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Athena Swan Awards: Are they an indicator of institutional gender equality?

Research output: Working paper

Publication date2024
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The Athena Swan Charter is a gender equality framework that includes academic staff representation as well as their career progression and working environment. The granting of an institutional Athena Swan award indicates a commitment to addressing gender inequality, with plans, policies and processes in place to support this. AdvanceHE and others have put forward the case for Athena Swan making a positive impact on gender issues, although the awards have not been without criticism. In particular, there is a reported unequal burden of work placed on female staff to support the Athena Awan process, and arguably a lack of meaningful institutional change. This paper looks at the AdvanceHE Athena Swan award holders as well as the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) staff data to see if holding an Athena Swan award is correlated with variables associated with academic gender balance and career progression. The findings suggest that at least in terms of representation across academic staff, holding an Athena Swan award can be an indicator of gender equality. However, awards are not necessarily an indicator of gender equality in terms of career progression. Moreover, institutional size is significant in the attainment of Athena Swan awards, with larger institutions more likely to hold a higher status award than smaller ones.