The Athena SWAN Charter
The Athena SWAN Charter was established in the UK 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 has since expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL); in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly. In a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority, the Athena SWAN Charter was launched in Ireland in early 2015.
Athena SWAN Award Holder
In February 2018, MIC signed up to the charter, which is committed to advancing gender equality
Athena SWAN at MIC
In February 2018, MIC became a member of the Athena SWAN Charter. The Athena SWAN Charter is based on 10 key principles. By being part of Athena SWAN, MIC is committing to a progressive charter; adopting these principles within their policies, practices, action plans and culture.
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 under-representation 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.
In May 2018 MIC appointed Dr Elaine Murtagh as Project Director for Athena SWAN and subsequently Edel Foster was appointed Project Manager. Their role is to lead the preparation of the College’s application for an Athena SWAN Bronze Award. A Self-Assessment Team (SAT) has been formed and is responsible for identifying both challenges and opportunities with regards to gender equality in MIC, and to develop a comprehensive action plan to advance agreed priority areas over the award period. It is made up of academic and professional services staff in MIC.
Click here to see the MIC Athena SWAN Twitter page.
MIC Institution Bronze Athena SWAN Award
Following 18 months of data-gathering, gap analysis and self-assessment, leading to the development of a strong and ambitious Action Plan, Mary Immaculate College was delighted to learn that it is to be awarded the Athena SWAN Institution Bronze Award.
In a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority, the Athena SWAN Charter was launched in Ireland in early 2015. Figures published by the Higher Education Authority highlight gender inequality as an issue for the sector. Across Irish universities, only 24% of professors are women. In institutes of technology, women make up 44% of academic staff but just 29% of senior academic staff.
The Charter’s initial remit was 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. 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. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.
Speaking on the hard-earned award Professor Eugene Wall, President of Mary Immaculate College, said “Here at MIC we are deeply committed to progressing and embedding gender equality in management, academic, professional and support services and to that end we are delighted at this public recognition of our concerted efforts to address gender equality since becoming a member of the Athena SWAN Charter in 2018”.
Outlining some of MIC’s achievements since becoming a member of the Athena SWAN Charter Prof. Wall stated that “We have addressed the gender imbalance on our governance and management committees, all of which now have a minimum of 40% female representation. Our Executive Team was restructured and female representation has increased from 13% to 50%. Two dedicated posts were created to lead the Athena SWAN process in the College and we look forward to appointing a Director of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Inter-Culturalism very shortly”.
Concluding he said “I welcome the opportunity that Athena SWAN provides to examine our policies, practices and staff experiences in terms of gender equality and opportunity for all at the College. I look forward to our continued work in ensuring that MIC is a diverse, welcoming and inclusive college for all. I would also, on behalf of the College, like to express my gratitude to the Athena SWAN team within MIC, led by Dr Elaine Murtagh and Edel Foster, assisted by MIC’s Self-Assessment Team”.
Other actions currently being undertaken include training being rolled out to staff in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), the development of a Gender Identity and Expression policy and the allocation of gender-neutral toilet facilities on campus. In recognition of these steps to embed EDI into wider organisational systems MIC received the bronze level ‘Investors in Diversity’ award from the Irish Centre for Diversity in September of last year.
Speaking on the announcement was Dr Elaine Murtagh, Director of the Athena Swan project at the time of application, who commented: “Attaining the Athena SWAN Bronze institution award at first application is a superb achievement. It reflects the serious commitment made by the College to advance gender equality and opportunity for all and I would like to thank all staff who engaged in the process especially our hard-working Self-Assessment Team.
We acknowledge the support from Athena SWAN professionals in other HEIs, who generously share their experiences through the Athena SWAN Ireland Practitioner Network. This forum has enabled the HEI community to work collaboratively to progress gender equality across the sector”.
According to Edel Foster, Athena SWAN Project Manager, “The development of our successful Athena SWAN application is the result of a truly collective effort with input from staff right across the College. It was the first time such a cross-institutional reflective process and consultation has taken place on key issues including organisational culture, work life balance and support for transgender staff and students. However, this is just the beginning of the process. Our staff survey revealed key areas of concern and our four year action plan shows our commitment to address these issues”.
According to Ms Foster the current SAT team will be replaced by a new Gender Equality Steering Group who will be charged with overseeing the implementation of the MIC Athena Swan Action Plan 2019-2023. Highlights of the plan include the appointment of academic merit based promotional posts; the development and implementation of a flexible working policy; the introduction of a workload model; the delivery of EDI, unconscious bias and interview training and the forthcoming appointment of a Director of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Inter-Culturalism.
Click here to read our current institution Athena SWAN action plan (2019 - 2023).
Athena SWAN E-Zine
For more information on our Athena SWAN progress, read our quarterly MIC Athena SWAN ezine:
Athena SWAN Drop In Information Sessions
Four information sessions on Athena SWAN were recently held in both the Limerick and Thurles campuses. There was a great level of interest from staff with over 60 professional services and academic staff attending. Elaine Murtagh gave an overview of what's involved in Athena SWAN and discussed the potential changes it will make to our workplace. Edel Foster provided detail on the areas that our working groups are examining, such as the workplace culture of the college, flexible working opportunities and career development.
Diversity in the Limerick Community: Impact of COVID-19
As part of the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival 2020, MIC hosted a webinar, Diversity in the Limerick Community: Impact of COVID-19. Panelist included Panellists will include Shay Moloney from Limerick Youth Service, Ann Piercy and Patrick McElligott from GOSHH (Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV), Ahmed Hassan Mohammed from Doras, Mamobo-Oghene Ogoro who is the first Sanctuary PhD Fellow at University of Limerick, and Tyrone Guillen who is a member of the Limerick Youth Service Diversity and Youth (DAY) group.
This timely discussion aimed to raise awareness of the work of these community groups and each speaker will reflected on the impact COVID-19 is having on diverse and minority groups in Limerick.
Watch a recording of the webinar here
Raising Pride Flag for Limerick 2020
July 2020 marked a momentous occasion for MIC when the Pride flag was raised for the first time to celebrate both Limerick and Tipperary Pride weeks. We proudly flew the flag in solidarity with our LGBTQ staff and students. We are committed to being allies, supporting the LGBTQ community and celebrating the diversity of all students and staff.
- Self-Assessment Team