Image of the Athena SWAN logo

The University of Queensland is excited to be a part of the national SAGE Pilot of the Athena SWAN program to address and improve gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines. Forty Australian organisations, including universities, medical research institutions and government research institutions, are involved in the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN.

What is the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN?

The SAGE Pilot is modelled on the Athena SWAN program was initiated in the UK and has had proven success in addressing gender equality in STEMM in higher education and research institutions. The Athena SWAN program implements an accreditation framework where organisations apply for a Bronze, Silver or Gold award which reflect their progress in addressing gender equity in their organisation. Organisations must receive a Bronze award before they can apply for Silver or Gold. In the UK, some research grant bodies require organisations to have a Bronze Athena SWAN award to be eligible for grants.  

The SAGE Pilot aims to adapt the Athena SWAN model for the Australian landscape to address and improve gender equity in STEMM by implementing its rigorous evaluation and accreditation framework. The SAGE Pilot runs for two years, and a successful receipt of a Bronze award is valid for four years. UQ will submit their application for a Bronze award in early 2019.

The details of the program are outlined in the SAGE Pilot Institutional Handbook. To complete the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN program organisation complete a Bronze Institutional Award application which requires them to:

  • commit to the ten principles in the Athena SWAN Charter;
  • develop a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) which is representative of the diversity of the organisation to steer the program;
  • collect and analyse quantitative and qualitative data to gain a deep understanding of all aspects of the organisation;
  • complete a policy and program review to ensure that all organisational policies and programs are inclusive;
  • consult and engage with staff across the organisation to gain a deeper understanding of their experience at the organisation;
  • use the quantitative and qualitative data collected to identify key barriers, challenges and opportunities in the organisation;
  • develop a four year action plan which addresses any barriers and challenges identified in the analysis of the organisation.

The institution's application will be assessed by a peer review panel to determine if a Bronze award will be awarded.

What is the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN attempting to address?

The SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN is aiming to address the under-representation of women in STEMM disciplines. The figure below shows the representation of women in STEMM in Australia.

scissor graph showing the under-representation of women in STEMM

As the figure shows, there is a 'leaky pipeline' in the STEMM career pipeline for women. Women are slightly over-represented at Bachelor level but are grossly under-represented in Professorial levels. Approximately only 20 per cent of Professors in Australia are women. This is true of UQ and across the sector nationally.

The SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN aims to adapt the UK based Athena SWAN program for the Australian context to address the under-representation of women in STEMM. The Athena SWAN program has been implemented in the UK for over ten years and has had remakrable impacts. In the independent review of the program in 2014 found that the outcomes of the program includes:

  • improved women’s prominence;
  • increased self-confidence;
  • enhanced leadership skills;
  • think more broadly about gender issues; and
  • impacted positively on career development.

SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN at UQ

UQ will submit their application for a Bronze award, which will include a comprehensive action plan, in March 2019. The action plan will then be implemented between 2019 and 2023. 

To be successful in our application for a Bronze award, we need to ensure that we demonstrate:

  • Evidence of good practice: gender-specific, innovative
  • Data collection and analysis: deep and honest analysis and reflection, compelling evidence base and rationale, when relevant – demonstrate trends/key issues/improvements
  • Consultation: significant to informing analysis and drawing persuasive argument for action
  • Self reflection and evaluation: honest and insightful reflection and evaluation of policy, practice and initiatives.
  • Action plan: that addresses the gaps identified in the analysis to work towards improving the representation and experience of women in STEMM.

The work of the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN is to be coordinated by a Self-Assessment Team (SAT). At UQ, the SAT is chaired by Professor Robyn Ward, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and is made up of 22 members which reflect the diversity of UQ. The SAT has a 41% gender balance.

The work of the SAT is supported by several working parties who are responsible for different elements of the Bronze Institutional Award Application. The SAT Working Parties are outlined below.

  • SAT Communications and Engagement Working Party.
  • SAT Data and Analysis Working Party.
  • SAT Career Development Working Party.
  • SAT Flexible Work Working Party.
  • SAT Organisation and Culture Working Party.

If you have any questions about the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN and the work of the Self-Assessment Team please contact SAT Secretariat, Ms Jordan Tredinnick, Workplace Diversity and Inclusion.