Celebrating Athena Swan Gold Award renewal

The John Innes Centre has successfully renewed its Athena Swan Gold Award, recognising our continuing commitment to gender equality.

The Athena Swan Charter, run by Advance HE, is a framework used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education and research.

Established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) employment, the charter is now used across the globe to address gender equality more broadly.

In 2017, the John Innes Centre became the first independent research institute to receive the Athena Swan Gold Award.

Director of the John Innes Centre, Professor Graham Moore welcomed the renewal, “I am delighted that we have successfully renewed our Athena Swan Gold Award. I have seen significant progress towards gender equality since we started working towards our first award in 2013.

“To achieve a Gold award, and to maintain and improve on these high standards is excellent news and I want to thank Dr Siobhán Dorai-Raj who led on the submission and Dr Carole Thomas for her work on the previous action plan. Our new action plan is challenging, and we hope it will address the areas where more progress is needed.

“I believe our positive research culture helps us to deliver as a global leader in plant and microbial research and reinforces the notion that excellence in research is intimately linked with equal opportunities.”

Head of Directorate at the John Innes Centre, Dr Clare Stevenson said: “It is fantastic to be able to celebrate the renewal of the Athena Swan Gold award, it is a brilliant achievement, just coordinating the submission itself was a huge amount of work and I would like to thank all the staff and students that contributed.

“We value the diversity of staff and students and are committed to continual improvement. Working towards creating a positive, fair, welcoming, and inclusive environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, is part of our mission. We know there are many things we still need to improve, and our next action plan seeks to address this.”

The renewed Athena Swan Gold award, valid until June 2028, follows the successful submission of a  new action plan. The renewal submission for 2023 was coordinated by Dr Siobhan Dorai-Raj, John Innes Centre Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisor.

Siobhan said, “I am delighted and relieved that we have been successful in our Athena Swan Gold renewal. The renewal process involved capturing and communicating the impact of the work of my colleagues, and in particular Dr Carole Thomas who had been the driving force of the previous action plan.”

John Innes Centre Action Plan 2023 – 28

One area of focus for improvement in the coming five years concerns gender balance at our senior level.

Our forward plan includes a commitment to increasing the percentage of women in leadership roles building on the successes of the Women in Wheat mentoring scheme, led by Professor Diane Saunders and works to equip female researchers for leadership roles in the wheat research community.

A team effort

Professor Moore, Dr Dorai-Raj and Dr Stevenson extend thanks to the many people and groups at the John Innes Centre who helped to progress the previous action plan and helped create the new one including members of the Inclusivity and Diversity Committee, the Athena Swan working group and our staff support groups: John Innes Student Voice (JSV), Research Support Staff Voice (RSSV), Post Doc Voice (PDV), Race and Ethnicity Equality and Diversity working group (REED), Accessibility Advocates, Parent and Carer Group, LGBTQ+ group and the Mental Health and Well-Being group members.

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