Athena Swan Silver award for the University of Bristol

In this blog post, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, Professor Judith Squires, reflects on the University’s recent Athena Swan Silver Award and the work that is left to be done to achieve gender equality. 

It is a testament to the exceptional teamwork of colleagues across the University that we recently achieved a ‘highly commended’ institutional Athena Swan Silver award. 

We can all be proud that Bristol was one of the founding signatories of the Athena Swan Charter. When it launched in 2005, the Charter looked to encourage and recognise the career progression and employment of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) – sectors which typically show a strong imbalance towards men.  

In the intervening years, we’ve seen great progress in our community, particularly in the School for Biochemistry which successfully achieved the fantastic and very rare accolade of gold award last year.  

At the institutional level, in 2018 we committed to not only tackle gender inequality, but also to taking a gender and ethnicity intersectional approach to our work. We also committed to eliminating the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) in the Professoriate +/-3%, and to increase the number of female Professors to 30% by 2023.  

We have since made excellent progress across the board, particularly in relation to issues of representation, culture, and career progression. It was the thorough and detailed intersectional analysis of our quantitative and qualitative student and staff data that was particularly commended in our application for not only highlighting our current key gender equality issues but also discussing the positive impact of initiatives put in place since our last Athena Swan application.   

We have seen the successful implementation of a new academic promotions framework that more effectively rewards and recognises the full range of academic achievements, the Elevate programme, Bristol Women’s Mentoring Scheme and the Female Leadership Initiative. These initiatives, coupled with other specific policy changes, such as our reimbursement of childcare and caring costs for conference and training attendance, have resulted in improved career opportunities for all areas of the pipeline.  

Significantly, in 2020 our plans to eliminate the gender pay gap were set out in a landmark Collective Agreement between the University and Bristol UCU – the first agreement of its kind at a UK university. It included: 

  • Increased opportunities and support for flexible working;  
  • A new Promotions Framework that would not under-value work that tends to be disproportionality undertaken by women;  
  • Improved academic career support and development.  

These actions have contributed to the continued rise in female staff successfully applying for promotion to Associate Professor and Professor during the period of successive Swan applications (38% of successful cases were female in 13/14, 45% in 16/17, 52% in 21/22), resulting in 31% female professors in 21/22, exceeding the target of 28% that we had set ourselves for this point. 

Elsewhere, I am really pleased we have made significant progress amongst the student community with regards to diversity of ethnicity, by increasing targeted scholarship opportunities for groups underrepresented within HE, narrowing of the awarding gap from 12.7% (2017) to 7.6% (2021). 

While we have seen great progress in recent years, our most recent Self-Assessment process made clear that while we have met our aspirations to date, there is still much work to be done. We have now identified new EDI priorities and targets to 2030, including 50% female professors and eradicating the gender pay gap altogether. We are also collaborating with the Student Union, the 1752 Group, and the Office for Students to tackle gender-based violence and we will continue to remain responsive to issues arising from our students and staff, for example via our Voice and Influence group, which is foregrounded with an intersectional focus by providing a forum for Chairs of Staff Networks to discuss common issues of equality inclusion across multiple identities. 

Our ambitions are high, and our institutional journey towards equality continues. We will get there, and our new University Strategy, coupled with our new gender action plan and Swan Implementation Group, will accelerate the rate of change over the coming years. We are absolutely committed to reaching these targets to harness the passion of colleagues across the University to foster a supportive, inclusive and caring environment for our whole community. 

Further information: Athena Swan Charter | Advance HE ( 

National day for Staff Networks – Wednesday 10th May 2023

Today is National Day for Staff Networks. The day was first launched on 10th May 2017 to emphasise the incredible work that staff networks do and the many benefits they offer to the workplace. It is an opportunity for staff networks to celebrate their achievements, and for the organisations they operate in to recognise the importance of their role. The theme for this year is #stayingstrong.

At the University of Bristol, we have six staff networks. These include:

  • Apprentice Staff Network
  • Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network
  • Childless Staff Network
  • LGBT+ Staff Network
  • Neurodiversity Staff Network
  • Parents and Carers Staff Network

Staff networks offer a safe space for colleagues with shared identities or experiences to connect through regular meetings and events, and are also consulted on university policy and guidance to ensure that the voices of their members are heard and reflected in the decision-making process. They are therefore a key part of the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) work that we do.

