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What is Athena SWAN?

The Athena SWAN Charter is run by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), a UK charity. The Charter celebrates good practice in gender equality in Higher Education, and offers a framework for introducing cultural changes to create a better working environment for all.

The Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women employed in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research. In 2015, it was expanded to include work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) as well as professional and support roles and trans staff and students.  We are fully committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, and to enabling our departments to achieve Athena SWAN awards under the newly-expanded scheme.

What’s happening in the social sciences at Oxford?

We are delighted that the Charter has expanded to encompass social sciences departments, and we are actively supporting our departments to promote equality and diversity and to submit Athena SWAN award applications. The Faculty of Law and the School of Geography and the Environment have both achieved Bronze awards and work to implement their action plans is underway.

We can:

  • advise on and enable the Athena SWAN self-assessment process
  • provide staff and student data
  • support the administration of surveys and focus groups.

We also run cross-departmental workshops to share best practice and coordinating initiatives (including the Returning Carers’ Fund). So far, three Oxford social science departments has submitted an award application (for which the outcomes are awaited) and several more have applications in train.


We have a divisional Equality & Diversity Steering Group to guide divisional strategy in this area and oversee departmental progress in submitting award applications. We work closely with the University's Equality and Diversity Unit and the other academic divisions in support of the University's aim to foster 'an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected.’