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Athena SWAN


ECU is proud to be accepted as part of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE)  Initiative Pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter in Australia.

The Pilot involves 44  participants including Australian universities, medical research institutes and publicly-funded research agencies and is continuing to grow.   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 here a short film by SAGE with staff from participating Pilot institutions (including ECU), outlining the value of the Athena SWAN process.

What is Athena SWAN?

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in the UK in 2005 with 10 member institutions, expanding to a total of 129 by 2015. It has proved to be successful in transforming gender equality action.

The Charter is based on ten key principles.  ECU’s involvement in the pilot includes a 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.

For more information about the Athena SWAN Charter click here

Australia needs women in science

The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Initiative, started by the Australian Academy of Science and in partnership with the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE), aims to support the hiring, promotion, participation and retention of women in science, engineering, technology, mathematics and medicine (STEMM), with the aim of reaching 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 and Athena SWAN

Core to Edith Cowan University’s namesake (Edith Dircksey Cowan) and the University’s values, is the pursuit of redressing inequalities and improving education and opportunities for women. Edith Cowan University (ECU) is the only university named after a woman in Australia, a woman whose  lifetime achievements included a strong focus on gender equality, thus there is a clear ideological alignment with the Athena SWAN Charter principles and approach.

ECU has established and endorsed Terms of Reference for a gender-balanced Steering Committee: The ECU Athena SWAN Charter Committee (ECUASCC), which has successfully harnessed engagement from male champions of gender change and includes senior members of various disciplines and areas.

Membership of the Committee includes:

Professor Cobie Rudd Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Partnerships) - Chair
Ms Jenny Robertson Director, Human Resources Service Centre
Professor Colleen Hayward Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Equity and Indigenous)
Professor Margaret Jones Director, Office of Research and Innovation
Ms Lyn Farrell Dean, South-West Campus
Professor Daryoush Habibi Executive Dean, School of Engineering
Professor Andrew Woodward Executive Dean, School of Science
Dr Matthew Byrne Associate Dean (Teaching & Learning) School of Education
Ms Christine Gunson Manager Strategic HR, Human Resources Service Centre
Professor Rob Newton Associate Dean and Co-Director of the Exercise and Medicine Research Institute
Professor Daniel Galvao Professor of Exercise Science and Co-Director of the Exercise Medicine Research Institute
Professor Neil Drew Director, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
Professor Joe Luca Dean, Graduate Research School
Associate Professor Mark Lund School of Science, Self-Assessment Team Chair

The ECUASCC is supported by the ECU Self-Assessment Team (SAT), a diverse range of ECU staff currently working on the Bronze Level Institutional application.

As a participant of the SAGE Pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter in Australia, ECU:

  • Work towards improving gender equality within its policies and practices;
  • Collect data and identify gaps and opportunities in gender equity processes;
  • Participate and engage in SAGE workshops to support achieving an Athena SWAN accreditation;
  • Gain feedback, encouragement and support from an experienced team of gender equity experts.

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 should see increases of female participation and gender equality across all levels within  STEMM disciplines.


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