The Athena SWAN Charter evolved from work between the Athena Project and the Scientific Women's Network (SWAN), to advance the representation of women in science, engineering and technology (SET). The University of Bristol is a founder member of the Royal Society Athena SWAN Charter which recognises excellence in SET (science, engineering and technology) employment in higher education, with particular regard to gender equality. When the Charter was launched in June 2005, all UK universities were invited to become Charter signatories. Bristol became a founder signatory and the Vice-Chancellor signed up to the principles enshrined in the Charter through a letter of commitment (Word 27 Kb, PDF 15 Kb).
The following principles were agreed:
To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation.
To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation.
The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address.
The use of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the university recognises.
The transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career in science can be particularly difficult for women and requires active consideration by the organisation.
The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine.
The Charter has grown consistently from its inception; now over half of all higher education institutions that are active in STEMM subject areas are members. Athena SWAN awards have also gone from strength to strength. Following the April 2012 round of awards, there are 124 award holders. Athena SWAN received a major boost in 2011, when the Chief Medical Officer announced that the National Institute for Health Research would only expect to shortlist medical schools for biomedical research centre and unit funding if the school holds a Silver Athena SWAN award.