What is Athena SWAN?

February 19, 2019

Written by: Alicen Ricard

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Feb 11 the Science Minister announced the draft for the Athena SWAN charter in Canada. The charter was made popular in the UK and has now been brought here as the made-for-Canada charter.

What exactly is the charter though?

The United Kingdom Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) Charter was established in 2005 to encourage women to higher their education in STEM fields and to encourage gender equality, representation, progression, and success for all in STEM careers. It was expanded in 2015 to include work in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL). The charter covers women in academic roles in STEM and AHSSSBL, professional and support staff in relation to their representation, progression of students into academia, journey through career milestones, and working environment for all staff.

The made-in-Canada-Athena-SWAN program is “being launched to encourage and recognize commitments made by post-secondary institutions towards advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in the research community.”   The Honorable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, announced the program with its intentions to increase diversity in academic institutions and research. It’s based on the UK program, but has been adapted to align with Canada’s diversity.

Quotes from the Press Release on the charter

“Our Government is returning science and research to their rightful place while embracing equity, diversity and inclusion in the lab, the classroom and the field. Efforts to promote science are important for a forward-looking and welcoming research community that leaves no one on the sidelines. Together, these new Capacity-Building grants and the new made-in-Canada program will help us ensure Canada’s research community is as diverse as our country.”
- The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport

“By harnessing the ideas and talents of everyone in the research community, we drive innovation, make our country more competitive, and all Canadians benefit. Today’s announcement creates more opportunities for women and underrepresented groups in research institutions across Canada, and is a powerful step toward building a vibrant, diverse and inclusive research community.”
- The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality

“Fostering equity, diversity and inclusion is an active process that reflects how we act, think and lead at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. These are core values that drive innovation and excellence, enhance quality and integrity, and underscore what it means to be a university. We can only reach our greatest potential when we eliminate barriers to ensure all people are welcomed into the lab, the lecture theatre and the campus.”
- Dr. Steven Murphy, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Read the full press release here. Read the charter here. You can give feedback on the charter here.