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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences


Athena Swan Bronze logo

Welcome to the Athena SWAN page for the School of Social Sciences. The University itself holds a Silver Award and Social Sciences currently hold a Bronze Award.

Click on the tabs below for more information about ESPS Athena SWAN intiative:

Athena SWAN at the University of Southampton


Our chair is Jana Sadeh. Please feel free to contact Jana if you have any queries.

AS Committee

Chair of SESPS Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team - Jana Sadeh

Staff Consultation Working Group Lead – Maria Evandrou

Undergraduate Consultation Working Group Lead – Panos Giannarakis

PGT/PGR Consultation Working Group Lead – Anita Lavorgna

Communications Working Group Lead – Helen Paul


Committee image

Feedback to the committee

Let us know your thoughts and feedback on the School’s gender equality initiative.

The form allows any staff or student to send their comments confidentially and anonymously to the SESPS Athena SWAN Chair and Co-Chair. All fields are optional so you can disclose as much or as little information as you like.

You can submit the feedback via our form.

The national Athena SWAN charter addresses the improvement of gender equity policies and practices that affect women and men in academic careers across STEMM, Social Sciences and Humanities.

The School’s Bronze award recognises our commitment to tackling gender inequality. A positive culture that values gender equality, including support for flexible working, for maternity, paternity and adoption leave transitions, and core hours email etiquette policy are among the practices that helped us achieve this status. Our bronze award demonstrates how good practice is being implemented for staff in all job families and levels.

The Action Plan represents a comprehensive effort to further develop and implement good practice that promotes gender equity and gender balance. Key features of the School’s plan include:

  • Ensure that gender equality and inclusivity is at heart of every School committee
  • Implement communication and training mechanisms for staff and students to engage with School’s Athena SWAN goals
  • Promote gender balance on all Undergraduate, Postgraduate taught, and Postgraduate research programmes
  • Implement strategies to improve gender balance with regard to recruitment, promotion and retention of staff in all job families and levels.
  • Continue support for flexible working, and for maternity, paternity and adoption leave transitions.

Our main policies and guidance documents can be accessed by visiting our Policies and Guidance page.

These documents are also complemented by other policies in the University. These policies are owned by other areas of the University (e.g. Human Resources and the Registry).

You can find the following policies on our website;

You can find out more about Athena SWAN related-news here.

Interview with Marika Taylor - Head of School, Mathematical Sciences

In the second of our line-up of interviews with prominent female academics in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Southampton, we have the honour of speaking to Professor Marika Taylor about her career and thoughts on gender equality. Marika is the Head of School for Mathematical Sciences and has been on a remarkable journey in a field which few women pursue.  

Could you briefly tell us the path you took to get your current career position?  

I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge, specialising in theoretical physics as an undergraduate, and then worked with Stephen Hawking for my PhD. Following research at Cambridge and Harvard I moved to Holland where I lived for about ten years, mostly based at the University of Amsterdam. I moved with my research group to Southampton in 2012, to develop the STAG research centre in theoretical particle physics, astronomy and gravity.  

Who inspired you growing up? 

I don’t recall being inspired by anybody in particular. However, I did go to an all girls’ school and I think this helped me to feel that no career was off limits to women. I had an immensely supportive sixth form tutor, and he was the person responsible for steering me towards studying science at Cambridge. (I studied at the same College he had attended.)  

And who or what has inspired you since you embarked on your career? 

When I was an undergraduate I attended a famous series of lectures delivered by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. It was these lectures that stimulated me to focus on theoretical fundamental physics in my fourth year of study, and then carry on with a PhD.  

In terms of gender equality, how far do you think women in academia have come, and how far is there still to go?  

My views on gender equality in academia are probably shaped very much by the continued low participation of women in theoretical physics - less than 10% of researchers are female. A few decades ago there was much more overt and explicit discrimination against women in physics. Now there is far less direct discrimination but issues related to implicit bias, networking opportunities and work/life balance all still hinder women’s retention and progression in physics.  

What one message would you give to young women starting out on their career journey? 

Look for mentors and promotors, and do not be afraid to ask for help.  

What do you wish you'd known 10 years ago?  

I wish that I had been more proactive about seeking support from senior colleagues.  

What is your proudest achievement? 

