Athena SWAN

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Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) Charter
Created 2005
Commissioned by British Equality Challenge Unit
Subject Award for organisations
Purpose Recognises 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 British Equality Challenge Unit in 2005[1] that recognises and celebrates good practice towards the advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all.


The Athena SWAN charter was established to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) employment in higher education and research.[2]


In May 2015 the charter was expanded to include non-STEM schools, professional and support staff, technical staff, and trans staff and students. The first awards to non-STEM university departments were announced in April 2016.[3] The charter also recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.[4]

Award details[edit]

Members who sign up to the charter are expected to apply for an Athena SWAN award,[4] 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,[5] 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 was broadly positive and highlighted the significance of government funding being linked to SWAN awards, but it also highlighted the limitations of whether the process can change longstanding and entrenched issues in society.[6]


  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. ^ Grove, Jack (28 April 2016). "First non-STEM Athena SWAN winners named". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 20 August 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Athena SWAN Charter". Equality Challenge Unit. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "About ECU's Athena SWAN Charter". Equality Challenge Unit. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  6. ^ 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: 12. doi:10.1186/s12961-017-0177-9.