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Women in Science

Women in Science

 Informatics is the best

The Department of Informatics has been working to assess, address and challenge the inequities women face in their academic careers as part of the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences (NMS) Women in Science Initiative since 2013.

As part of NMS, we previously held a faculty-level Athena SWAN Bronze Award, and in April 2018 we were awarded a department-level Athena SWAN Bronze Award for the Department of Informatics. (The Athena SWAN charter recognises commitment to gender equality.)

You can read more about our Athena SWAN work here and find out about some of our current actions to support women in science here. To find out more about the Department’s work around diversity and inclusion in general, please see here.

Why do we need an NMS Women in Science Initiative? 

There is substantial evidence highlighting gender imbalance within science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) careers. In 2010, the Athena ASSET survey showed that at every stage of their career women either still perceive disadvantage, or there remain differences, relative to men. These differences accumulate over the course of an individual’s career to create differences in opportunity and experience.

As is the case in Informatics, Computer Science and Engineering departments across the UK, women are significantly under represented within the Department of Informatics: only 23% of our students and only 25% of our academic staff are women (as of October 2017). If we consider only the top professorial positions, things are even bleaker: only 8% of our professors are women.

This lack of diversity disadvantages not only the staff and students in our Department but also UK science and engineering, and society as a whole. Diversity is crucial for enabling world leading research, impact and teaching. Working alongside people with different experiences and perspectives encourages innovation and creativity. It brings exposure to a breadth of knowledge, working styles and techniques, and it prompts us to develop ideas and consider decision from multiple points of view.

Why might a woman's experience of a career in science be different
from a man's?

Some of the biases that under-represented groups can face include:

Unconscious bias

Conscious bias

Homophilia – people like to be with people like themselves

Ambivalent prejudice – hostility towards people in non-traditional roles

Stereotype threat – under performance through stereotype anxiety

Confirmation bias – tendency to favour information that confirms our preconceptions

Halo effect – one trait influences our perception of another

Conflict of interests – bias towards people who have helped or can help us

How does this present itself?

Less likely to be selected/nominated

Less likely to self-nominate

Less time to work extra hours, travel, network

More likely to have had a career interruption

More likely to be part-time or fixed-term contract, less likely to be appraised


If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or concerns relating to diversity and inclusion in the Department of Informatics, please contact our Diversity Lead Dr Elizabeth Black.

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