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As part of the expansion of the Athena SWAN Charter in May 2015, three new Charter principles were created, one of which being:

All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.

Institutions applying for Athena SWAN awards using the post-May 2015 application forms, will have to consider intersectionality in their applications. Information and guidance on how to do this can be found below.

Advance HE have used the following sources as a basis for some of the guidance on intersectionality:

Definition >

Intersectionality means recognising that people’s identities and social positions are shaped by several factors, which create unique experiences and perspectives. These factors include, among others: sexuality, gender, race, disability, age, and religion.

For example, someone isn’t a woman and black, or a woman and white, but a black woman or white woman. These different elements of identity form and inform each other. In this example the person’s identity as a woman cannot be separated from their identity as a black or white individual, and vice versa. The experience of black women, and the barriers they face, will be different to those a white woman faces. The elements of identity cannot be separated because they are not lived or experienced as separate.

In practice, intersectionality is less about bringing two different things/groups together, for example older people and disabled people, and more about considering the experience of older disabled people. People at the ‘intersection’ of older age and disability.

Requirement >

Consideration of intersectionality is only required in institutional applications, though departments are also encouraged to adopt this approach.

Institutions should consider the intersection of gender and race. Reflection on the intersection of gender with other protected characteristics can be included, but is not required.

Expectation >

The expectation is that institutional SAT teams consider intersectionality in increased detail the higher the level of award.

At Bronze, Silver and Gold level, universities are expected to consider the role of the intersection of gender with ethnicity when gathering and reporting on pipeline data for both academic, and professional and support staff (Questions 4.1. (i) and 4.2. (i)). If it is not possible for the institution to do this within the application at Bronze level, the panel will expect to see that appropriate actions have been put in place to collect the data in the future.

At Silver and Gold level, the expectation is that an institution obtain and reflect on ethnicity data (though not necessarily present this data), where possible and where issues are identified. They should also provide an explanation of any actions implemented and consideration of how actions will impact on all target groups across ethnicity and gender.

Data >

In the institutional application form, there are two questions where ethnicity data should be included: 4.1. (i) Academic and research staff by grade and gender; 4.2. (i) Professional and support staff by grade and gender (Silver and Gold applications only). Note that any data which refers to less than five people, should be removed from applications when published.

Approaches >

Athena SWAN applications ask institutions to gather data, investigate data, and then plan actions to address identified issues. An example of how this approach can be applied to intersectionality:

  • When looking at the academic and research staff data by grade, gender and ethnicity, a self-assessment team (SAT) identify that the percentage of female black and minority ethnic (BME) staff drops between the level of Lecturer and Senior Lecturer, to a greater extent than is seen with white female staff. To understand this further, they look at: recruitment data and promotion data. Discovering that ethnicity data is not recorded in promotion, they create an action to collect this data in the future, and review all promotion actions to ensure they are inclusive of BME as well as white staff. Recruitment data is compared to benchmarking data, which demonstrates that the percentage of BME female applicants is below the sector percentage of BME Senior Lecturers. The SAT consult their BME Staff Network, and target actions at encouraging female BME applicants to apply with the aim of bringing the percentage of applicants above the sector benchmark.

Other suggestions:

  • Including staff in the SAT with protected characteristics not currently represented on the team.
  • Asking for monitoring data (protected characteristic, full/part-time status) when conducting surveys, so that you can analyse data according to different characteristics.
  • Reviewing action plans to ensure that actions will benefit staff of all ethnicities, when not specifically targeted at BME staff.
  • Picking an aspirational benchmark, and not being satisfied if your data is consistent with a poor national benchmark.
Further reading >