The Australian Athena SWAN pilot: lessons learned at Charles Sturt University

Janelle Thomas, Catherine Thomas, Craig Hinley, Kirsty Smith, Timothy Wess

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Following the successful implementation of the UK Athena SWAN charter in Ireland, Australia is now piloting the awards scheme that recognises universities’ efforts to support academic women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). The first cohort of Australian higher education and research institutions submitted their applications for bronze institutional awards in March 2018, with the results to be announced in September, and another two cohorts of applicants have signed up for the pilot. With the US announcing its small-scale pilot of the Athena SWAN charter in late 2017, and Ireland’s research funding eligibility linked to achievement of the award, it’s timely to reflect on the lessons learned at Charles Sturt University, one of the institutions involved in the first cohort of Australian applicants.

While the announcement of Charles Sturt University’s involvement in the pilot was met with strong enthusiasm and passion from staff, harnessing this zeal and turning it into a well-researched and polished application has resulted in some key lessons:

1. Translating excitement into action: Investigating inequity at your place of work, and contributing to an application and action plan to address such inequities is an exciting prospect for staff. Your SAT will likely be a group of like-minded people, and many will be activists who relish the opportunity to get something done. However the competing demands of the academic calendar and teaching and research commitments may overshadow the enthusiasm. How do you turn that around?
2. Staying on track: Putting a SMART action plan and rigorous application together will run away from you as fast as you can chase it if you don’t put some strict parameters around it early on. Far more questions will be raised than answered during the process so how do you know when enough is enough? How do you keep the end goal in mind, while you’re drowning in data, analysis, ideas and actions? Early in the process, define STEMM in your institution and be clear on the questions that need answering, and establish a project timeline.
3. Athena SWAN is not an island: Recognising that much work is already being done to address gender equity in an institution and that Athena SWAN cannot exist in isolation, how do you maintain the connection between the work in progress, the work that needs to be done, and where it sits within the institution? Are the issues you uncover gender issues or other inequity issues, are they a STEMM problem or exist across the University, and what can you do about it?

This presentation will outline the experiences of Charles Sturt University’s self-assessment team (SAT) in driving the Athena SWAN Bronze Award application from 2015 to submission in 2018, and the many lessons learned along the way. This knowledge has been captured through a series of reflective discussions with SAT members.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2018
Event10th European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education - Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 20 Aug 201822 Aug 2018


Conference10th European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education
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