The Pirbright Institute is committed to promoting gender equality as a core principle throughout its work and practices. In 2023, The Pirbright Institute was awarded an Athena Swan Silver Award, which demonstrates our ongoing progress towards equality, diversity and inclusion and lays out our future priorities and actions for continued development and improvement.
Gender equality is just one part of Pirbright’s broader mission to build a positive research culture for all staff and students working at Pirbright. We understand that in order to continue undertaking world-leading research we have to ensure we are providing a supportive, safe, inclusive and collaborative environment.
Pirbright adheres to the Horizon Europe Gender Equality plan requirements as follows:
Our Athena Swan action plan is publicly available on our website and fully supported by our Institute Director Prof. Bryan Charleston. This document clearly defines Pirbright’s current position on gender equality as well as setting measurable goals for how it can continue to improve and overcome the challenges it faces in bringing parity to all areas of its work.
In 2013, Pirbright’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC) was set up to work alongside our Athena Swan working group to compile our first Athena Swan application, for which we successfully achieved bronze accreditation. Since then, the committee has remained in place to act as a voice for EDI and gender equality within the Institute. Its main responsibilities are promoting and recommending actions for the Institute to take in order to meet and go beyond its legal obligations. It also monitors and reports on Pirbright’s success against its goals and celebrates EDI within the Institute.
Pirbright has appointed a dedicated Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager who will support the committee and wider institute community to ensure EDI and gender equality remain at the forefront of all institute practices and policies. The Manager also assists with data collection and monitoring our success against our goals enabling Pirbright to continue building its status as an equal and diverse workplace.
As well as human resource to support gender equality matters, Pirbright is proud to have a Research Culture fund. The spend of this dedicated budget is agreed by the EDI committee and is used to fund activities that contribute to Pirbright’s equal opportunities status such as: EDI events, staff training and workshops, and building a variety of staff networks such as Pirbright Carers and the Rainbow Network to connect LGBTQI+ staff and allies.
Data Collection and monitoring
Data collection and monitoring is central to our gender equality and wider EDI goals and is conducted as part of various institute processes such as recruitment, leadership and management monitoring, committee membership monitoring and promotions as well as grant portfolio monitoring. This data is collected and analysed biannually to inform our evolving practice and is reported on as part of the Athena Swan process and through the development of the Institute’s five-year strategic plan.
As well as carrying out the routine reporting and analysis discussed above, Pirbright also conducts a whole staff Culture Survey biennially followed by in-person focus groups with staff from across all teams on a variety of topics including EDI and gender equality, work-life balance, wellbeing at work, and leadership and management. The insight gained from these groups is used to develop the Pirbright Employee Engagement Action Plan (EEAP) which sets out aims and actions to address matters of importance or concern to the staff body and continue to ensure Pirbright is an enriching and enjoyable place to work.
We understand that practicing gender equality goes beyond committees and institute policies. In order for there to be consistent systemic change, everyone working and studying at Pirbright has to understand the Institute ethos and share its values. Training is imperative to making this a reality. Consequently, Pirbright has several training opportunities in place to support staff and student learning on how they as individuals can maintain inclusive outlooks and practices. Examples of this training include in-person unconscious bias training and panel interview training for recruiting managers, EDI manager training and online “Equality and Diversity in the Workplace” and active bystander training.
Pirbright’s work-life balance strategy is covered in section three of our most recent Athena Swan application.
Pirbright is committed to enabling its staff to follow and achieve their career goals without feeling they have to sacrifice their commitments and interests outside work. The flexible working policy offers staff a number of options to work outside the standard ‘9-5’ five days a week routine, for example part-time, compressed hours and alternative working hours are all options individuals can discuss with their managers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid working has also been adopted by the Institute, giving greater flexibility for all staff, particularly those with caring or childcare responsibilities. We have also relaunched the Attendance Support Grant, which provides financial renumeration for extra caring costs incurred due to attendance at training or conferences.
Gender Balance in Leadership and Decision Making
Pirbright endeavours to ensure there is equal gender representation in all key committees and leadership boards. Currently of the nine management level committees, five have female chairs, and at board level, two of six committees have female chairs. Female membership of committees ranges from 13-83%, and our senior leadership board is 25% female. Within senior roles at Band F and above, 44% are held by females and 56% are held by males. Within our silver Athena Swan action plan, there are actions to promote and demonstrate job sharing and flexible working amongst senior roles and greater support for employees during and following parental leave. We have also employed two Roving researchers to support the continuation of science.
Gender equality in recruitment and career progression
Pirbright has consistently achieved an equal gender representation across the staff and student body for the past five years with the 2022 figures being confirmed as 49.8 : 50.2 female to male. Despite this we continue to improve our recruitment and promotion practices to reduce bias and ensure equality and diversity in all process, for example standardising the job description form and recruitment process to ensure that only gender-neutral language is used and encourage diversity. Pirbright has also seen a year-on-year increase in the number of females applying for personal promotion. To continue to facilitate staff from all backgrounds plan their career progression and apply for promotion schemes, Pirbright has introduced a number of training schemes including a personal promotion training course and courses for line managers on completing the annual appraisal process and guiding staff on career progression.
Integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content
Pirbright’s entire EDI and gender equality strategy across all directorates relate to creating a diverse and inclusive environment within the field of research. This is evidenced by our gender-balance across the staff body as a whole and through our consistent improvement in bringing more balance to the decision-making and leadership positions of the institute, as detailed in the Athena Swan document.
On top of that Pirbright continues to promote a positive and inclusive research culture both in the work environment and in a social and community context.
Within the research itself, Pirbright is increasing the measures in place to ensure that the results are relevant across genders. Every effort is made to ensure both genders/sexes are represented as equally as possible and the differences are taken into account when discussing and disseminating the results.
Measures against gender-based violence, including sexual harassment
Pirbright has in place an Active Bystander reporting tool which allows staff to report any incidents of bullying or harassment towards either themselves or another member of staff (or student cohort) anonymously. Active Bystander training is a mandatory requirement for all staff so that everyone is confident about how to identify unacceptable behaviour and how to address it in an appropriate way. The number of staff/students who answered yes to the statement “I have experienced bullying and/or harassment at Pirbright in the last 12 months” reduced from 12% in 2019 to 8.5% in 2022, with further actions for improvement detailed in our Athena Swan action plan (Action 1.3).