We run staff and post-graduate surveys every 2 years to check on how our action plan is delivering for staff, as well as monitor the changing issues that face women (and men) in their career development. We use and adapt the survey format that is recommended by

To highlight one example of a clear message from staff and post-graduate surveys – both groups are worried about work-life balance in academia and maintaining careers in extremely demanding jobs. There are many aspects to the issue of work-life balance, but here are some responses that have emerged from GES:

  • We ran a ‘pizza social’ on work-life balance and asked staff and postgraduates to share their experience of ‘what works’ and ‘what not to do’ and we asked for creative thinking around what the school and university could do better.
  • One suggestion from this session related to reducing email traffic and so we developed a new ‘email good practice guide’, after debating the need for flexibility in how staff choose to respond to email. Download
  • Other suggestions related to work itself and the need for breaks during stressful days. We thus gave staff options for walking lunchtimes, GES funds weekly YOGA classes for all staff and postgraduate students and we have commissioned mental health first aid training the school to help deal with the negative effects of workplace stress. These measures have meant ‘balance’ has become embedded in the school as something we are aware of and strive for. One member of staff took the initiative to organize ‘breathing sessions’ at lunchtime to give staff time and space to ‘balance their bodies’ at work. This wasn’t a direct Athena action, but Athena initiatives are leading to the development of new responses to being at work. 


Here we profile just a selection of our activities: since we started in 2012 we have run career development events every semester (women-only and mixed gender). We have embedded our events as part of the culture of the school and we use our programme of culture-led change to enable staff and students to socialize together while also peer-learning.

An example of this is the ‘pizza socials’ that happen every semester. Pizza socials are a response to staff requests to socialize with each other in core hours. GES funds a pizza lunch for the whole school and during which we share our experience and learn about matters that impact our working lives and careers. In 2015-2016 we ran pizza socials on ‘work-life balance’ and ‘informal mentoring’.

GES Coffee Mornings

Monthly GES Coffee events take place on the first Friday of each month to encourage staff and students to socialise in a relaxed and informal environment. These events are always well attended and provide a great opportunity to meet new staff members and catch up with colleagues and celebrate life events.

Social staff meetings and events

GES provides collective lunches that proceed staff meetings at key points in the year so as to help social networking opportunities for all staff.

Our social events like Christmas parties are family-friendly and include all ages.

Social & Career Development

We have embedded Athena SWAN principles which are enabling career development opportunities for both women and men. Both research groups make a particular effort to create opportunities for external women researchers (of all career stages) to present in their research seminar series.

Before or after formal seminars by both men and women, we arrange a ‘SWAN@GES’ career conversation and coffee’ event whereby postgraduates and ECRs are encouraged to attend and ask questions about being women in academia or more general queries about career paths and transitions. Both men and women attend these informal opportunities for peer learning and ‘career story telling’. Members of the SAT initially ran these events, but now they are embedded in our usual practice around seminar invitations and other staff run them.

Women in GES

The ‘Women in GES’ event took place to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2017. GES staff spoke at the event, organised by our undergraduates. This was a fantastic collaboration between undergraduates and staff at different career stages from UT to Professor.

Professional staff and Athena Swan

SWAN@GES held a workshop in December 2016 with professional staff to engage them in the Athena Swan programme. This workshop work has informed our 4-year action plan, starting in 2017.

SWAN@GES has asked the School to financially support 2 women (professional and academic) to participate in Aurora leadership or equivalent training schemes each year.

Trans Awareness Training

Scottish Trans Alliance provided training to help inform the ways in which we can create accepting and equal working environments for students and for colleagues. Particular highlights for GES staff included learning about the use of gender pronouns and practical steps to ensure that education and course material can be more trans-inclusive. The honest and powerful personal testimonies from speakers who had benefitted from trans-inclusive policies at the University of Glasgow was also appreciated by staff. Following discussions at the training, SWAN@GES is now in the process of implementing policies to cater for and to respect the needs of trans students on field trips.