Women in academia

Hi All,

I'm currently researching women in senior academic roles in higher education institutions. 

Currently, my organisation uses the Aurora programme specifically designed to 'allow women to free their leadership potential' - Does anyone else use this programme or have any previous experience of it?

I'm trying to evidence if it is useful in practice and results in a positive impact on gender balance at senior roles? or just another scheme that appears to focus on confidence?

Any thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks


  • Hi Robyn,

    Have you had any contact with the Equalities Challenge Unit? They may be a source of information.

  • Hi Robyn,

    Have you tracked progress of those women after completion of the programme e.g. their job role/grade when they attended the programme and then a comparison at various intervals after the programme e.g. 1, 3 and 5 years down the line. An interesting exercise to give you some insights.... but as with any kind of development, it can be difficult to attribute any progression directly to a specific intervention, simply by using this kind of data. There may be a whole range of other factors at play, that either helped or hindered progression into leadership roles. Interviews / focus groups can add additional depth to your research.

    It's may also be interesting to compare women's progression against that of their male counterparts.

    You could also do something around measuring competence / confidence in a range of areas before and after the programme to demonstrate the impact.

    Best wishes,

  • In reply to Helen:

    Thanks Helen, really appreciate your response!
  • In reply to Rachel:

    Hi Rachel, thanks for the response!

    You're suggestions are great and in line with what I had in mind, so i'm reassured i'm not totally off piste!

    Though sadly, I believe that in many institutions the progression of women at these levels are hindered by male dominated leadership teams - so maybe that's where more of our focus should be.

    The battle continues :)
  • In reply to Robyn:

    Hi Robyn, yes, it's reassuring to know that we're thinking along the same lines!

    I am doing some in-depth evaluation of the Aurora programme this year and looking at its impact within my institution - I must admit that I am becoming less convinced about the programme's value. If I'm being cynical, it very neatly ticks boxes on Athena SWAN charter applications and is seen as the 'go to' development for women in HE looking to move into leadership but I'm starting to receive more feedback that people weren't particularly satisfied with the programme and that sitting in a training room with 200 other women isn't hitting the mark. I've also talked with women who have done the programme and also had some executive coaching and they tell me they gained much more from the coaching (which cost a similar amount). We also have a range of internal leadership programmes (not gender-specific) that add a lot of value. So, yes, maybe our focus isn't in the right direction.

    We're also looking at finding opportunities for women (and men) to gain experience of leadership through other avenues e.g. as school governors, company board members and charity trustees - in my mind, these types of opportunities are likely to have more impact, or at least work well as part of a blended approach to addressing the issue, rather than simply sending people on a course.

    I guess there isn't a 'one size fits all' solution, and as you say, the battle continues!