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Athena SWAN

What is Athena SWAN?Athena SWAN

The Athena SWAN charter was launched in Ireland in 2015 and is a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority. The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 by the Equality Challenge Unit in the UK with the aim to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, math’s and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. The charter has since expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Why is Athena SWAN important?

The Higher Education Authority highlighted that gender inequality as an issue for the sector in the 2016 National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions[1]. Across Irish universities, only 19% of professors are women while in institutes of technology, women make up 45% of academic staff but just 29% of senior academic staff. While the bronze application has a focus on the career pipeline the Charter is about equality and fairness for all staff and students and includes intersectionality across all levels. The Charter is based on ten key principles which encompass a range of equality issues such as:

  • Commitment to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality,
  • Recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality,
  • Commitment to addressing the loss of women along the career pipeline,
  • Addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional services,
  • Tackling the gender pay gap,
  • Commitment to tackling discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people,
  • Active leadership of advancing gender equality from those in senior roles,
  • Intersectionality and in particular the intersection of gender and ethnicity in influencing recruitment and career development paths. 

Committing to Athena SWAN is a commitment to address gender representations, progression of students into academia, the journey through career milestones and the balanced working environment for all staff.

Athena SWAN Awards

Athena SWAN has 3 application levels of bronze, silver and gold and WIT will be applying for the bronze accreditation from the charter in November 2018. The bronze award serves as the ‘entry-level’ award certifying institutions’ commitment to the 10 key principles of the Athena SWAN Charter and requiring that they perform a critical self-analysis to identify the problem areas and develop an action plan. Currently bronze institutional awards were made to University of Limerick and Trinity in 2015, University College Cork in 2016 and Dublin City University and University College Dublin in 2017.

How can I find out more?

Dr. Valerie Brett is the Athena SWAN project manager coordinating the WIT application. Valerie can be contacted at [email protected] or at 051 306173. An Athena SWAN briefing will be held during PD week for any staff member who wishes to know more.


[1] http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/04/hea_review_of_gender_equality_in_irish_higher_education.pdf