Establishing and building successful research groups, whose culture is inclusive and supportive.   

And your biggest hope for the future?  

On a personal level, I still find research in fundamental physics enormously exciting and I am looking forward to future progress and breakthroughs, particularly those triggered by the enormous influx of experimental data over the coming years. Taking a broader perspective, I would like to see increased recognition of the value of fundamental research, and of how deeply entwined fundamental and applied science are.   


Athena Swan survey results

The results of the Athena Swan online induction survey (2019-2020) have been analysed. You can read the report here.

Interview with Ros Edwards, Professor of Sociology

Professor Rosalind Edwards is Professor of Sociology within Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Southampton. Rosalind is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a founding and co-editor of the International Journal of Social Research Methodology. She has researched and published widely in the areas of family life and policies, as well as studying and writing about research methods. We had a chat with Prof. Edwards about her career and her thoughts on gender equality.

Could you briefly tell us the path you took to get your current career position?

It took me a while to get onto the path. I left education with some O-levels and a secretarial qualification. After working and having children I returned to study for an undergraduate degree in my early 30s, thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world and carried on to do a masters and then a PhD, and then on to a research fellowship. I took the research path, bringing in grants and working up through senior fellow, reader and then professor. Before I joined Southampton, I was leading an ESRC research group. And in the past 10 years since I’ve been here I’ve been involved in research management in my School.

Who inspired you growing up?

Women writers in the general sense. I just put wanted to be one. I imagined myself living in the equivalent of Sissinghurst Castle and writing in a tower room like Vita Sackville-West. The closest I’ve got is the writing bit.

And who or what has inspired you since you embarked on your career?

I’m not sure when I began embarking on my career. Like many women academics (see Negotiating the Glass Ceiling, eds M. David and D. Woodward), it’s all felt quite accidental. But I’ve been lucky enough to have supportive colleagues throughout who influenced and encouraged me as I started out, and will name-check Miriam David, Jane Lewis and Jeffrey Weeks. And importantly, I’ve worked with some amazing PhD students across the years, including Val Gillies, Tracey Reynolds, Rachel Thomson and Diane Reay. I found our supervision sessions inspiring. And I try to take that feeling of a collegial exchange into any supervision, mentoring and line management.

In terms of gender equality, how far do you think women in academia have come, and how far is there still to go?

I think that women are more visible now in academia and some in senior positions, but this can be patchy by discipline. I think that probably overt discrimination is less in evidence and it’s now a case of more embedded inequities. As academics we are paid less on average and less likely to win grant funding. And we need to know more about the way that gender articulates with ethnicity, sexuality and other social divisions in academia, as well as contract status, and treat this intersectionality as an important equalities issue. And as a piece I wrote some years ago argued ‘numbers are not enough’; it’s not just about how many but also the academic culture. We also need to recognise and address the way that gender in the academy articulates with gendered positioning outside of it, in wider society. So a lot still to do.

What do you wish you'd known 10 years ago?

It’s okay, coming to Southampton is a good move!

What is your biggest hope for the future?

At the moment everything gets viewed through a Covid lens. So my biggest hope is that we emerge from this into a more equal, just, caring and generous world.  That sounds quite Pollyannaish but it’s meant.


Thank you Prof Edwards for sharing your thoughts with us! We invite any thoughts on gender equality within ESPS and on a wider scope. Please email us on or fill in our anonymous online form.

Jana Sadeh: The joys and frustrations of returning back to work at University following maternity leave

April 2020 marked the time I returned back to work from a 6 month absence due to maternity leave. This is a time when parents feel particularly vulnerable in their careers. You worry about catching up with all you have missed, whether your brain, now severely impaired by months of sleep deprivation, still even works. You struggle to re-establish work friendships, you try to remember what you left behind when you left. You worry about how your new baby is going to cope without you. You struggle with the newly found parent-guilt that every working parent is all too familiar with.

It is an important period of change for any staff member. I should know, I have returned to work from a long period of absence 3 times. Twice for joyful reasons, once for illness. Each time the struggle is real, my memory was really compromised by my first pregnancy. I remember sitting in front of my PhD supervisor, who I'd known for years, and I couldn't remember his name. I remember spending numerous frustrating hours trailing through Stata code trying to remember what I was doing before I left for maternity leave and coming up blank. I remember feeling like getting my brain to work again was like clawing my way out of a deep hole. I can still feel that physical pain of re-establishing my neural networks, but each time I have learned valuable lessons that I want to share with people who are about to set off on such an absence or who are returning and relating to the struggle.

