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Women in HE Conference 2021

Athena Swan FAQs: Intersectionality

The answers to some frequently asked questions about intersectionality in your Athena Swan charter application.

What do we mean by ‘intersectionality’?

Intersectionality means recognising that people’s identities and social positions are shaped by several factors, which create unique experiences and perspectives. These factors include, among others: sexuality, gender, race, disability, age, and religion. For the purposes of Athena Swan applications, institutions should consider the intersection of gender and ethnicity to identify where they may have underrepresentation (national HESA data, for example, shows sector-wide, acute underrepresentation of BAME women in academia), and develop appropriate actions in response.  Consideration of intersectionality is only required in institutional applications, though departments are also encouraged to adopt this approach.

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Why are we asking institutions to consider intersectionality in their Athena Swan application?

Athena Swan is a progressive charter which aims to advance gender equality in UK higher education. The inclusion of intersectionality both as a principle and within the application process is informed by sector-wide challenges, current thinking on gender equality and by Advance HE's Race Equality Charter. Individuals can experience complex and compound discrimination, based on a combination of elements of their identity. It is therefore important that institutions’ equality and diversity work – aimed at tackling discrimination – is mindful of this complexity when exploring issues around gender equality and developing solutions. If an intersectional approach is not taken, the discrimination and barriers experienced by some individuals will not be fully understood or addressed.