I think that the staff networks themselves are really important because they really create these spaces where people can come together and share their experiences, but crucially also look at how we can make the University better, and challenge the University to be betterReuben Chatterjee, Co-Chair of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network.

Being a member of a staff network is a fantastic way to connect with a wide range of colleagues from across the university with similar interests to yourselfRowan Kinsella, member of the Apprentice Staff Network and Neurodiversity Staff Network.

In 21/22, over eight hundred members of staff were involved with our staff networks and network events. Network highlights from last year include:

  • The Apprentice Staff Network held a Winter and Summer Away Day which allowed network members to get to know one another, and focused on developing resilience.
  • The Childless Staff Network continued to raise awareness of childlessness in the workplace and engaged with other universities to discuss best practice regarding policies and support for childless members of staff.
  • The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network continued to support the development of the University’s anti-racism action plan and supported minority ethnic staff by implementing a buddying system which pairs existing members of staff with those who are new to the University.
  • The LGBT+ Staff Network supported the University in participating in Bristol Pride and contributed to the University’s submission to Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, which saw the University earn a place on Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list and achieve a Gold award – a first for the University!
  • The Parents and Carers Network collaborated with Staff Engagement to arrange a workshop specifically addressing Wellbeing for Working Parents and Carers, and ran a series of online events to collect feedback about the blended working trial.
  • The Neurodiversity Staff Network arranged for Pete Quinn, an Inclusion Consultant, to deliver a talk on Neurodiversity and supported the University to secure Research England funding for the Supporting Neurodivergent Research Culture project.

Our culture and staff community benefit from the range of staff networks at the university and the hard work of volunteers who lead them. So on this day, and every day, we want to celebrate all the fantastic work that they do and say thank you!

If you are interested in joining a staff network, or want to find out more, visit the staff network webpage.

Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV): A Brief History

In this post, Sophie Litherland, a Teaching Laboratory Technician at the University, explains what TDOV is about and why it is so important to highlight trans joy. 

Today we celebrate Trans Day of Visibility, but what exactly does that mean?

The first Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) was celebrated in 2009 in the United States, as a response to the perception that only prominent trans people were visible to society as individuals, rather than as a demographic within the population. Since then, it has evolved in meaning and is celebrated across the globe.

One of the many purposes of TDOV is to highlight the injustices that trans people face both as systemic issues and from how society as a whole perceives us. This can range from access to appropriate medical care to prejudice from others. Recently in the UK there has been increased media output towards the trans community, with misinformation rife in many different forms, with an overall negative effect on the trans community as a whole. TDOV is an opportunity to listen to trans voices and understand what difficulties need to be overcome in the struggle for trans liberation.

While many cisgender people (non-trans people) may only hear of trans issues sporadically, for some of us it can be unrelenting throughout the year. It can be pragmatic to take some headspace away from this and for me personally, this will be in the form of trans joy. When I first came out to friends, one of the last responses I expected was a raucous “congratulations!”, but after having time to reflect, I can see that the congratulations were one of the most appropriate responses.

Trans joy can manifest in many different ways. For some it’s an opportunity to embrace their identity, whether new or well established. It can be as simple as taking the time to be grateful of our identity and the ability to express it. For others it can even be so simple for some as just enjoying whatever things in life make them happy, without having identity come into it at all. A simple smile can be a reprieve from the world all by itself.

There is also the attitude of being unapologetic about who we are. I have certainly felt the desire to just blend into the background about my identity, feeling the need to explain and justify my identity to others can be exhausting. TDOV gives an opportunity for trans people to be unapologetic about who we are, to be visible and to be heard. It’s about not worrying if our very identity might inconvenience others, but having it be something to celebrate and be proud of. If trans people can experience that just one day of the year, they may start to want to experience it every day of the year, which I can only see as a positive.