Be proactive in managing your return. You are the one who needs to write that email or pick up the phone and get in touch with people at work. It helps if you have dropped in the occasional email during your absence to check in with colleagues and your line manager. When the time comes to return get in touch with your line manager and discuss their expectations of you upon your return so that you can prepare yourself for the workload. You may need some support to get through this return, so discuss any special working conditions, such as homeworking, which may be necessary in the transition of the return.

Make your line manager your ally. The typical profile of a line manager is someone who is shouldering a lot of responsibility and is very busy. They may not have the experience or time to carefully cater to your return to work, even though they want to ensure it is a smooth experience. Keep this in mind when you are planning your return. Prepare for your conversations, know what you want to ask for and think about how you can contribute to the needs of the department in a way that fits with what you feel you are able to provide.

Re-establish your social life at work as soon as possible. Let your colleagues know about your return. Plan for shared lunch breaks and coffee breaks to catch up and be caught up with all you have missed. It can feel a bit daunting sometimes to find your place within your work environment after a period of absence. Your colleagues can be a support mechanism to overcome the worries you may have.

Don't be afraid to be upfront with what you need, and if you are feeling like your return is a real struggle speak up as soon as you can. You don't want the experience to be so painful that you end up having to consider a different career path or even leaving work completely. You can access numerous resources to help you at this time (see below).

There are great joys of returning to work. I, for one, found work a haven of peace where I could actually finish a cup of tea compared to the chaos of home life with a newborn. I rekindled my more mentally challenging endeavours and rebuilt my confidence over time. 

Finally, accept that it will take some time for things to feel 'normal'. To be honest, the life experiences you get while away on maternity or prolonged sick leave change you as a person, and it would be naïve to think they wouldn't change how you approach your work. You may find you will settle to a new normal that is different to what things were like before. Different people deal with their new reality in different ways. If you spend some time thinking about what you want out of work and planning your return it may make a big difference to your transition and to the new equilibrium you settle into.

Additional resources

The HR intranet pages have all the policies and guideline relating to maternity leave, including easy to view frequently asked questions. The AskHR team will be happy to answer your queries to help explain these further.

We are also well supported by the Parents' and Carers' Network (P&CN) whose aim is to support the working lives of colleagues who also have off-campus responsibilities, looking after children or adults unable to care for themselves due to old age or disability.

All staff at the University also have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which is designed to help you to cope with life's difficulties and challenges. It is provided by Legal & General and Health Assured it is separate from University services. It is completely confidential, and no details will be routinely shared without your consent. 

You can find out more about Athena SWAN-related events here.

Upcoming Event: Women in Counterterrorism

Monday 25th April at 2.30pm GMT
Virtual Event

The School of Social Sciences is pleased to present this important and timely event as part of the Athena SWAN Role Model Series. The talk brings together women from across the world who are at the forefront of countering terrorism and violent extremism. There will be a focus on jihadism, the far right, and male supremacism. Please see attached document for more details.
To register, please follow this link.

Upcoming Event: Working as an economist at the Bank of England

Speaker: Florence Hubert

Date: 25th April 2022
Time: 15.00-16.00
Location: 02/5053 (Highfield Campus) or by Teams

Athena Swan is promoting this event to showcase female role models in the field of Economics.


Past event: BME Experiences in Higher Education: policy making, social justice and white privilege

 Age suitable for: All ages

 Date and Time (UK time):
13/10/2021 13:00-14:15

Join Professor Kalwant Bhopal, University of Birmingham, for a talk that will explore the experiences of BME (Black and minority ethnic) academics in higher education.

The talk will argue that despite significant advances and an increase in BME students numbers, inequalities in higher education for BME groups continue to exist.

The event will examine how policy making works within a framework of white privilege to perpetuate the interests of white groups. In this respect, such policy making is deliberate and intended to advantage white groups.

Kalwant Bhopal is Professor of Education and Social Justice. She was appointed Professorial Research Fellow from 2017-2020. In January 2020 she became Director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) in the School of Education and is BAME Academic Lead at the University of Birmingham.

