Women with microscope

Gender equity and the underrepresentation of women and men in different disciplines is an ongoing challenge in higher education 

Research and data show us that women remain underrepresented at senior levels in higher education generally, and there is a notably lower female presence in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) subjects in particular. High numbers nationally tend to leave academic and research roles in arts, humanities, social science, business, law (AHSSBL) as well as more general professional and support roles at universities. We want to change that, and that is why we are long- standing members of the Athena Swan charter mark.

About Athena Swan

The is a national initiative that recognises commitment to advancing women's representation and tackling gender inequality in higher education and research. Originally designed to target improvement for women within science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) subjects and senior positions, it has now been extended to include arts, humanities, social science, business and law (AHSSBL), as well as professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. Universities and institutions that can prove they are committed to the advancement and promotion of women in STEMM, AHSSBL and support services can apply for membership. As an institution, we have been a member of the Athena Swan charter mark since 2009.

Dr Gail Rees, Acting Deputy Head of the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences

Athena Swan principles

Athena Swan members sign up to the Athena Swan Charter. The principles of the charter were expanded in May 2015 to reflect the broader its broader focus on gender equity and underwent a further review in April 2018. 

The Future of Athena Swan, a report of the Athena Swan Charter Independent Review Steering Group was published on 19 March 2020. .

The Athena Swan Charter is based on ten key principles. By being part of Athena Swan, we are committing to a progressive charter; adopting these principles within our policies, practices, action plans and culture. The following ten principles underpin the work that we're doing and the reflective framework we use to review the impact of our work in higher education in relation to gender equality.

The Charter鈥檚 ten principles are:

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 relative underrepresentation of women in senior roles in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL)
  • 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 trans 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. 

Whilst different universities face different challenges in terms of gender equality, all Athena Swan members are committed to these broad principles.

Athena Swan at the University of Plymouth

Our vision is simple; we intend for our continuing work to tackle gender inequity and under-representation through our Athena Swan submissions.
Staff from PU PSMD receiving the Athena Swan award