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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Reasons for graduate survey

In February 2015 the Department of Chemistry's Athena SWAN team surveyed the graduate community in order to analyse gender balance within the Department at graduate level. The survey was designed to raise awareness of possible differences in male and female careers. Its results enable the Department to assess any progress and impact achieved since 2012.


A total of 101 complete responses were received (a 31% return rate) with a higher response rate from female students (57% female, 38% male, 5% preferred not to say). Overall, students were more aware of Athena SWAN and the Departmental policies related to gender equality compared to 2012 (72% agreed or partially agreed that the policies related to gender equality are clear in 2015, compared to 48% in 2012). Students also recognised network opportunities more positively in 2015 (76%) than in 2012 (57%).

The Department had succeeded in improving its career development culture, which was reflected in 68% of respondents feeling supported in career development, compared to 50% in 2012. This improvement was felt by both male and female students and the gap between their assessment decreased: in 2015, 72% of female and 68% of male responders felt there was sufficient support to career development, while in 2012 the figures were 55% and 44%, respectively. A large gender difference observed in 2015 was related to who supports the students in career development. The female responders felt mainly (87%) supported from the Department and 0% stated support by their research group. The equivalent figures for male responders lie at 64% and 10%, respectively. These results as well as feedback on the working hours identified areas with recognised improvements.

Challenges Ahead

However, the survey highlighted a number of challenges to be addressed in order to create a balanced working environment without gender biases.

The results of the survey show that the perception of gender equality changes between PhD and PostDoc level. While 74% of the students agreed that women and men with equivalent undergraduate qualifications have equal potential to be successful as graduate students, only 32% agreed they have equal potential to have a successful research career. If we compare the responses with the gender of the respondents, the majority of female students feel men have more successful research careers, while the majority of male students feel women and men have equally successful careers (see figure). 

Family Life

Additionally, some comments highlighted the opinion among the responders that research careers are incompatible with family life. These figures and comments drew our attention because the Department is promoting supportive family policies (see Families@Chemistry). Further discussions and meetings with the students have been proposed and will guide the next initiatives.

Vertical networking opportunities should be increased

Responders to the survey suggested improving vertical network opportunities among different layers within the Department, i.e. graduate students with post docs. Opportunities like these may influence the graduate students’ views on gender equality in their career choice.

Mentoring and tutoring programmes will be revised and expanded

Furthermore, responders highlighted that that the Department’s mentoring and tutoring programmes require improvement. Only 49% and 20% of the responders replied positively about the mentoring and tutoring, respectively. The Department is currently revising and expanding the programmes (see our mentoring programme web page) and aims to improve general communication.

Feedback welcome

The Athena SWAN team would like to thank everybody who filled out the Graduate Survey and who participated in the data analysis. Any further feedback is welcome (! Let's all work together and keep on building the equality culture as a tool for science and personal development in our Department.

Gabi Schneider-Rauber, Ines Heimann

Graduate student representatives

Athena SWAN committee 2014/2015