair of the Committee since 1999. Her speech highlighted the key drivers for launching the Committee, the achievements of the Committee and the challenges for the future.

Sarah Huws-Davies, Director of Student Services at the University also spoke on women in professional roles and how the University needs to recognise and support all individuals to ensure everyone is fulfilling their potential.

The Vice-Chancellor also took the opportunity to formally announce the Mary Williams award at the event.  The award has been created in honour of Mary Williams, who was appointed Professor of French Language and Literature at Swansea University in 1921 and was the first woman to be appointed to a Chair at a UK university.  Professor Davies said: “The award will applaud the qualities which encourage others, and will go to people that Mary Williams would have been proud to be associated with.”