There is an adage within the community that exclaims “I hate being trans, it’s awesome” which comes to my mind frequently. It’s the unbridled joy of being myself in spite of everything, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Being Anti-Racist: ‘Disrupting Whiteness and Privilege’ with Dr Matt Jacobs

On Thursday 26th January, the EDI Team launched the Being Anti-Racist: Awareness, Change, Transform (ACT) development programme, which is a continuation of the Disrupting Racism programme. This programme serves to raise awareness, implement change, and empower people to transform behaviours.

The first of this three-part programme was a talk from Dr Matt Jacobs, Honorary Research Associate, School of Sociology, Politics, and International Studies. In his talk, Dr Jacobs explored the definition of ‘whiteness’ and its role in facilitating an unbalanced system of power, discussed the importance of recognising white privilege, and examined how we can disrupt racism by disrupting whiteness.

Of those who attended the talk by Dr Jacobs, 80% found it “very helpful” in increasing their understanding of being Anti-Racist. Sarah Price, a Senior Engagement Officer in the Development and Alumni Relations Office, attended the talk by Dr Jacobs, and had the following to say:

I signed up to attend the Being Anti-Racist series because I wanted to learn more. I think like most people, I want to fight against racism but am not always sure what else I could be doing to make a real difference. The first talk in the series addressed some difficult and uncomfortable ideas in a very clear way. It was well structured and informative and there are some excellent follow up resources for staff to engage with. I’ve shared these, and the recording of the first talk with colleagues in my team.

 With the University looking to address its legacy of slavery, it’s a topic which is at the forefront of conversations amongst the Bristol community, and it’s really helpful to have access to this extra set of resources whilst we reflect on our history and look towards the future. 

Other attendees had the following to say:

[It was] really interesting to learn more about what creates ‘whiteness’ and how to look out for it. I’ll also be raising some of Matt’s suggestions particularly around how we recruit.

 I thought the point being made about challenging racism by pointing out the whiteness of other people interesting that I haven’t come across as a suggestion in my learning to be anti-racist.

 I found it very clear and challenging. I will try to address racism when I see it now and I think I am more likely to see it now.

 It gave a different perspective on white privilege that I had not previously considered, so it opened my eyes considerably.

If you have signed up to the Being Anti-Racist programme, you can view the recording of the talk on the SharePoint site. To sign up, search for the programme in Develop.

LGBTQ+ History Month: LGBTQ+ representation in film

February marks the beginning of LGBTQ+ History Month, an annual month-long celebration of LGBTQ+ history! The theme this year is “Behind the Lens”, which celebrates the contribution of LGBTQ+ people to cinema and film.

In the article below, Dr Jacqueline Ristola, a Lecturer in Animation (Digital) in the Department of Film and Television at the University of Bristol, discusses both the successes and challenges of the fight for increased LGBTQ+ representation in animation. 

One of the hardest areas where the fight for LGBTQ representation is most difficult is in children’s media. This is because of the toxic assumption that the very existence of LGBTQ folx is perceived as ‘unsuitable’ for children. Recent animated children’s television, however, has made great strides to combat this. Popular series such as Steven Universe (Rebecca Sugar, 2013-2020) and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (ND Stevenson, 2018-2020) have paved the way in terms of explicit queer representation on screen. Both series, for example, feature female/female-coded characters explicitly declaring their love for each other and kissing, something unthinkable only a decade or so ago. Both series have also been trailblazing behind the screen as well, as each series was created by a nonbinary person (Sugar and Stevenson), as well as a diverse production staff.

While this representation on and off screen is incredibly important in increasing diversity within media (particularly for children), I want to highlight how these stories are sometimes co-opted by the media conglomerates that supposedly support their development.

While these series have been lauded for their excellence, as well as their progressive qualities, these accolades don’t always remain with the creators alone. Warner Bros Discovery, for example, uses the diverse and inclusive aspects of the series Steven Universe and its creators to bolster the company’s own claims around their equity and inclusion. One of their recent Equity & Inclusion Report asserts that “Our animation shows representation,”[1] pointing out the significant LGBTQ representation both on screen in Steven Universe, and off screen in the production of the series.

