Athena SWAN

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Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) Charter
Commissioned byEquality Challenge Unit
SubjectAward for organisations
PurposeRecognises organisations' commitment to, and progress on, equality and diversity, particularly race and gender

Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) is a charter established and managed by the UK Equality Challenge Unit (now part of Advance HE) in 2005[1] that recognises and celebrates good practices in higher education and research institutions towards the advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all.


The Athena SWAN charter was established in 2005 and the first awards were conferred in 2006. The initial charter set out to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) institutions of higher education and research.[2] In 2011, the UK Chief Medical Officer made it a requirement for academic departments applying for funding from the English National Institution of Health Research to hold the Athena SWAN silver award.[3]

In May 2015 the charter was expanded to include non-STEM departments including arts, humanities, social sciences, business, and law. Additionally, it expanded to cover additional communities including professional and support staff, technical staff, as well as trans staff and students. The first awards to non-STEM university departments were announced in April 2016.[4] The new charter recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.[5]

Award details[edit]

Members who sign up to the charter are expected to apply for an Athena SWAN award,[5] at Bronze, Silver or Gold level. Each award is valid for four years under the post-2015 rules (three years where pre-2015 rules apply).

They commit to adopting ten principles,[6] which focus on promoting and supporting gender equality for women. In particular, the charter aims to address what is known as the “leaky pipeline” of women progressing to senior roles in science by removing obstacles to their advancement, ensuring equal pay and mainstreaming support, through action at all levels across the department or organisation.


An exploratory study of women's and men's perceptions of Athena SWAN in 2017 was broadly positive, and highlighted the significance of government funding being linked to Athena SWAN awards; it also highlighted the limitations of the process to change long-standing and entrenched issues in society.[7] A 2019 study of the university culture in medical and social sciences attributed a more positive culture in medical sciences to the wide-spread implementation of Athena SWAN gender equality action plans, linked to the NIHR funding incentives.[8] A 2020 study examining the effect of Athena SWAN funding incentives on women’s research leadership in NIHR Biomedical Research Centres found a rise in the number of women in mid-level leadership positions and the proportion of funding going to women.[9]


  1. ^ "Home page". Equality Challenge Unit. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  2. ^ Solomon, Tom (26 November 2014). "How to create a better future for women in science". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  3. ^ Donald, Athene; Harvey, Paul H.; McLean, Angela R. (5 October 2011). "Athena SWAN awards: Bridging the gender gap in UK science". Nature. 478 (7367): 36. doi:10.1038/478036b. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 21979032.
  4. ^ Grove, Jack (28 April 2016). "First non-STEM Athena SWAN winners named". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Athena SWAN Charter". Equality Challenge Unit. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  6. ^ "About ECU's Athena SWAN Charter". Equality Challenge Unit. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  7. ^ Ovseiko, Pavel V.; Chapple, Alison; Edmunds, Laurel D.; Ziebland, Sue (21 February 2017). "Advancing gender equality through the Athena SWAN Charter for Women in Science: an exploratory study of women's and men's perceptions". Health Research Policy and Systems. BMC. 15 (1): 12. doi:10.1186/s12961-017-0177-9. PMC 5320775. PMID 28222735.
  8. ^ Ovseiko, Pavel V.; Pololi, Linda H.; Edmunds, Laurel D.; Civian, Jan T.; Daly, Mary; Buchan, Alastair M. (2019). "Creating a more supportive and inclusive university culture: a mixed-methods interdisciplinary comparative analysis of medical and social sciences at the University of Oxford". Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 44 (2): 184–185. doi:10.1080/03080188.2019.1603880.
  9. ^ Ovseiko, Pavel V.; Taylor, Mark; Gilligan, Ruth E.; Birks, Jacqueline; Elhussein, Leena; Rogers, Mike; Tesanovic, Sonja; Hernandez, Jazmin; Wells, Glenn; Greenhalgh, Trisha; Buchan, Alastair M. (26 October 2020). "Effect of Athena SWAN funding incentives on women's research leadership". BMJ. 371: m3975. doi:10.1136/bmj.m3975. ISSN 1756-1833. PMID 33106283. S2CID 225063205.

External links[edit]

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