Athena SWAN Charter provides an evaluation and accreditation framework to help improve gender equity policies and practices in academic institutions, with demonstrable results in the United Kingdom. The University of Tasmania is an inaugural member of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Pilot of Athena SWAN.
The Athena SWAN Charter
The Charter initially started in the UK, through two interrelated activities: the Athena Project, led by female academics, and the Scientific Women’s Academic Network (SWAN) that worked to establish a national charter for gender equity.
The Athena SWAN Charter was eventually established in the UK in 2005 by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), a not-for-profit organisation with an evidence-based approach that addresses multiple discrimination issues. Over the past ten years, the Athena SWAN charter has shown demonstrated impact in the UK academic landscape. While it was first focused in advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) disciplines, in May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), 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.
There are currently 93 institutions that hold Athena SWAN Awards in the UK.
The SAGE Initiative
In Australia, women comprise more than half of science PhD graduates and early career researchers, but just 17% of senior academics in Australian universities and research institutes are women. The loss of women scientists is a significant waste of expertise, talent and investment, and negatively impacts our nation’s scientific productivity and innovation potential.
The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Initiative was started in 2014 by the Australian Academy of Science and in partnership with the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE), with the aim to support the hiring, promotion, participation and retention of women in science, engineering, technology, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
The SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN
Officially launched in September 2015, the SAGE Pilot is a trial of the Athena SWAN Charter within Australia. For this purpose, the Charter was extended from six (in the UK) to ten principles that Australian institutions need to accept in order to become members of the pilot.
The ten principles of the Athena SWAN Charter
- We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
- We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.
- We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including
- the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
- We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
- We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.
- We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
- We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by transgender people.
- We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
- We commit 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.
- All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.
The Charter requires participating institutes to apply for a Bronze Institutional Award demonstrating that the institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff. To do so, institutions need to collect and analyse data about their current state, prior to developing and implementing a four-year action plan, along with a commitment to monitor progress, ensuring systemic and sustainable improvement.
The University of Tasmania is one of 40 inaugural institutions around Australia taking part in the two-year pilot of the program. University of Tasmania's involvement is being lead by Professor Brigid Heywood, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and includes a team of professional and academic staff from across the University.