How UEA is breaking the bias

Published by  Communications

On 8th Mar 2022

Women at UEA doing the International Women's Day 'Break The Bias' X sign

Women from across the UEA community have come together to celebrate International Women's Day (IWD), taking part in a group photo and sharing individual stories as to how they #BreakTheBias. Across the University, UEA is working hard to drive equality and diversity. 

  • UEA is a Silver Athena Swan award holder in recognition of its impact towards gender equality - only 20 Higher Education Institutions in the UK hold a Silver Award.
  • All of the University’s Schools are actively engaged in the Athena Swan charter with 86% (or 18) Schools holding awards. The remaining Schools are submitting this year.  
  • UEA’s Executive Team has increased its female leaders from one in 2012/13 to six in 2021/22 – making it 60% female. 
  • UEA Council has improved its gender balance over the last three years to now be 50% female, with a female Chair. 

The theme for this year’s IWD is #BreakTheBias; envisioning a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, where difference is valued and celebrated. This theme is coupled with a #BreakTheBias pose, involving individuals crossing their arms into the shape of an X.  

People from across the UEA community came together to mark this year’s theme in a collective group photo, and by sending in individual photos of themselves striking the #BreakTheBias pose. They were invited to share how they #BreakTheBias in their professional work, University studies, or simply in everyday activities. Find out more about their stories below.


Diane Agleron (BIO - Student) 

“Being a woman in STEM who is also from an ethnic minority background, there is always an expectation that you’ll underachieve and when you do overachieve people are often shocked. I’m trying to change that outlook and push for greater representation of women in STEM, who also derive from Eastern backgrounds.” 

Professor Christine Bovis-Cnossen - Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor 

"Happy International Women’s Day. My thoughts are with our sisters in Ukraine and the surrounding region who will not be able to observe this important day as they would like.  

"I have dedicated my entire career to gender equality. As part of my commitment to #Breakthebias I will continue to actively challenge gendered stereotypes and assumptions and support those who also call out discrimination and bias. Gender Equity Now!” 

Dr Tharin Blumenschein, Associate Professor, School of Chemistry

"I will #BreakTheBias by actively challenging mine and my colleagues’ assumptions about people. Removing all bias will benefit #WomenInScience and generally increase diversity."

Saeng Phrompeng (ENV - Student) 

“In my experience of working in different industries there is often the expectation that men and women should carry out different tasks, for example that men carry out heavy lifting jobs and women do not. That is something I want to challenge and change, as women should have equal opportunities to different job roles.” 

Kirstyn Middlemiss, Project Coordinator, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team

"Learning from the women around me. Sharing my knowledge and experience. Being an active ally for gender equality, both in and out of the workplace."

Sharon Weekley – Administration manager – Estates and Facilities division 

"I left a secure full-time job to become a mature student at UEA in 2003 and after completing my degree, I just never left. A lot of people tried to scare me out of taking that first degree because I was 'too old' to change, but I didn't believe them then and I certainly don't now. I break the bias by believing that it's never too late to change your career path or take on a new challenge. In my role as co-Chair for Staff Pride and in my day job as a manager, I promote lifelong learning and the right to change your life at any time, whatever your age."

Sarah Finch – Project Officer 

"I strive to lift up and empower women around me in every situation – whether that’s saying thank you for a job well done, taking the time to listen, or complimenting an unacknowledged skill. There are opportunities to do this every day!"

 Helen Wiseman, Director, People and Culture 

"To me breaking the bias means an equal and enabled workplace free of gender stereotypes, particularly those that look to suppress women from growing, developing and recognising their full potential."  

Hannah Clarke – Project Coordinator, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team

"Through my work on the Athena Swan gender equality charter mark, I advise colleagues on how to remove barriers for underrepresented groups in the career pipeline, from undergraduate to professorial level, and over time we often see real impact, which always feels extremely rewarding and fulfilling.” 

Professor Emma Sutton-Pavli, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Student Experience and Education 

"I am breaking the bias by being open regarding my own and family members' experiences of mental ill-health and domestic violence. Whilst our lived experience shapes who we are, it does not define us or limit our potential. Barriers must be removed to enable us all to pursue our ambitions in a de-stigmatised and non-judgemental environment."

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