What is 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 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 and equality, diversity and inclusion more broadly
Engagement with the charter is a key pillar of Ireland’s national strategy for gender equality with progress linked to institutional eligibility for funding from Ireland’s major research agencies. All of Ireland’s publicly funded HEIs and several colleges participate in Athena Swan Ireland.
The Athena Swan Ireland charter has recently undergone a re-development in line with the findings of a national consultation and offers a framework for progressing equality in higher education and research that is unique to Ireland. The objective of the Athena Swan Ireland 2021 charter framework is to support higher education institutions, academic departments, and professional units in impactful and sustainable gender equality work and to build capacity for evidence-based equality work across the equality grounds enshrined in Irish legislation.
Why is Athena SWAN important?
The Higher Education Authority highlighted gender inequality as an issue for the sector in the 2016 National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions, as did the Gender Equality Taskforce in its Gender Action Plan 2018-2020 and the 2nd HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions November 2022.
Athena Swan Ireland Principles
The charter principles are the commitments that underpin Athena Swan Ireland and articulate the shared goals that all charter participants agree to upholding. The principles act as the foundation for the Ireland charter, with all other elements of the framework – including criteria, application and assessment – aligned to these commitments and the values enshrined within them.
In committing to the principles of the Athena Swan Ireland charter, we recognise that we join a global community with a shared goal of addressing systemic inequalities and embedding inclusive cultures in higher education.
We acknowledge that equality, diversity and inclusion strengthens higher education communities—the quality, relevance and impact of teaching and research, and the talent pool of potential staff and students.
By participating in the Ireland charter framework, we strive for impactful and sustainable gender equality work in higher education institutions and seek to build capacity in evidence-based equality interventions across the equality grounds enshrined in Irish legislation.
We recognise that each institution, department, and professional unit has different equality challenges and development priorities, and that these priorities should be developed based on an understanding of the local evidence-base and national and global equality challenges in higher education.
In determining our priorities and interventions, we commit to:
1. adopting robust, transparent, and accountable processes for Athena Swan work, including:
a. embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion in our culture, decision-making and partnerships, and holding ourselves and others in our institution/department/professional unit accountable.
b. ensuring active leadership from senior staff, with those in senior roles at the forefront of taking action, and inspiring and fostering dedication and involvement from staff at all levels.
c. collecting equality monitoring data to measure, understand and publicly report on challenges and progress, taking steps when necessary to support and encourage disclosure.
d. undertaking transparent self-assessment processes to ensure priorities, interventions and actions are evidenced-based and inform our continuous development.
e. distributing tasks appropriately, formally recognising and rewarding work and ensuring there is not a disproportionate burden on underrepresented groups.
2. making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to remedy the effects of structural inequalities and social injustices, which manifest as differential experiences and outcomes for staff and students.
3. tackling behaviours and cultures that detract from the creation of an institutional campus culture that is safe, respectful and supportive, including condemning sexual violence and harassment, bullying, discrimination, unfair treatment, or exploitation of staff, students or partners.
4. addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional, managerial and support functions, including examining gendered occupational segregation, and elevating the status, voice, and career opportunities of under-valued and at-risk groups.
5. fostering collective understanding that intersectional inequalities must be accounted for in the development of effective equality analysis and actions.
6. mitigating the equality impacts of short-term and casual contracts for staff seeking sustainable careers.
7. supporting flexibility and the maintenance of a healthy ‘whole life balance’ and mitigating the equality impact of career breaks and caring responsibilities.
8. fostering collective understanding that individuals have the right to determine and affirm their gender, and to implementing inclusive and effective policies and practices that are cognisant of the lived experiences and needs of trans and non-binary people.
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. It also provides a framework for the implementation of many of the HEA and Taskforce’s recommendations in this area.
Athena SWAN at SETU
SETU Waterford is a member of the Athena SWAN Charter in Ireland since 2017. SETU obtained a legacy logo award in 2020 in recognition of the work of the partner institutes on Gender Equality to date. SETU has published it’s Gender Equality Action Plan which was approved in 2022 SETU has now begun working towards an application for an Institutional Bronze Award for the University which is aims to submit in 2024.
How can I find out more?
Please contact the Office for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at SETU Waterford – [email protected]