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Athena Swan

Athena SWAN

About Athena Swan

The UK’s Equality Challenge Unit’s (ECU) Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

In May 2015 the charter was 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.

‚ÄčECU’s Athena SWAN Charter covers women (and men where appropriate) in:
  • academic roles in STEMM and AHSSBL
  • professional and support staff
  • trans staff and students
In relation to their:
  • representation
  • progression of students into academia
  • journey through career milestones
  • working environment for all staff

In a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority, the Athena SWAN Charter was launched in Ireland in early 2015. Figures published by the Higher Education Authority in its 2016 National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions highlight gender inequality as an issue for the sector.

Taking part in the Athena SWAN Charter is a holistic and developmental process, where targeted actions are undertaken to change systematic inequality and impact can be measured over time. While good practice and impact are recognised through the conferral of awards (Bronze, Silver and Gold), the Charter acts as a framework through which institutions can effect cultural change through their engagement and active commitment to its principles.

Access to the Athena SWAN framework was extended to the Irish Higher Education Sector in 2015. Securing an award under the Charter involves the development of an institution-wide Action Plan to improve gender equality and diversity, and putting in place appropriate structures to rigorously monitor progress of the Plan's implementation. The Plan itself must be specific to issues faced by the institution.

Athena Swan Charter