Following in the footsteps of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick (UL), University College Cork (UCC) has become the third university in Ireland to receive an Athena SWAN award.
Recognising its efforts to promote gender equality in higher education, the bronze medal, awarded to the university last week, highlights institutions with solid foundations in place to tear down barriers to women’s progress.
Getting women into the STEM areas of industry is a major priority in Ireland at the moment, with a skills gap felt acutely in computing, but also in science, engineering and beyond.
With certain areas of STEM attracting many more male than female entrants, arresting any issues that are stopping women getting involved is basic common sense.
UCC developed a three-year plan to help encourage more women to enter these fields, with its delivery across the university the reason behind this award.
“We are very pleased to have earned this award. Gender inequality in senior leadership in higher education is a challenge we face, not only in UCC, but across the third-level sector, in Ireland and beyond,” said Professor Caroline Fennell, who led the project.
“This award recognises work underway in UCC to build the right infrastructure and supports so all members of our academic community, and indeed all our staff, can contribute to their full potential.”
The Athena SWAN Charter was established in the UK in 2005, branching into Ireland last year. Upon its launch in April 2015, the initial step was the creation of an Athena SWAN pilot.
Open to all publicly-funded universities and institutes of technology in Ireland, all seven Irish universities, 14 institutes of technology and the Royal College of Surgeons have committed to the charter principles.
“We want to embed Athena SWAN in the culture of higher education (in Ireland), and the pilot is a way to kick it off,” explained ECU Athena SWAN adviser Dr Ruth Gilligan, who is co-ordinating the pilot in Ireland, upon its launch last year.
“It is not a tick-box exercise, you have to progress. You don’t get a chance to rest on your laurels – you show where you are, and you show the action plan for three years, and then you have to come back and show what you did.”