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Athena SWAN and Gender Equality


Athena Swan Bronze Logo

St Mary's University is committed to advancing gender equality across our institution for all staff and students.

This commitment is embedded in our equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) agenda as is outlined in our People Strategy, and is underpinned by our mission and purpose as an inclusive Catholic university. To help drive forward our efforts to improve gender equality at St Mary’s, we are a proud member of Advance HE’s Athena Swan Charter. The charter serves as a helpful framework as we seek to interrogate and improve existing structures that may prohibit St Mary’s from achieving true gender equality. As part of joining the Charter, St Mary’s has committed to 10 Key Principles which will underpin our efforts to improve our policies, practices, action plans, and culture.

For more information regarding St Mary’s Athena Swan efforts, or to discuss ways to get involved, please reach out to our EDI Team at

The Athena Swan Charter is a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. Established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment, the Charter is now being used across the globe to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.


Under the leadership of Dr Jane Chambers, Head of the School of Education, a self-assessment team (SAT) of staff and students from across the university was assembled to lead our efforts to address gender inequality at St Mary’s.

The SAT analysed and interrogated the Athena Swan data to better understand the state of gender equality at St Mary’s. The team drafted key areas where actions may be taken to redress gender inequity at the university, which has fed into the creation of our three-year action plan to help improve upon any issues raised during the data collection process.

The SAT was also supported by Prof Symeon Dagkas, Deputy Provost, as institutional leadership champion. In his role, Symeon elevated the work of the SAT to the highest levels of leadership at St Mary’s, serving as a champion and advocate for the implementation of positive change in the university’s gender equality efforts.

St Mary's was awarded with the Athena Swan Bronze Award in April 2023.

The St Mary’s Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team (SAT) was comprised of staff and students from across the institution who came together to help drive forward meaningful change in gender equality for our community. The SAT addressed the ten Charter principles as they worked to complete St Mary’s first application for a Small and Specialist Institution Athena Swan Bronze award.

The Athena Swan SAT, and therein members of the Athena Swan SAT, have several aims.

  1. To drive forward the Athena Swan self-assessment process at St Mary’s, in accordance with the Athena Swan Charter and Principles. This includes collecting and analysing wide-ranging quantitative and qualitative data on gender equality and intersectionality across the university, as well as demonstrating the impact of previous/ongoing gender equality activity.
  2. To act as ‘champions’ for the Athena Swan process and gender equality throughout the university, raising awareness, inspiring engagement of staff and students, attending events and encouraging active participation in the principles of the Athena Swan Charter.
  3. To develop, oversee, and monitor the progress of the university’s Athena Swan Action Plan 2022-2025, and help ensure accountability for individual action items, both within their individual departments and in broader institutional activities.
  4. To review the Terms of Reference (including SAT membership) on an annual basis to ensure the implementation of the action plan is fit for purpose.
  5. To oversee future Athena Swan award submissions from the university.

Membership of the SAT was reviewed regularly to ensure the group reflects a diverse cross-section of individuals and experiences, as is outlined by the Charter.

The Athena Swan SAT reported to the University Executive Committee (UEC).

The Athena Swan team encouraged all St Mary's staff and students to join the conversation and make their voices heard as we seeked to better understand barriers to gender equality across the institution.

In Spring 2021, the Athena Swan SAT carried out a staff-wide Gender Priorities Survey to help build this understanding.

Read the Gender Priorities Survey Executive Summary

The Athena Swan SAT hosted a series of Engagement Events to bring all community members together in discussing and addressing issues of gender equality.

Watch the recordings of recent Engagement Events here:

Gender Differences in Promotable vs Non-Promotable Tasks with Aiste Senuylte Zubiniene, EDI Officer at University of Bath

Gendered Language: Why We Need Deliberate Disruption with Vivienne Porritt, Leadership Consultant and Strategic Leader of #WomenEd

View the PowerPoint slides from Vivienne's Gendered Language workshop.

The Athena Swan Charter is based on ten key principles. By being part of Athena Swan, St. Mary’s is committing to a progressive Charter; adopting these principles within our policies, practice, action plans and culture.

  1. We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
  2. We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular, addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.
  3. We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including: the relative underrepresentation of women in senior roles in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)
  4. We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
  5. We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.
  6. We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
  7. We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.
  8. We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
  9. We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality.
  10. All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.