Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) is a UK based organisation that works to support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education institutions. They support universities and colleges to build an inclusive culture that values the benefits of diversity, to remove barriers to progression and success for all staff and students, and to challenge and change unfair practices that disadvantage individuals or groups.
Advance HE’s Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. The charter has since expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.
The Athena SWAN Charter covers women (and men where appropriate) in:
- academic roles in STEMM and AHSSBL
- professional and support staff
- trans staff and students
In relation to their:
- progression of students into academia
- journey through career milestones
- working environment for all staff
In a major national initiative supported by the Higher Education Authority, the Athena SWAN Charter was launched in Ireland in early 2015. Figures published by the Higher Education Authority highlight gender inequality as an issue for the sector. Across Irish universities, only 19% of professors are women. In institutes of technology, women make up 45% of academic staff but just 29% of senior academic staff.