Leading the way: Increasing diversity in the scientific workforce

Leading the way: Increasing diversity in the scientific workforceAthena SWAN Charter Awards (Research Institutes)

The Athena SWAN Charter was launched in 2005, and recognises commitment to advancing and promoting women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment. It is a highly successful programme, recognised for its potency in effecting cultural and systemic change towards gender equality.  

Previously, research institutes were only eligible to apply for Athena SWAN awards if they were part of a higher education institution (HEI), or had HEI status. However, several research institutes funded by research councils expressed an interest in being involved in Athena SWAN, feeling that the process and network would facilitate the sharing of good practice, and the identification of actions. Research institutes recruit from, and are a key supplier of talent to the Higher Education (HE) sector, and have similar work patterns and cultures. As such, women in this part of the academic community experience similar barriers to career progression.

As part of the Royal Society’s diversity programme the Society funded a pilot project with Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) to investigate opening the Charter to previously excluded research institutes. The pilot ran over the course of 2013, with six research institutes applying for an Athena SWAN award.  

Following the pilot, the ECU agreed to open Athena SWAN membership to research institutes from April 2014, and further developed the Charter to reflect the particular challenges they face.

The research institutes have now received feedback on their submissions and the final project report can be downloaded via the link on the right hand side of this page. We would like to congratulate the following institutes on their success in achieving an Award:

  • British Geological Survey, Bronze 
  • James Hutton Institute, Bronze 
  • John Innes Centre, Silver 
  • MRC National Institute for Medical Research, Bronze 
  • Pirbright Institute, Bronze 
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Bronze 

The awards will be formally presented during a ceremony and launch event at The Royal Society, on Thursday 1 May 2014.

Going forward, specifically targeted workshops will be held to support research institutes who are interested in applying for an Athena SWAN award, with assistance from research council staff involved in the pilot.  

Case studies

The institutes below have given an account of their experience of the Athena SWAN pilot study, detailing the learnings, challenges and the value of applying for accreditation, as well as the far-reaching benefits of gaining an award. 

British Geological Survey (PDF)

James Hutton Institute (PDF)

John Innes Centre (PDF)

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (PDF)

MRC National Institute for Medical Research (PDF)

Project report

Read the final project report from Athena SWAN.

Leading the way

I wasn't always a scientist
Published: April 2015

Best practice case studies
Published: June 2014 - ongoing

Diversity in STEMM: Establishing a business case
Published: June 2014

Inspiring scientists: Diversity in British science
Published: May 2014

Athena SWAN Charter Awards
Published: May 2014

A picture of the UK scientific workforce
Interactive chart
Published: March 2014

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Diversity at the Royal Society

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