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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) and then in 2020, the SAGE Pilot transitioned to Science in Australia Gender Equity Limited (SAGE Ltd), a not-for-profit public company limited by guarantee.

The Charter is based on ten key principles, that were updated in 2021 to reflect learnings from the Pilot phase as well as recent refinements to the UK Athena Swan Charter. ECU’s membership with SAGE 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. Ensure that gender equity, diversity and inclusion work is appropriately resourced, distributed, recognised, and rewarded.
  2. Undertake transparent and rigorous self-assessment processes, analysing institutional structures, systems, and cultures to identify the barriers to attraction, retention and progression for staff and students, and thus to gender equity, diversity and inclusion.
  3. Design initiatives based on institutional data, and national and global evidence of best practice.
  4. Monitor, evaluate, and publicly report on progress made, challenges experienced, and impact achieved, to inform continuous improvement.
  5. Actively incorporate Indigenous knowledges and perspectives to address the specific inequities and injustices experienced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff and students.
  6. Consciously consider all genders, recognising that gender is not binary, and that trans and gender diverse people face specific inequities because of their gender identities.
  7. Take an intersectional approach to advancing gender equity, diversity and inclusion, recognising that people of any particular identity are not a homogeneous group.
  8. Engage with those most impacted by inequitable practice to proactively redesign and reshape structures, systems and culture.
  9. Increase the safety and wellbeing of staff and students by proactively and transparently preventing and responding to bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, gender-based violence and discrimination.
  10. Embed change in institutional governance and accountability structures; actively and visibly champion and promote gender equity, diversity and inclusion in our Institutions, the Athena Swan community, and across the sector; and hold ourselves and other senior leaders accountable for driving sustainable transformational change

Recipients of the Athena SWAN Bronze Award in Australia

As participants in the SAGE Pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter, ECU were 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.

SAGE currently has 45 member institutions including Australian universities, medical research institutes and publicly-funded research agencies. 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 institutions who participated in the Pilot (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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