Introduction to Athena SWAN

Athena SWAN is a Charter that recognises the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM). Within STEMM disciplines, women are typically under-represented at senior levels and this is ubiquitous across the Higher Education sector. Athena SWAN recognition comes in the form of institutional or departmental awards of varying levels. Fundamentally, though, Chartership requires that institutions adhere to six key principles:

  1. To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation
  2. To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation
  3. The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine
  4. The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address
  5. The system of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the organisation recognises
  6. There are both personal and structural obstacles to women making the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career in science, which require the active consideration of the organisation

It is important that everyone with the Department works together to help to tackle the challenges that Athena SWAN highlights. Geography has brought together an Athena SWAN Working Group to look more carefully at these challenges and understand how they might be having an impact on the department, its staff and the working culture.

The Group meets on a regular basis to discuss these issues and has now gained a better understanding of the action that needs to be taken to improve the working environment for everyone within the Department. An Athena SWAN action plan is currently being implemented to address these local challenges.


The University of Exeter's Geography Department are now proud holders of an Athena SWAN Silver Award. The University is a member of the Athena SWAN Charter and has held a Bronze institutional award since November 2011, successfully renewing this in November 2014. All departments at Exeter are committed to holding an Athena SWAN award. As part of sharing good practice, the Geography Department’s Athena SWAN applications are publically available for download:

Additionally, all University and Departmental applications are available for download here.

‌The University was also pleased to be included in the Gender Equality Charter Mark (GEM) trial. The department of Classics and Ancient History participated in the trial and applied for and were awarded a Bronze Departmental Award (April 2014). Further information can be found at Classics and Ancient History GEM webpages.

The University is also participating in the Race Equality Charter Mark (REM) trial.