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Athena Swan Ireland FAQs: Data

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

How recent should the presented in the application data be?

The panel expects to see applicants use the most recent data they have access to, with the understanding that self-assessment teams need sufficient time to collate, analyse and develop actions in response to issues identified from their data. Typically, for April submissions the most recent academic year of data will be included (e.g. an April 2022 submission would generally include 2020-21 data). For November applications, the most recent year of academic data may not be available (e.g. a November 2021 submission would be unlikely to include 2020- 21, as this may have only become available shortly before the submission deadline). It is often helpful to include a sentence in the application that explains the rationale for the data sets used.

Under the new GDPR guidelines, can we collect, store and monitor personal information, including around recruitment activities? 

The collection and retention of personal data for equality and diversity purposes is permitted under GDPR, as long as consent is obtained (e.g. from job applicants), and data are collected and stored appropriately. Collecting and analysing data over time is a key means of pinpointing where inequalities may exist. For example, without data on the various stages of recruitment it will be difficult to analyse trends and identify potential biases. We recommend that HEIs review their data collection systems to support their equality, diversity and inclusion work and link with the institution’s legal and/or data protection staff for guidance. 

How should we include clinical and/or allied health professionals in our staffing data? 

The Athena Swan Ireland charter assessment process will look at all staff employed directly within the department or institution.

Commonly for departments who carry out clinical work this includes clinical academics and allied health professionals, including those who also carry out activities outside the department in a medical setting. Departments often have various roles unique to their discipline, and this may include, but is not limited to roles such as Clinical Lecturers, Clinical Fellows, Consultant Senior Lecturers and Professors, etc.

You should determine the most appropriate methods for data collection, consultation, analysis, and presentation related to these roles.

For example, departments with clinical and non-clinical staff will likely need to disaggregate these two groups where possible when presenting staff data. This will be particularly appropriate when analysing the staff pipeline. As with any staff role, Athena Swan Ireland applicants are encouraged to reflect on equality issues affecting particular cohorts in their community.

Where can I find information on including trans and non-binary people in the self-assessment? 

Advance HE advises institutions to provide staff with another option in addition to male and female or men and women to ensure people who are non-binary have an appropriate category to select. In consultation with staff and students, institutions may decide to add ‘non-binary’ as a category along with ‘other’. People who are trans will often identify as male or female meaning that asking a question on sex or gender identity alone will not enable institutions to monitor the experiences of their trans staff and students. An institution may opt for qualitative rather than quantitative methods to assess these experiences. Advance HE's 2016 guidance ‘Improving the experiences of trans staff and students’ has a detailed terminology section and outlines questions that institutions may wish to ask when collecting equality monitoring data, including the question ‘do you identify as trans or have a trans history?’. 

Why benchmark your data?

External benchmarking data can be used as a helpful tool to provide context and comparison, provide a ‘sense check’ in relation to disciplines and institutions within the broader higher education and research sector, and highlight where there may be good practice and to inform actions. You can find further information and advice on benchmarking in Topic Guide 2: Collecting and Analysing Data

When should we use benchmarking data and what should we consider?

The questions in the 2021 charter framework identify when benchmarking is required. You should provide benchmarking data when requested and, if this is not possible, you should explain why benchmarking has not been undertaken as part of your response to the question.

Where can we find external benchmarking data?  

National data on the staff populations of institutions in Ireland is published annually by the Higher Education Authority (see Higher Education Institutional Staff Profiles by Gender). Discipline specific data is not centrally available in Ireland but you can still undertake external benchmarking for your subject area/s. You may consider direct approach to other institutions or sub-units, consulting relevant Athena Swan submissions from other applicants, industry data that aligns with your specialism, or data from professional bodies or learned societies. In many cases, it may be useful to consider using international benchmarking data that is readily available; for example, data from UK higher education published in Advance HE’s annual Equality statistical reports or available via the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). You can find further information and advice on benchmarking in Topic Guide 2: Collecting and Analysing Data