Three Irish universities win Athena SWAN awards for gender equality progress
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Three Irish universities win Athena SWAN awards for gender equality progress

15 Mar 2017

DCU, UCD and UL have been honoured for creating a level playing field for academic careers.

Three Irish universities have been honoured by the Athena SWAN Charter for their work in the battle against gender inequality: Dublin City University (DCU), University College Dublin (UCD) and University of Limerick (UL).

Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) is a charter established by the British Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and implemented by the UK Resource Centre.

‘The submission process is in itself rigorous and time-consuming, and all participating institutions have demonstrated a commitment to gender equality’

It recognises and celebrates good practice towards the advancement of gender equality and specifically representation, progression and success for all.

In particular, the charter was set up to encourage the advancement of careers for women in STEM, and higher education and research.

All Irish third-level institutions will be required to gain Athena SWAN awards

Both DCU and UCD and received bronze awards for their institutions as a whole, and UL’s Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences received a bronze departmental award.

DCU and UCD join University College Cork, UL and Trinity College Dublin in holding bronze institutional Athena SWAN awards.

In future, Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and the Health Research Board will require higher education institutions (HEIs) to have Athena SWAN gender equality accreditation in order to be eligible for research funding.

Irish HEIs will be required to secure Athena SWAN bronze awards by the end of 2019 to ensure they are eligible to compete for research funding allocated by any of the three agencies.

By the end of 2023, HEIs will be required to hold Athena SWAN silver awards to be eligible for research funding.

“We are delighted for these institutions and department that their efforts have resulted in a successful outcome at bronze level,” said Ruth Gilligan, manager of the Athena SWAN programme.

“The submission process is in itself rigorous and time-consuming, and all participating institutions have demonstrated a commitment to gender equality. I am looking forward to welcoming other institutions as they sign up to the charter, and receiving the next round of award submissions at the end of April 2017.”

Gilligan said that Irish universities, institutes of technology and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland are welcome to become members of ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter.

The submission deadline for the next cohort of applications is Thursday 27 April 2017 at 5pm.

To get a sense of the commitment it takes to achieve an Athena SWAN award, DCU has prepared a three-year action plan to reform the promotion process to address the lack of women in senior academic positions, prioritises female leadership initiatives and addresses issues in relation to maternity leave.

Examples of key initiatives at DCU included Project 50:50 (to name at least 50pc of new DCU buildings after female research pioneers), family-friendly meeting times, unconscious bias training and a pledge by DCU’s president not to serve on a panel of two people or more unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the chair.

Prof Greg Hughes, chair of the DCU Athena SWAN committee and interim vice-president for research and innovation, welcomed the announcement of the award, saying: “DCU is committed to the principles that underpin the Athena SWAN Charter and is delighted to have that commitment recognised by a bronze award.

“Our Athena SWAN submission has provided an opportunity to consult widely with staff, reflect on where we are in terms of gender equality, identify the main challenges for the university and develop a strong action plan to address these issues over the three-year lifetime of the award.

“I would like to acknowledge the huge efforts of the DCU Athena SWAN Committee in collating and interpreting the data to chart a course towards full diversity and inclusion for the university,” said Hughes.

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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