The Athena Swan charter, owned by Advance HE, was originally established in response to the under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) careers. The Charter was expanded to additionally recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles within higher education and research. It is also now being used to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.
Applications can be submitted by institutions and departments to recognise a higher education institutions commitment to advancing gender equality. Athena Swan awards are subject to an in-depth self-assessment, which is reviewed by a panel drawn from across higher education throughout the UK. Awards are graded as Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Reasons to apply for Athena Swan
The Athena Swan Charter demonstrates commitment to gender equality and excellent working practices. Inclusive employers are able to recruit from the widest possible pool while well-supported staff are more likely to choose stay with LSBU, regardless of their gender. The charter provides a framework for systematically reviewing LSBU’s approach to gender equality, putting in place plans to improve the areas we’re weaker in, and evaluate progress made. We hope Athena Swan will bring about a long term culture change that will benefit all staff.
Athena SWAN’s report Measuring Success outlines positive changes made, and challenges faced, by five longstanding members of the Athena Swan Charter. Athena Swan Charter Patron, Professor Dame Julia Higgins gives the following quote in the foreword:
“The findings of this research study clearly evidence the impact Athena Swan has had, and continues to have, both at an institutional level and for individuals. Within universities and departments, change is happening; organisational structures and practices are being improved, there is greater awareness around culture and gender equality and the importance of good communication is being highlighted. For individuals, Athena Swan has been valuable in encouraging aspiration, identifying and exemplifying role models and illustrating potential academic career pathways and opportunities.”
Research councils are increasingly recognising the value of equality and diversity in higher education. Some are taking proactive steps to ensure that funding recipients embed these principles and that grant winners apply equality and diversity principles in all aspects of research practice.
National Institute for Health Research
In 2011, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) stated: "For future competitions to designate and fund NIHR Biomedical Research Units, Biomedical Research Centres, and Patient Safety Translational Research Centres, it does not expect to short-list any NHS/University partnership where the academic partner (often the Medical School/Faculty of Medicine) has not achieved at least the Silver Award of the Athena SWAN Charter for Women in Science."
RCUK does not require any formal accreditation for funding but does want to see evidence of action to address equality and diversity at a departmental level. RCUK recommends that Athena SWAN might form part of this evidence. See the RCUK press release for further information.
Athena Swan at LSBU
LSBU was accredited with a Bronze level Athena Swan award 2020 – 2025. This level shows that LSBU has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values staff. It is the first step on a long and exciting journey to ensure that LSBU values, celebrates and is inclusive of all its staff, regardless of gender.
Since achieving our Bronze Award, the self-assessment team have been working to implement the actions outlined in our action plan. We are due to renew our Bronze award in 2025.
For further information, please contact the EDI Project Manager for Athena Swan, Dominique Gardner.