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Home Advance HE’s Equality Charters Equality charters explained Aligning Athena SWAN and the gender equality charter mark

Aligning Athena SWAN and the gender equality charter mark

ECU's Athena SWAN charter and gender equality charter mark will be brought together in April 2015.

ECU’s Athena SWAN charter will be expanding next year to include arts, humanities, social science, business and law departments alongside the current science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine disciplines.

We are currently developing and aligning processes to ensure the expansion is effective and meets the needs of current Athena SWAN members, the institutions that took part in the gender equality charter mark trial, and those of you considering joining either charter.

In November 2014, we launched a consultation to gather your opinions on a number of changes and outstanding points for consideration.

See the gender charter marks consultation response for an update on how we are developing Athena SWAN

We are also continuing to consult with a number of key stakeholders, including ECU funders, learned societies and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the future shape and direction of our charter marks.

We are currently running a trial of our race equality charter mark. We will be further reviewing Athena SWAN and gender equality charter mark materials and processes when the race trial concludes in July 2015.

Key considerations in aligning Athena SWAN and the gender equality charter mark

Focus on function >

The gender equality charter mark trial application forms were based around questions related to the charter principles A to H, which built on and extended existing Athena SWAN principles.

We intend to bring the applications in line with the Athena SWAN approach which focuses on themed areas, for example career development, recruitment, flexibility and managing career breaks.

  • If your institution has been using the trial materials to inform current and future gender equality work, including making applications to the charter mark, this work will be transferable to the revised application structure. ECU will provide guidance on how to map existing work to the revised forms.
  • Self assessment teams will be expected to consider how the combined principles have been considered throughout the submission, including in their action plan.
Professional and support staff >

The gender equality charter mark explored equality for professional and support staff, honorary staff and some atypical staff such as visiting lecturers.

Athena SWAN will be extended to include these groups of staff, covering aspects including:

  • career development (promotions, appraisals and training)
  • flexible working
  • contract type
  • recruitment and turnover
  • workload modelling
  • maternity and paternity and cover arrangements for when staff take family-related career breaks

These staff will be covered separately in submissions to ensure that data on recruitment, retention and progression remain clear. Considering these groups separately will also allow institutions to identify specific issues around career pathways for professional and support staff.

Trans staff >

Following consultation with the sector, the gender equality charter mark trial included equality for trans staff.

This broader focus on gender identity, rather than just gender, was successful in the trial, and the expansion of Athena SWAN will include trans staff.

Institutional submissions will not be expected to include data on trans staff, but will need to demonstrate how the unfair treatment often experienced by trans people is tackled by the institution. This will include demonstrating:

  • steps to ensure trans people do not experience unfair treatment when working as a member of staff
  • if further initiatives are necessary to ensure trans people working at the institution are not experiencing unfair treatment
  • monitoring and acting on any findings of positive or negative impact of policies on trans people.
Zero-hours contracts >

We propose to extend beyond the current Athena SWAN focus of fixed-term and open-ended contracts to include zero-hours contract staff.

Staff who are not on traditional academic contracts (for example zero hour contracts, honorary positions, distance learning staff/lecturers) will still have an impact on departmental and institutional culture.

Interplay of gender and other characteristics >

There will be an expectation that institutions will acknowledge the different needs of different men and women, rather than seeing them as homogeneous groups, by considering the interplay of gender with other equality characteristics (for example race, age and disability).

Data requirements >

The gender equality charter mark trial included a template for setting out data. While most institutional participants and some departmental submissions found this a useful guide, others had difficulty mapping data to it. We are proposing that the data template will no longer be mandatory.

Detailed guidance will give comprehensive information on minimum data requirements and expectations on how to use, interpret and present data.

There will also be an increased focus on the use of qualitative data. This will be especially useful for smaller departments, where there are dangers in interpreting the small numbers involved in quantitative data.

Improved guidance for application forms >

The existing Athena SWAN guidance will be revised and updated to take into account the additional areas noted above.

We also intend to publish guidance on mapping across content from existing application forms to the combined form.

Fees >

As currently, there will be a membership fee for institutions wishing to take part in the charter, plus a submission fee for each department when they apply for an award.

Fee levels will be confirmed in April 2015.

Transitional arrangements >

Gender equality charter mark trial participants

Institutions and departments who achieved awards in the gender equality charter mark trial will be granted the new charter mark award at the same level. Renewal submissions must follow the processes set out in the new guidance.

Athena SWAN participants and renewals

Full details of transitional arrangements for existing award holders will be released in April 2015.