What is Athena SWAN?

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 by the Equality Challenge Unit in the UK 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.

In a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), access to the Athena SWAN framework was extended to Irish universities in 2015. Figures published by the HEA highlight gender inequality as an issue for the sector.  Across Irish universities in 2018, only 23% of Professors are women, and only 30% of the highest level of professional staff are women.  No Irish university has yet had a female President. Engagement with the Athena SWAN framework is a proven way of bringing gender equality into strategic and operational planning, and working toward improving the outcome for all staff.

Athena SWAN Ireland

Athena SWAN Ireland logo

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. 

The Athena SWAN Ireland charter is underpinned by eight key principlesThe 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.

Athena SWAN at NUI Galway

NUI Galway is an Athena SWAN Charter member since 2015 and achieved a Bronze Institution award in 2018 under the pre-2015 Charter. The Institutional Self-Assessment Team (SAT) has overseen the implementation of the Athena SWAN 2017/18 action plan including the establishment of SAT and submissions with a particular emphasis on STEMM schools to date.

Athena SWAN - AdvanceHE

The Office of the Vice-President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (OVPEDI) leads on engagement with the Athena SWAN Charter and embedding Athena SWAN principles in the University. Vice-Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in all four Colleges provide leadership and support for Athena SWAN activity at school level. 

NUI Galway’s commitment to Athena SWAN is explicit in the University Strategy 2020-2025: 'We will maintain our Athena SWAN Bronze Award and aim to achieve institutional Silver-level accreditation to further advance diversity and equality in the University'. A goal of the EDI Strategy 2020-2025 is to 'Achieve an institutional Athena SWAN Silver Award'.

The University secured a renewed Bronze Athena SWAN Award in recognition of the University’s continued progression on gender equality.

To date, nine Schools have attained Bronze departmental awards; School of Medicine (renewal), School of Chemistry, School of Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, and School of Mathematics, Statistics & Applied Maths, School of Nursing and Midwifery, School of Physics, School of Buisiness and Economics, and School of Health Sciences.

Athena SWAN activity is embedded in the University’s EDI and Governance Structure. Progress reports on the action plan are provided quarterly to the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Campus Committee (EDICC) and bi-annually to UMT and Governing Authority via the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Campus Committee (EDICC).

Actions from the Athena SWAN 2017/18 action plan are included in a comprehensive Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) which also include actions from the 2016 NUI Galway Report of the Gender Equality Task Force, the 2016 HEA Review of Gender Equality in Irish HEIs, and the 2018 Ministerial Gender Equality Action Plan: Accelerating Gender Equality in Irish HEIs. Progress reports on the GEAP are updated bi-monthly on the OVPEDI website.

Click here to learn more about the Institutional Self-Assessment Team who led the Athena SWAN application and the Institutional Athena SWAN Steering Group that are driving implementation of the Action Plan.