Creating a gender equal and inclusive university and city region

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2024, provides us with an opportunity to shine a light on inspirational women in our community and reflect on our progress as an organisation towards gender equality. In a follow-up blogpost, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, Professor Judith Squires shares how our role as a global civic university contributes to creating a safer, more inclusive city by supporting women’s empowerment.

As a global civic university, our aspirations can ‘be best shaped and delivered collectively by a diverse and empowered university community’ (University Vision and Strategy 2030).  A key component of that approach is improving our processes and structures to provide a level field for every member of our community.

In my post to mark International International Women’s Day 2024, I promised to provide more details about how we’ve been working collectively with the City of Bristol and our civic partners to tackle sexual violence and harassment, and to create a more gender equal and inclusive city region and university through our research, our education and our civic engagement.

Civic University Agreement

As a global civic institution, the University of Bristol is committed to making a positive impact locally, nationally and globally by fostering partnerships and shaping actions to address key challenges.

Through our Civic University Agreement with the University of the West of England, City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council, and the City Office, we aim to co-create a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous future. It provides a strong foundation for each organisation to work more closely together, using combined resources and networks, and building on many existing projects and the One City Approach, to make Bristol fairer, healthier, and more sustainable. This partnership delivers many positive benefits to the city of Bristol including new jobs, apprenticeships, research collaborations and educational opportunities. It also supports a range of initiatives to foster an inclusive city by supporting women’s empowerment.

Students sitting at tables with activities
Students attending sexual violence and harassment workshop

Some examples of recent initiatives include our work to tackle sexual harassment and supporting female entrepreneurship. On 5 February we launched a joint commitment, in partnership with Bristol Students’ Union, the University of Bath, Bath Spa University, UWE Bristol, and their respective student unions, to tackle sexual violence and harassment across our region. The commitment includes 10 ways we will foster a safe environment on campus, while making sure that students affected by sexual violence or harassment are supported. This includes educating students on consent, providing clear channels to report inappropriate behaviour and supporting students if they want to report sexual violence or harassment.

The joint commitment was published during Sexual Violence Awareness Week (5-11 February 2024). During that week, the University and Bristol SU delivered several events and outreach activities including hosting a stall in the SU Loft space of Senate House and delivering workshops on consent and respectful relationships.

This builds on the work of our Addressing Sexual Violence Working Group, established in 2022, which is leading on a multi-year plan to improve our institutional approach to addressing sexual misconduct for both students and staff.

Meanwhile we have been delivering a range of activities supporting female entrepreneurship and helping women access work experience opportunities. So far this academic year, we have helped 75 female students gain work experience in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) through our SME Internship Scheme. Out of the 112 of our internships available, 67% have been secured by women.

In addition, we have continued to support and encourage a pipeline of female business leaders through our Basecamp Enterprise activities. This has seen increased participation of women in the New Enterprise Competition, and as of this moment in 2024, engagement of women entrepreneurs through this scheme has risen to 55%.

We are also proud founding signatories of the Bristol Women in Business Charter, which is committed to achieving gender equality and inclusivity for all business women. Professor Palie Smart, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global-Civic Engagement and Professor Phil Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, spoke at their recent event to discuss Gender Bias in Artificial Intelligence.

The SETsquared programme for Enterprising Women, funded by NatWest in partnership with the University, is another example of how we support women to take their businesses or ideas to the next stage.

While we are proud of our achievements in this space, we recognise that there is more to be done to empower women both within our organisation and in our interactions with city partners. By working in collaboration with city and regional stakeholders and ensuring that our values of gender equality are reflected in these partnerships, we can continue to push this agenda forward.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *