Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion in every area of the Institute’s work, for both students and colleagues. This commitment requires a continuing evaluation of our policies and how these relate to the student experience, and to the job satisfaction, academic fulfilment and career progression of colleagues.
The Athena SWAN Charter, which was originally developed in the UK, is a specific initiative designed to combat under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) and to encourage women in advancing their careers in these areas in particular. As DIT has particular strengths in the STEMM disciplines, we are strongly committed to promoting the objectives of Athena SWAN and are currently preparing an application for accreditation under its auspices.What is Athena SWAN?
The Athena SWAN Charter was first developed in 2005 by the UK Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research. The Charter is based on 10 key principles
1. We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
2. We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular, addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.
3. We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including: the relative underrepresentation of women in senior roles in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)
4. We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
5. We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.
6. We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
7. We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.
8. We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
9. We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufáciently advance equality.
10. All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible. Developing ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter
Submitting an application to the Athena SWAN charter implies a commitment in the policies, practices, action plans and culture of an institution.
Athena SWAN was launched in Ireland in 2015, supported by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) with the objective of embedding the ambitions of the Charter in all Higher Education Institutions in Ireland.
Athena SWAN in DIT
Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has a long history of education and research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and disciplines associated with medical sciences. As one of the largest institutions of higher education in Ireland, DIT represents some 10% of all third level students. Currently some 9500 students – more than 50% of all DIT students - are studying and researching within the STEMM disciplines in DIT, and 950 academic colleagues are involved in their teaching and supervision.
While DIT is committed to the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the institute, we have been inspired by the Athena SWAN initiative to ensure that this commitment is also clearly reflected in the experience of all students and colleagues in the STEMM disciplines, with particular reference to gender equality and advancing the careers of women in the field.
In 2015 DIT established a cross-institution Athena SWAN Steering Group, chaired by Professor Brian O’Neill, Director of Research, Enterprise and Innovation Services. The group comprises colleagues from the Colleges of Engineering and Built Environment; the College of Sciences and Health; Research Support; Access and Civic Engagement; Staff Development; Human Resources; and the Office of the President. Its purpose is to consider the current range of initiatives and policies as they impact colleagues in the STEMM disciplines in the first instance and to consider how DIT can, in its “policies, practices, action plans and culture”, improve support to staff and students.
The Steering Group has reviewed student and staff data in DIT, conducted an online staff survey to collect views and opinions from all members of staff about their own experiences; conducted qualitative research; and reviewed policies as part of its preparation for making an application to the Equality Challenge Unit for an Athena SWAN Bronze Institute Award.
While the work of the Steering Group is focused on the Institute Award for STEMM disciplines, the Athena Swan Charter is being expanded to cover all disciplines and the overall objective is to apply the same principles to all discipline and functional areas in DIT, and to all aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion. Once DIT achieves the Institute Award, individual Schools will then be in a position to work towards recognition of gender equality supports in their contexts.
In advance of preparation for Department-level submissions, the Dean of Engineering and Built Environment established a College Diversity Working Group in September 2016. The team is led by The Director and Dean and membership is comprised of six members of staff including the Dean, one Head of School, two Assistant Heads of School, one Senior Lecturer and one Lecturer. Thee members of the team and female, and three are male. The group will be expanded as appropriate. The first meeting of the group was on the 7th of October and the intention is to meet every month.
The working group is focused on diversity in general, but also with a particular focus on gender diversity. The basic principle that underpinned the group formation was that if one wants the best, most holistic and well informed decision making, then diversity in teams, groups and committees and other fora across the College and the Institute is essential The group has the objective of promoting diversity and developing actions and initiatives to improve diversity across the College.
This team will be incorporated into the College SAT which will be established in 2017 in order to make Departmental submissions for Athena Swan accreditation at the earliest possible date.