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Athena SWAN at Birkbeck

We actively engage and promote the Athena SWAN initiative within the Birkbeck community and commit to adopting the 10 key principles within our policies, practices, action plans and cultures.

  • In 2017, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) renewed Birkbeck's Athena SWAN Bronze Award, recognising the College's commitment to achieving gender equality across the institution and the progress that it is making in this area.
  • In 2020 the College will make its next institutional submission.
  • Currently the Department of Biological Sciences hold a Silver award; Bronze awards are held by Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Psychological Sciences.
  • Other departments/schools within the College are planning their own submissions.

About Athena SWAN

  • The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.
  • The Charter evolved from work between the Athena Project and the Scientific Women's Academic Network (SWAN) and was launched in June 2005 at the Institute of Physics. In May 2015 the Charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) and in professional and support roles and for trans staff and students.
  • Originally Athena SWAN’s Bronze, Silver and Gold awards celebrated good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women within Higher Education. However they now focus on work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.
  • The scheme is managed by the AdvanceHE (formerly ECU). Any member of the College can sign up to access resources, data and information from ECU simply by registering on the ECU website.
  • Inclusive practice is also an important consideration within the Research Excellence Framework (REF); the 2014 REF included a number of measures to enhance equality and diversity as will the REF 2020, which highlights a clear commitment to equality and diversity across the higher education sector.
  • Athena SWAN is currently being reviewed by a Steering Group to ensure that it is still fit for purpose. Find out more about this review.

College participation

  • The College is committed to the Athena SWAN Charter and to embedding principles of gender equality across the institution. 
  • Since securing its first Athena SWAN Bronze award in 2012, actions and initiatives have been developed to highlight and to promote gender equality in work and study.
  • Athena SWAN activities are overseen at an Institutional level by the College's Self-Assessment Team (SAT).

Benefits

  • The Charter has 10 principles at its core, the benefits of which include retention of highly valued staff, access to a network of contacts and external recognition of positive action already undertaken.
  • In 2013, ECU commissioned a team from Loughborough University to undertake a comprehensive, independent assessment of the impact and benefits of the Athena SWAN Charter both on participating higher education institutions and on the wider sector.
  • Research funding bodies increasingly recognise the value of equality and diversity in higher education, with some ensuring that funding recipients embed these principles as part of their terms.

Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team

  • Athena SWAN activities are overseen at an institutional level by the Self-Assessment Team (SAT). The SAT meet regularly and is chaired by the Vice Master of Birkbeck. It essentially oversees and evaluates the work being done on Athena SWAN, as well as playing a key role in developing the College submission and leading on actions with regards to gender equality.