The talk will take place in Zoom and registration is required to join this free event.

This event is organised by:

To register for this event:

Past event: Femquant & CPC Athena Swan Webinar - Dominique Green

Dominique Green - University of St Andrews, Zoom, Friday, January 22nd 2021, 12:00-13:00 GMT

This CPC Athena Swan webinar will be held jointly with Femquant on Friday 22 January at 12:00 GMT. Dominique Green, University of St Andrews will be giving a talk entitled "Reconsidered Disadvantage in the United States: An Intersectional Analysis".  

Abstract: Poverty and disadvantage in the United States is commonly defined in terms of low income. This definition and its subsequent measurement neglects the multidimensional nature of the phenomena. Most research acknowledges that this reductionist measure is insufficient but there have been few attempts at quantifying US poverty and disadvantage multidimensionally. In this seminar, I will draw on the European social exclusion literature and apply the Bristol Social Exclusion Matrix to indicators from the US Census Bureau produced American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample - with a sample size of 3 million addresses - in order to uncover factors of disadvantage in the United States. Additionally, I will discuss the relationship between these dimensions and sociodemographic characteristics primarily via the use of intersectionality as an analytic tool. This research explores how the intersection between race and gender better informs understandings of the experience of disadvantage at the individual level than an exploration of gender alone, particularly for Black women. Overall, using a conceptualisation of disadvantage not previously applied to the US, the research quantitatively shows that income is just one piece of a complex social issue and that women, minorities, and those at the intersection of those characteristics face disadvantage across dimensions.

Registration: Zoom link to the event

Meeting recording: We may be recording the seminar and your participation in the meeting may be captured. If you do not wish to feature in the recording, please ensure your microphone and camera are turned off for the duration of the talk. The Q&A session will not be recorded.

Your details: We require your name and email to process the event registration. We use this information to collate the number of attendees at our seminars and produce get aggregate level statistics to justify our seminars to our funders. If you have any issues with the way your data is collected, please email us at Further information about the way we manage data can be found on our website.


Past event: Dragonfly Day

On Wednesday 19 June 2020, 21 female students in Year 9 (ages 13-14) from Chamberlayne College for the Arts, Admiral Lord Nelson, Priory School, Henry Cort and Mayville High School visited the Economics Department for a day of immersion into everything economics. During the course of the day they had various talks, from our own Helen Paul and Corrado Giulietti as well as from Helen Packard from the Bank of England.

In addition, they got to experience two hands-on sessions in the Bloomberg Suite and the Experimental Lab led by Daniel Cernin and Jana Sadeh. This initiative, which was funded by the Royal Economic Society, was aimed at encouraging more young women to look at economics as an exciting and fulfilling career choice.

The day was organised by Helen Paul with the support of Emma Woozeer, Outreach coordinator from the Access to Southampton Scheme.

Past event: Athena SWAN and inclusive teaching practice

The PAIR Teaching Assistant Forum hosted an event entitled  'Athena SWAN and inclusive teaching practice', aimed at TAs involved in modules within the School of Economic, Social and Political Science.

The event featured a talk by Dr Bindi Shah of SSPC, who was the Chair of the School of Economic, Social and Political Science Athena SWAN Committee, and a discussion of how principles of equality, diversity and inclusion can be built into classroom practice.

The event took place on Wednesday April 22, 2020.

We have compiled a collection of links that you may find useful

Best practice

The American Economic Association has shared its guide to best practice for: conducting research, working with students and colleagues, and leadership.

Please follow this link for further details: AEA Best Practice.

Gender Education Academy

The Gender Education (Ge) Academy provides training materials on various topics, covering institutional change issues as well as the integration of the gender dimension in R&I content.

Mental Health

Each year approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health condition and at least 1 in 6 employees experience common mental health problems in the workplace. Research has shown that work is the biggest cause of stress which can stop people performing at their best. Mental health conditions are often hidden due to stigma and fear of discrimination and research has shown that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers.

Embedding First Aid for Mental Health training encourages people to talk more freely about mental health, promoting early intervention which enables recovery, reducing stigma and helping to create a positive culture.

The list of recently trained First Aiders for Mental Health can be found here

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