Athena SWAN

athena swan bronze award logo

The University of Oxford was a founder member of the Athena Swan Charter and has held an institutional Athena Swan award since 2006.  We currently hold an institutional Bronze award  and will be applying for a Silver award in November 2022.  The Equality and Diversity Panel acts as the self-assessment team (SAT) for our institutional Athena Swan submission and action plan.

Read the University of Oxford’s institutional submission (PDF), April 2017 application. 

As at September 2021, 82% of departments in the University’s four main academic divisions have engaged with Athena Swan including all Medical Sciences and Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) departments. The University holds 37 departmental awards of which 19 are Silver and 18 are Bronze.

Established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment, the Charter is now being used across the globe to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

In 2015, the Charter was expanded to cover all subjects and to include a focus on professional and support staff, as well as recognition of issues faced by transgender people. In March 2020, an Independent Review of the UK Athena Swan Charter concluded with wide ranging recommendations to transform the Charter to make it more relevant, flexible and responsive to Universities’ and departments’ needs. 

 

The Transformed Athena Swan Charter was launched on 30 June 2021, following extensive consultations with the sector.  Key features of the new framework are:

  • Flexibility and autonomy for institutions and departments to focus on their own priorities
  • Revised award criteria with clarified expectations
  • A developmental approach, providing stronger support and feedback.
  • Reduced data reporting requirements that lessen administrative burden.

Further details of the Transformed Charter are available via the Advance HE website.  An EDU briefing opposite summarises the main changes and you can also view a recording and slides from a September 2021 University webinar on the changes and what they mean for the University. 

Athena Swan offers a valuable framework for introducing policy as well as cultural changes that create a better working environment not just for women but for people of all genders. A 2019 impact assessment of the UK Athena Swan Charter found strong evidence that the Charter has supported cultural and behavioural change – not just around gender equality, but equality and diversity in all its forms.

Using the Athena Swan application process gives universities and departments the space to reflect on and identify organisational and cultural practices that are inclusive and address barriers to gender equality as well as the opportunity to celebrate their progress and success towards equality and inclusion. Athena Swan awards demonstrate commitment to gender and wider equality and enhance the attractiveness of departments to prospective students and staff alike.

Universities and departments applying for Athena Swan awards carry out a self-assessment of gender issues in their context and identify actions to address key inequalities over a five-year period.  The new framework also invites departments to consider how intersectionality can be approached, and assessed, in departmental policies, practices and culture.  To maintain awards, institutions and departments need to show evidence of progress (for renewals at the same level) and success of previous actions (for higher awards).