This is ironic, however, as Sugar and their staff struggled to get Steven Universe produced by the very conglomerate that frames itself as an ally. Sugar was told initially by studio executives that queer romance was not a possibility, and that any discussion of LGBTQ relationships on the show would cause the removal of it from many countries and end the series.[2] Similarly, Stevenson of She-Ra was also initially told “point-blank” that queer relationships were not possible on their show.[3]

 While each series creator was told that LGBTQ romance was impossible, both Sugar and Stevenson, alongside their staff, worked cleverly and tirelessly to ensure LGBTQ representation could make it on the screen. In order to win their fight for said representation, each creator meticulously constructed each show to both flesh out the world building and the character relationships so that LGBTQ relationships were the only logical and satisfying conclusions. This wasn’t done without struggle, and creators had to carefully negotiate and push back against internal censorship (intentional or otherwise) within each company. In short, both creators had to fight behind the screen to get explicit LGBTQ representation on the screen, a struggle that corporate performances of allyship conveniently elide.

In sum, when we think about LGBTQ representation both on and behind the screen, we should also consider how this form of representation might be appropriated in other contexts. We should be wary of how creators work hard behind the scenes to tell stories of marginalized groups, and how corporations co-opt this media for its veneer of progressiveness in public, despite making such representation difficult or near-impossible in the actually production process. Such corporate performance of queer “allyship” around these queer animated series upstages the real star performers: the queer creative staffs, whose immense struggles to create their animation succeed in spite of, and not because of, their corporate bosses. We should celebrate series like Steven Universe and She-Ra, not only for their excellent LGBTQ representation, but for the material work they have put into securing a space of LGBTQ representation in the future.

[1] WarnerMedia, ‘Equity & Inclusion Report 2020/21’, 2021,, 35.

[2] Matt Moen, “In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson,” Paper Magazine, August 5, 2020,

[3] Moen, “In Conversation.”

Inclusion Forum relaunch event

On Wednesday 2nd November, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Team relaunched the Inclusion Forum by inviting award-winning diversity and inclusion expert, Asif Sadiq, to deliver a talk focusing on what staff at the University can do to promote EDI within their roles.

A key message of the talk was about the importance of EDI – not only as the right thing to do, but also as a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010, and as something that can help to drive business. However, Asif also spoke about the importance of moving beyond inclusion, and focusing on creating a sense of belonging. Asif argued that diversity without psychological safety, created through a sense of belonging, is not enough to promote EDI. Until people feel safe to be themselves at work, and speak freely, organisations cannot reap the benefits of having a diverse workforce.

During his talk, Asif outlined five things that we can all do to champion EDI:

1) Disruption – identify what it is in our teams, departments, processes and practices that is resulting in a lack of inclusion and think about how we can challenge them and what small changes we can make to drive change. Asif suggested that this might include giving someone the opportunity to speak in a meeting, going to lunch with someone you would not normally have lunch with, or speaking up for what you believe in and being an ally.
2) Don’t be afraid to get things wrong – Asif noted that people are often afraid of getting involved in conversations around EDI as they are worried about saying the wrong thing and causing offence. However, Asif argued that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and we also need to ensure that we create an environment with psychological safety where people feel safe to engage in these conversations. It is ok to make mistakes, so long as we accept when we are challenged, and learn from them.
3) Challenge our own thinking – challenge our unconscious biases, stereotypes and any assumptions we may have.
4) Use any privilege we have to be an ally for others – Asif noted that we all have privilege, and we should use this to promote EDI and speak up for others. Asif argued that a true ally is someone who advocates for others when they are not in the room, and amplifies their voice when they are in the room, rather than speaking on their behalf.
5) Find a personal connection/motivation for EDI – finally, Asif suggested that we should all find a personal connection or motivation for promoting EDI. This could be lived experience, believing that it is the right thing to do, or recognising the benefit it has on business. Asif argued that this was important as it provides a genuine motivation and intent, and will also give us confidence in conversations around EDI.

In ending the talk, Asif emphasised the importance of everyone getting involved in EDI, and stressed that it is not something that can be achieved by one person or one team. He also highlighted the importance of promoting EDI outside of work, and suggested that we should all look for opportunities where we experience difference and discomfort, as it is these situations that allow us to learn and diversify our thinking.

If you would like to join the Inclusion Forum, or have anything to share via the blog, please contact