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The University of Southampton

Celebrating gender equality and diversity across Psychology

Published: 20 January 2021
Valerie Brandt using lab equipment
Dr Valerie Brandt using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Psychology at Southampton has been awarded Bronze Athena SWAN status in recognition of their efforts to address gender inequality and embrace diversity.

The team has worked hard to highlight areas where they could improve their inclusivity and have already implemented a range of actions.

Head of Psychology Professor Matthew Garner said: “In Psychology, we are fully committed to the Athena SWAN Charter and to supporting the careers of our female psychologists. We can be proud of the quality, diversity and impact of our work and our efforts to foster a community of staff and students that provides equal opportunity for all."


The Athena SWAN Charter is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education and research. It was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment, and is now being used to address gender equality more broadly and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Professor Matthew Garner, Head of Psychology
Professor Matthew Garner, Head of Psychology

In order to build a community that is fair, inclusive and committed to reflective practice, Psychology identified a number of challenges and actions, including:

  • supporting the progression of female staff to professorial and leadership positions
  • recruiting more males into undergraduate and postgraduate programmes - particularly in health, clinical and educational psychology

They have already made progress in these areas with increasing female representation in leadership positions in the school, research centres, impact and funding; staff recognising greater flexibility in their working patterns to incorporate more work-life balance; a transparent and fair promotion process.

Matthew added: “Colleagues now report greater respect, value, collegiality and consideration of individual differences. I am grateful to colleagues for their energy and engagement to improve gender equality across Psychology. We are moving in the right direction, but we appreciate there is still lots we can do.”

Dr Claire Hart, using facial electromyography (fEMG).
Dr Claire Hart, using facial electromyography (fEMG).

Dr Emma Palmer-Cooper, Lecturer in Psychology, was a member of the self-assessment team. She said: “We knew Psychology already had a lot of initiatives and processes that would meet Athena SWAN standards, so we wanted to apply for the Bronze Award to acknowledge the great work that we were already doing.

“However, there is always room for improvement, and completing the application allowed us to learn about the things we could be doing better and put in place actions to improve on these.

Dr Emma Palmer-Cooper, Lecturer in Psychology
Dr Emma Palmer-Cooper, Lecturer in Psychology

"Our main improvements so far, have been to raise better awareness of the potential and current issues associated with gender equality. These include encouraging female research students to continue to master’s and PhD level, and encourage more male students onto undergraduate studies and educational and clinical doctorate training. We have been doing this by promoting unconscious bias training to staff, and working with local schools to encourage more male psychology applicants.”

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