We are revising our data monitoring guidance to give more clarity when collecting data that relates to sex as a protected characteristic and the Equality Act 2010, and when collecting data for work to create a more inclusive culture. We are working with the sector-led Athena Swan Governance Committee to make these changes and will share with the sector in the coming weeks.
We recognise that sex is a protected characteristic and institutions need to be able to report data and progress against sex where appropriate and related to the Equality Act 2010. Recent engagement with the sector and the Athena Swan Governance Committee has concluded that we can develop clearer approaches to sex and gender, both in the Charter materials and in our guidance for data monitoring.
Athena Swan – a sector-led evolving Charter
The Athena Swan Charter was established in 2005 by the sector to recognise good practice to support academic women in STEMM. Over time the sector has asked that the Charter be more inclusive, which has seen it evolve from supporting only academic women in STEMM to include all disciplines, and professional staff. Since 2015, the Charter has also included trans staff and the underrepresentation of men. More recently, the Charter has developed to be inclusive of non-binary staff and students. While Charter applicants assess and address gender equality challenges in this wider sense, the progression and representation of women remains central to Athena Swan.
The transformed UK Athena Swan Charter
Advance HE provides and manages the Charter infrastructure on behalf of the sector. Earlier this year the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter was launched putting into place recommendations from an Independent Review. The review reported that the sector wanted the Charter to recognise gender as a spectrum.
The transformed Athena Swan Charter now benefits from sector oversight through the Athena Swan Governance Committee. This committee of experts, with representation from across the sector, re-affirmed the sector’s commitment to trans equality and the inclusive nature of the Athena Swan Charter.
We recognise that sex is a protected characteristic and institutions need to be able to report data and progress against sex where appropriate and related to the Equality Act 2010. Recent engagement with the sector and the Athena Swan Governance Committee has concluded that we can develop clearer approaches to sex and gender, both in the Charter materials and in our guidance for data monitoring; consequently, we are revising our guidance to provide more clarity when collecting data that relates to sex as a protected characteristic and the Equality Act 2010, and when collecting data for work to create a more inclusive culture.
Listening and responding to the needs of the sector
From the Independent Review to the ongoing stewardship of the Athena Swan Governance Committee, sector input and oversight of the Charter is a critical component of its governance and our obligations to the sector. Through our work with members and the sector will we continue our support for open debate about how to deal with the protected characteristics of sex and gender reassignment alongside the concept of gender identity and we hope the updates we are working on for Athena Swan and data monitoring more broadly will make a positive contribution to these conversations.
Kathryn Harrison-Graves, Advance HE Director for Membership and Accreditation, said, “The revisions to the data monitoring guidance and the Charter will ensure Athena Swan is fully inclusive and maintains its key role in the sector’s work to accelerate change towards fairer representation and equality for all. The progression and representation of women has always been central to Athena Swan and always will be.
“The Athena Swan Charter’s strength rests in it being sector-led – it supports institutions by providing a framework to develop their own plans and initiatives to create inclusive teaching and research environments – it is not a training scheme. The Charter is entirely voluntary and not prescriptive or linked to funding.
“The sector has been at the heart of its evolution to ensure it remains a relevant and robust framework to promote inclusive working practices for academics and professional and support staff, and that helps to create equitable working environments.”
The sector has been consistent that Athena Swan should be a trans inclusive gender equality charter addressing the specific challenges faced by trans and non-binary people.
Following feedback from our members we will be continuing to support members navigate tensions and work to foster good campus relations and inclusive campuses for all genders and beliefs.