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, only 19% of professors are women. In Institutes of Technology, women make up 45% of academic staff but just 29% of senior academic staff.

Athena SWAN and NUI Galway

NUI Galway signed up to the Athena SWAN charter in 2015 and identified the attainment of an Athena SWAN Bronze award as a key priority in Vision 2020, the University’s Strategic Plan 2015-2020.

NUI Galway submitted an unsuccessful application for an Athena SWAN Bronze Award in April 2015, in the first round of awards open to Irish institutions. The Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team (SAT) received detailed feedback and recommendations from the Equality Challenge Unit that has informed and helped shape further actions to strengthen the University’s commitment to embedding the key principles of the Athena SWAN Charter.

As part of the consultation process for the Athena SWAN submission in 2015, the SAT conducted a survey of all staff in March 2015 on workplace culture in NUI Galway. The purpose of this survey was to help the SAT understand how male and female staff members experience their working environment and identify what can be improved to ensure equality of opportunity.

Overall, 964 staff members responded to the survey, representing 46% of total staff. The responses provided to the survey have and continue to inform actions and initiatives to eliminate gender bias and develop an inclusive culture that values all staff. Analysis of the open-ended qualitative data was completed in October 2015 and a report was produced: Report on Athena SWAN Culture Survey 2015.

A new university-wide Athena SWAN self-assessment team (SAT) was established in September 2016 to prepare a resubmission for an institutional bronze award in April 2017. Expressions of interest were sought from staff and the SAT was selected against a number of criteria to ensure both a gender balance and a requirement for diversity and experience in terms of staff category, grade, working arrangements and leadership.

 Members of the 2016 University Self-Assessment Team

 
Athena SWAN and NUI Galway Schools

The Athena SWAN charter goes beyond the institutional level and Schools within NUI Galway are currently reviewing and preparing their own applications.

The College of Engineering and Informatics (CoEI) submitted a departmental bronze application in April 2017 and is the first school in NUI Galway to apply for departmental accreditation. Further information on equality and diversity in the CoEI is available on their website.