Athena SWAN Charter

Athena SWAN Charter in Ireland

The Athena SWAN charter is a framework that is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality in higher education and research. The charter launched in Ireland in 2015 with a specific remit to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment. The charter has since been expanded to include arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) and staff working in professional, managerial and support roles (PMSS). The framework also now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, including consideration of the experience of trans staff and students, as well as the underrepresentation of men in particular disciplines. The Athena SWAN Bronze, Silver and Gold awards testify to institutions’ and departments’ success in advancing these goals and a list of current Athena SWAN award holders in Ireland can be found here.

Engagement with the charter is a key pillar of Ireland’s national strategy for gender equality in higher education and institutional access to the charter is nationally funded by the HEA.

In addition to the HEA’s statutory responsibility to promote the attainment of equality of opportunity in higher education, both the HEA’s Report of the Expert Group: HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions  (June 2016) and the Department of Education and Skills’ (DES) Gender Action Plan 2018-2020  have explicit recommendations and actions for HEIs in relation to the attainment of Athena SWAN certification and eligibility for research funding. The Report of the DES Gender Equality Taskforce revisited the 2016 National Review, endorsing many of its recommendations and expanding on some where appropriate. In response to these recommended actions, the HEA issued a Statement on the Athena SWAN Charter in Ireland  (July 2019) revising the requirements for Athena SWAN certification and eligibility for research funding.

Athena SWAN National Committee

The expansion and development of the Athena SWAN charter in Ireland is supported by the National Committee. The committee is comprised of representatives from eligible higher education institutions (HEIs), Advance HE, and the HEA. Irish research agencies, as well as other stakeholders, including the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) are also represented.

The committee was reconstituted in March 2018 for a term of three years. Additional information on the committee’s responsibilities, as well as the process for selecting committee members, can be found in the committee’s Terms of Reference.

Intersectionality Working Group

The Athena SWAN Ireland Intersectionality Working Group was established in 2019 by the National Committee for Athena SWAN in Ireland with an initial goal to develop a cross-sectoral approach to collecting data on staff and student ethnicity in the Irish higher education sector. The group is open to staff members from HEIs with academic or professional expertise in this area as well as representatives from the HEA.

As part of the HEA’s ongoing work in the area of staff equality, diversity and inclusion, and further to the collection of data on HEI staff by gender, it is envisioned that HEIs will return staff ethnicity data to the HEA. In this context, the Athena SWAN Ireland Intersectionality Working Group has produced a statement to provide staff in HEIs with information on the rationale for collecting ethnicity data and the complexities of categorisation. The statement also provides some context for race equality work in higher education as well as recommended actions for HEIs to consider. The statement has been endorsed by 25 HEIs, as well as by the IUA and THEA.

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