Close icon
Close icon

MIC’s Athena Swan Bronze Award Renewal Recognises Continued Commitment to Advancing Gender Equality

Professor Lorraine McIlrath, Director of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Interculturalism (EDII) and Professor Eugene Wall, President of MIC holding a hashtag Athena Swan MIC sign

Mary Immaculate College (MIC) receiving a second bronze Athena Swan Institution Award today (4 April) is “a testament to the commitment and collegiality of a whole institutional approach that has engaged the entire staff and student community” said Professor Lorraine McIlrath, Director of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Interculturalism (EDII) at MIC.

The renewal of the prestigious designation—first achieved in 2019—represents another key milestone and recognition of MIC’s commitment to advancing gender equality and intersectionality. 

“Applying for the renewal of the Athena Swan has been a process of critical self-reflection of the culture and progress at Mary Immaculate College, and it is the result of an extensive self-assessment process. Despite the pandemic and post-pandemic periods, our commitment to Athena SWAN and Actions set in our Bronze Award in 2019 have been realised,” outlined Prof. McIlrath. 

Some of the achievements during the timeframe included; the creation of a central MIC Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Interculturalism (EDII) Office; the appointment of the Director of EDII with a further three full-time employees and two newly appointed EDII Faculty Leads in Arts and Education, and the development of the MIC EDII Strategic Plan that aligns with the Athena Swan Action Plan 2019-2023 and Charter. 

She went on: “We are very proud of what MIC has accomplished so far and the results are plain to see. For example, governance and management committees all now have a minimum of 40% female representation. The MIC Executive Team was restructured, and female representation has increased from 13% to 50%. The MIC Faculty of Arts attained the Athena Swan Bronze Departmental Award in 2022. MIC has successfully developed and awarded six annual University of Sanctuary Scholarships.

Gender-neutral toilet facilities have been allocated on the Limerick and Thurles campuses. We introduced rainbow pedestrian crossings in June 2023 to visually highlight our inclusion of all people, including the LGBTQI communities. Twenty-four projects have been funded under the EDII Project Awards, initiating activities that relate to gender equality, race equality, LGBT+ supports, religious and belief diversity, sexual violence and harassment supports through peer mentoring, and engagement with the Traveller community.”

Professor Eugene Wall, President of MIC, extended his congratulations to all involved.

“MIC became a member of the Athena Swan Charter in 2018 and achieved our initial Bronze Institutional Award in 2019 on the first application, which was a fantastic achievement. That was only the beginning of a rewarding journey that the College is on and will continue for the foreseeable future—the journey to ensuring that MIC is a diverse, welcoming and inclusive institution for all. Securing a second award and sustaining the success of objectives set out in the four-year action plan from 2019-2023 has meant a huge amount of work by Professor McIlrath and the EDII team with essential buy-in from the broader staff and student community. I am confident that the renewal of the College’s Athena Swan institutional award, and the goals set out in the next action plan, will result in yet more progress in embedding gender equality in management, academic, professional and support services at MIC.”

Other important developments were: Training in various areas related to EDII for staff and students across the College including the Aurora Women’s Leadership Programme, Menopause, Gender Identity and Inclusion, EDII In higher education online programme, Bystander and Consent; development of new policies and guidelines including the Gender Expression and Identity Policy, Menopause Guidelines, Adoption Leave policy, Carer's Policy, MIC Blended Working Policy and amendment of the Shorter Working Year (SWY) policy to include temporary staff, and in collaboration with the Limerick Clare Education and Training Board, MIC developed and delivered the Certificate in English Language for Academic Purposes for new communities seeking international protection

Prof. McIlrath emphasised that “our 2023-2027 Athena Swan Action Plan will focus on further areas where we will deepen our work and commit to implementing change over the next four years. We are ambitious and excited about our activities”.

Significant actions include: continued efforts to diversify staff and student populations; increased supports for recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented groups; gathering and monitoring data on precarious staff categories to better understand and reduce this precarity; formalising a strategy to develop mentoring for all staff; implementing a Universal Design-informed approach to ensure that every member of our community can fully participate in and benefit from the employment and educational experience on offer, and develop processes for reporting, collecting, and recording statistics on sexual violence and harassment while actively communicating to staff and students the relevant procedures and support them to report such behaviour. 

Athena Swan is an initiative of Advance HE, a member-led charity that works with partners across the globe to improve higher education for staff, students and society. The Athena Swan charter launched in the Republic of Ireland in early 2015, made possible through funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA). 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.

MIC Athena Swan Bronze Award Renewal
MIC Athena Swan Bronze Award Renewal
Members of MIC's Executive Team marking the College's second Athena Swan Bronze institutional award