Athena Swan

What is the Athena Swan Charter?

The Athena Swan Charter launched in the Republic of Ireland in early 2015. The extension of the charter to Ireland was made possible through funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which covers applications to the charter from 21 higher education institutions. Engagement with the charter is a key pillar of Ireland’s national strategy for gender equality with progress linked to institutional eligibility for funding from Ireland’s major research agencies. All of Ireland’s universities and institutes of technology and several colleges participate in Athena Swan Ireland.

In 2021 the Athena Swan Ireland charter underwent a re-development in line with the findings of a national consultation and offers a framework for progressing equality in higher education and research that is unique to Ireland. The objective of the Athena Swan Ireland 2021 charter framework is to support higher education institutions, academic departments, and professional units in impactful and sustainable gender equality work and to build capacity for evidence-based equality work across the equality grounds enshrined in Irish legislation.

Athena Swan at NCAD

NCAD pledged commitment to the 2021 Athena Swan Charter Principles in November 2021.

In early 2021 NCAD formed a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) to complete an assessment of gender equality at the college which underpinned the institutional application and action plan. NCAD was awarded an Athena Swan institutional Bronze award in February 2023. The cornerstone of this application was an evidence based, 4 year action plan outlining how the institution will make further progress towards reducing gender and other intersecting inequalities at NCAD. The action plan implementation is now underway.

NCAD Athena Swan Action Plan (link here)

Athena Swan Ireland Principles

The charter principles are the commitments that underpin Athena Swan Ireland and articulate the shared goals that all charter participants agree to upholding. The principles act as the foundation for the Ireland charter, with all other elements of the framework – including criteria, application and assessment – aligned to these commitments and the values enshrined within them.

In committing to the principles of the Athena Swan Ireland charter, we recognise that we join a global community with a shared goal of addressing systemic inequalities and embedding inclusive cultures in higher education.

We acknowledge that equality, diversity and inclusion strengthens higher education communities—the quality, relevance and impact of teaching and research, and the talent pool of potential staff and students.

By participating in the Ireland charter framework, we strive for impactful and sustainable gender equality work in higher education institutions and seek to build capacity in evidence-based equality interventions across the equality grounds enshrined in Irish legislation.

We recognise that each institution, department, and professional unit has different equality challenges and development priorities, and that these priorities should be developed based on an understanding of the local evidence-base and national and global equality challenges in higher education.

In determining our priorities and interventions, we commit to:

1. adopting robust, transparent, and accountable processes for Athena Swan work, including:

     a. embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion in our culture, decision-making and partnerships, and holding ourselves and others in our institution/department/professional unit accountable.

     b. ensuring active leadership from senior staff, with those in senior roles at the forefront of taking action, and inspiring and fostering dedication and involvement from staff at all levels.

     c. collecting equality monitoring data to measure, understand and publicly report on challenges and progress, taking steps when necessary to support and encourage disclosure.

     d. undertaking transparent self-assessment processes to ensure priorities, interventions and actions are evidenced-based and inform our continuous development.

     e. distributing tasks appropriately, formally recognising and rewarding work and ensuring there is not a disproportionate burden on underrepresented groups.

2. making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to remedy the effects of structural inequalities and social injustices, which manifest as differential experiences and outcomes for staff and students.

3. tackling behaviours and cultures that detract from the creation of an institutional campus culture that is safe, respectful and supportive, including condemning sexual violence and harassment, bullying, discrimination, unfair treatment, or exploitation of staff, students or partners.

4. addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional, managerial and support functions, including examining gendered occupational segregation, and elevating the status, voice, and career opportunities of under-valued and at-risk groups.

5. fostering collective understanding that intersectional inequalities must be accounted for in the development of effective equality analysis and actions.

6. mitigating the equality impacts of short-term and casual contracts for staff seeking sustainable careers.

7. supporting flexibility and the maintenance of a healthy ‘whole life balance’ and mitigating the equality impact of career breaks and caring responsibilities.

8. fostering collective understanding that individuals have the right to determine and affirm their gender, and to implementing inclusive and effective policies and practices that are cognisant of the lived experiences and needs of trans and non-binary people.