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What is Athena SWAN?

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in the UK in 2005 with 10 member institutions, expanding to a total of 159 in 2018. It has proved to be successful in transforming gender equality action with the Australian Pilot launching in 2015 hosted by the Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative (SAGE).

The Charter is based on ten key principles. ECU’s involvement in the Pilot includes a strong commitment to adopting the principles within our policies, practices, action plans and culture University-wide.

The ten principles of the Athena SWAN Charter:

  1. We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
  2. We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.
  3. We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including:
    • the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)
  4. We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
  5. We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.
  6. We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
  7. We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by transgender people.
  8. We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
  9. We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality.
  10. All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.

Recipients of the Athena SWAN Bronze Award in Australia

As participants in the SAGE Pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter, ECU are proud to be among the first fifteen institutions to have received an inaugural Athena SWAN Bronze Award at Parliament House in Canberra on 5 December 2018.

The Pilot currently has 45 participants including Australian universities, medical research institutes and publicly-funded research agencies across three cohorts (ECU is part of the first). The Athena SWAN Charter awards bronze, silver and gold level awards to institutions who can demonstrate increasing levels of good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women and gender diversity in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM).

Watch a short film by SAGE with staff from participating Pilot institutions (including ECU), outlining the value of the Athena SWAN process.

To achieve the Athena SWAN Bronze Award, ECU underwent a rigorous two year process, which involved identifying the barriers to equality and devising practices, processes and actions to address them. This included:

  • Working towards improving gender equality within its policies and practices;
  • Collecting data and identify gaps and opportunities in gender equity processes;
  • Participating and engaging in SAGE workshops and the Western Australia SAGE Regional Network to ensure knowledge share of best practice and lessons learnt; and
  • Gaining feedback, encouragement and support from an experienced team of gender equity experts.

Australia needs women in STEMM

SAGE is an initiative formed by the Australian Academy of Science and in partnership with the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE). It is deeply committed to supporting the hiring, promotion, participation and retention of women in science, engineering, technology, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). This includes the driving of gender parity in science leadership. Women comprise more than half of science PhD graduates and early career researchers, but just 17% of senior academics in Australian universities and research institutes. The loss of women scientists is a significant waste of expertise, talent and investment, and negatively impacts our nation’s scientific productivity.

ECU’s STEMM Challenge

Academic staff working in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) areas at ECU comprises 33% female academic staff at Level D and E, compared to 64% female representation at Level B. ECU’s work to embed the Athena SWAN charter will drive increases of female participation and gender equality across all levels within STEMM disciplines.


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