Impact of Athena SWAN

Research shows practical and lasting benefits for individuals and institutions engaged in Athena SWAN, from improved outcomes for women to an enhanced workplace culture.

In 2014, the Equality Challenge Unit UK commissioned an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the Athena SWAN Charter in advancing and sustaining change towards gender equity in STEMM.

Institutional impact of Athena SWAN

Biologist leading a team in the field smallFindings from the evaluation surveys found that staff in institutions holding Athena SWAN awards rated their institutions and work areas higher across a range of key areas.

Academic and research staff:

  • were more familiar with promotion processes;
  • were more likely to have received rewards for their work; and
  • rated their university higher for the promotion of equality and diversity.

Women academic and research staff felt Athena SWAN had:

  • improved their visibility;
  • increased their self-confidence;
  • enhanced their leadership skills;
  • helped them to think more broadly about gender issues; and
  • impacted positively on their career development.

Administrative and technical staff rated their work area higher for work/life balance.

Transforming institutional culture

Woman speaking to audience at conference smallEngagement with the Athena SWAN process led to transformations in workplace culture.

In-depth case studies revealed a widely reported positive change in women being more visible in key positions and senior roles. Some interviewees also reported having witnessed positive changes in staff recruitment as a result of involvement with Athena SWAN.

Data collection enabled institutions to identify challenges relevant to their institutions and departments. The most important institutional actions following receipt of an Award included:

  • improved processes for promotion and reward/review panels;
  • the development of mentoring systems, networking and leadership training for women;
  • changes to maternity leave cover;
  • increased engagement of senior leadership and departments;
  • putting into place structures and data collection systems; and
  • appointment of designated Athena SWAN officers.

In some institutions, positive practices impacted on departments beyond STEMM.

Our philosophy has always been that if we improve the situation for our women academics we improve it for everyone: best practice benefits all. Athena SWAN has helped change the culture of our college. —Mr Rob Bell and Professor Dorothy Griffiths, Imperial College London (Silver Award since November 2012)