ASSET 2016: experiences of gender equality in STEMM academia and their intersections with ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and age

About (English version): 

ASSET 2016 included six aspects related to STEMM academics’ working life: perceptions of gender equality; recruitment; job and career; caring responsibilities, leave and career breaks; training and leadership; promotion and development. ASSET 2016 includes a novel discussion of how gender differences in these aspects of working life intersect with other protected characteristics, including ethnicity/race, sexual orientation, disability and age.

The final weighted sample size was 4869 respondents (2495 men, 2374 women) of which 639 identified as black or minority ethnic (BME), 305 self-identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB), and
862 reported having disclosed as disabled.  


  • Assign mentors or develop mentoring programmes for all staff that can help academics in early career posts to increase their visibility and progress their career development. Ensure all staff have access to such programmes and opportunities to be a mentor or mentee as appropriate.
  • Ensure academic contracts can accommodate the flexible working policies that will support staff through changing circumstances
    to deliver personal and institutional academic objectives. These policies could include limitations on working into the evening or on weekends.

  • Establish an appropriate balance in the distribution of teaching and administrative duties and set budget (time and money) for training programmes. Female academics in the current sample frequently cited lack of available time and money as a reason for not attending training.

  • Promote development of supportive and career progressing networks, and ensure all staff have opportunities to engage with senior departmental staff and important departmental committees, which may in turn enable access informal circles and involvement in the social life of the department.

  • Put in place options to help staff return to work after leave for caring responsibilities. Improving the transition back to work from parental leave could help mitigate the negative impact of caring responsibilities on female academics’ career progression revealed in this report. Women’s disproportionate caring responsibilities were a common finding in a number of the gender differences identified in this report. Out of the 11 options meant to help academics return from parental leave, nine were not available to the majority of respondents, regardless of gender, despite some being relatively simple to offer (ie allowing academic staff returning from parental leave to have a lower teaching or administrative load initially, or to begin part-time and work toward being full-time).
  • Explore options to offer analogous leave to staff caring for another adult as is offered to staff caring for children. Respondents’ commentary in the current report identified the need for flexibility in working hours and workload options available to parents to be similarly available to carers.
  • Acknowledge the need to work long hours and the issues for career progression that arise from this culture, as this was highlighted as a limiting factor by respondents throughout the ASSET 2016 survey. Implement work allocation models championed by Athena SWAN and the Race Equality Charter to manage scheduling of meetings and duties and ensure that this is compatible with external responsibilities.
  • Investigate whether the perceived gender imbalance in the allocation of teaching responsibilities uncovered in this report exists in individual institutions and whether allocations are optimal for staff delivery and development overall. This may be an important aspect for departments and institutions to monitor as the teaching excellence framework and increasing student fees are changing the demands and evaluation of teaching.
  • Make certain that promotion criteria include a specific focus on the quality of an applicant’s work as well as their performance in other academic areas (eg teaching, pastoral and administrative duties). Additional actions to promote balance in promotion and development include monitoring the association between workload and promotion in departments; providing staff with workshops on the promotion process; and using case studies of individuals who have been successfully promoted while working part-time as potential role models. 
  • Evaluate performance in line management and guard against variability in the amount and type of support provided to academic staff by:
    • Ensuring that line management duties are evenly distributed (eg that the head of department is not line managing all of the department’s academic staff).
    • Supporting the development of staff’s line management skills and integrating training on both practical tasks, such as how to conduct appraisals and allocate work, with formal training on inclusive management practices (eg unconscious bias and equality and diversity training designed to increase line managers’ sensitivity towards issues such as those surrounding disability and caring responsibilities). 
    • Motivating line managers to prioritise these duties by increasing the accountability of line managers and adding incentives or rewards for being a good line manager. 
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