The Athena SWAN program, which originated in the United Kingdom, is an internationally recognized initiative that celebrates higher-education institutions that have implemented practices to support gender equity in the sciences through a certification-focused awards program.
Institutions that participate in the Athena SWAN program must sign and endorse the Athena SWAN Equity Charter, which supports the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) employment in higher education and research. The Canadian program has been developed as part of the government’s commitment within the 2018 budget to help advance and promote equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the post-secondary research community. The Athena SWAN Equality Charter will be adapted to the Canadian context and it will seek to reflect the country’s unique needs and interests by incorporating all areas of research, all post-secondary institutions and relevant issues to all the Employment Equity designated groups – women, people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities and the LGBTQI+ community.
The federal government has recently released a draft version of a made-in-Canada Athena SWAN Charter. The Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is launching consultations to inform the first draft of the charter and is seeking perspectives, knowledge and experiences from the academy to help strengthen the charter and program design, requirements and processes. This draft charter incorporates feedback collected from institutional representatives on the goals, scope and design of the program received at Athena SWAN workshop consultations that NSERC held last fall.
This Canadian program will be voluntary for all colleges and universities. The government intends to finalize the charter this spring and launch the program in the summer of 2019.
Until March 27, NSERC will host half-day workshops at 13 universities and five colleges across Canada to seek additional input on the draft charter.
The Ontario sessions are:
- Sudbury: March 19 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Laurentian University;
- Kitchener: March 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Wilfrid Laurier University; and
- Toronto: March 27 from 9 a.m. to noon at George Brown College.
NSERC also invites institutions and individuals to submit their views and ideas about the draft charter directly via email.