Science and Gender Equity Australia (SAGE) has clarified the pathway for Bronze awardees to reach the next level of the Athena Swan accreditation in Australia.

UNSW was one of the first cohort of research and higher education institutions in Australia to receive Bronze Athena Swan accreditation in 2018. Using the Athena Swan framework, the University built an action plan designed to overcome barriers for women specific to the institution around promotions, flexible work, career development and workplace culture among others. UNSW is now working towards Silver Athena Swan accreditation in 2024.

Meet the new academic leadership team driving our progress

Professor Fiona Stapleton of the School of Optometry and Vision Science has been appointed Academic Lead for Athena Swan for the period 2021-2023. “I’d benefited from some of the gender equity strategies at UNSW, so I’d seen the benefits and also perhaps some things that could be done a little bit better. The Self-Assessment Team is such a committed group and such an amazing program internationally, it’s been a pleasure to be involved and to understand the depth of talent and willingness to drive initiatives that really make a difference in terms of recruitment and career progression.”

Many initiatives are almost unrecognisable from their small beginnings under the original Athena Swan action plan. Gender representation targets and regular reporting through influential committees for women in senior leadership positions, the flexible work toolkit and sexual harassment learning modules are just some examples of initiatives that have matured over time into larger University processes and structures embedded in how UNSW operates. It’s timely to reflect on progress and the process of applying for ‘Cygnet’ Awards offers that opportunity.

Dr Sue Williamson is an expert in gender equality in the workplace, and a deputy Academic Lead for Athena Swan at UNSW. “Gender equality is progressing in the Australian community and in workplaces – it’s slow progress and patchy, but we can see that there is progress. Women in STEM is one of the last frontiers where we still need a really big push for gender equality, just the sheer lack of numbers is another barrier that needs to be broken and that’s why I’ve become involved in Athena Swan.”

Striving for Silver

To achieve Silver accreditation, UNSW is required to submit five Cygnet Awards by the end of 2023, each one demonstrating outcomes and impact around a key barrier for women that the University has targeted. Finally, in early 2024 UNSW will submit our Silver Award application including a new action plan prioritising the University’s actions for the next five years.

Associate Professor Amelia Thorpe is the other newly appointed Deputy Academic Lead for Athena Swan at UNSW. When asked about the future of the program she said that key factors will be “recognising intersectionality, understanding that women are still carrying higher loads of service responsibilities and mentoring, and that there are subtle ways that women can still be undermined even though so much has been done and achieved. Really just making sure we keep looking after women and we don’t assume that gender is done.”

Join the team

The Athena Swan Self-Assessment team is looking for new members to help drive progress towards gender equity at UNSW. Interested applicants should please complete the online form here by 9 November.

To find out more about Gender Equity at UNSW and the Athena SWAN Program, visit the EDI website.