Made-in-Canada Athena SWAN consultation

The consultation period has been completed. A complete summary report will be made available soon. Thank you to everyone who provided input.

Invitation for comments

As committed to in Budget 2018, NSERC will be implementing an Athena SWAN initiative, adapted to the Canadian context and reflecting post-secondary institutions in Canada. You are encouraged to share your views and ideas about the draft Athena SWAN Charter, using our guiding questions to frame your feedback.

Your responses will be used to enhance the Athena SWAN Charter and improve program design. In order to add to the transparency of the consultation process, NSERC may post on its website a brief, high-level summary of the feedback received. This would be done without attribution to and without identifying individuals.

Written comments should be sent as attachments to: consultations@nserc-crsng.gc.ca. Please indicate in your email if you are responding as an individual or on behalf of an institution/organization.

If you are responding as an individual, we recommend that you not include text in your comments that could identify you or other individuals. If the response is from an institution or organization, it should represent the views of the institution or organization and not those of specific individuals only. We recommend that the response not include text about specific individuals or that could identify the individual author(s) of the responses. Responses from institutions/organizations are not normally considered to be personal information.

Please note that information received throughout this submission process is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Your information will also be managed in accordance with Treasury Board Secretariat policies, directives and guidelines on information management and protection of personal information , and with NSERC’s retention and disposition schedules. Please also refer to the Personal Information Bank PSU 938 - Outreach Activities.


Context

Canada's greatest potential can only be realized when all people are welcomed into the lab, the classroom and the field. That is why the Government of Canada is taking action to improve equity, diversity and inclusion in the research community.

Recently the Government of Canada announced it would move forward with implementing a made in Canada Athena SWAN initiative.

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, is currently consulting with post-secondary education institutions to discuss their views on how to adapt the Athena SWAN (Scientific Women's Academic Network) initiative for a Made-in-Canada approach.

"Our intent is to adapt Athena SWAN so that we have a truly made-in-Canada approach that reflects Canada's unique reality. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and to be valued equally in scientific research. The Athena SWAN initiative is key to making this happen," Minister Duncan said.


Background

The UK Athena SWAN (Scientific Women's Academic Network) is an internationally recognized initiative that celebrates higher education institutions that have implemented practices to advance EDI in the sciences. Since its launch in 2005, the Athena SWAN initiative has been widely implemented in the UK higher education sector, where it is run by Advance Higher Education (AdvanceHE).

Athena SWAN was established to increase EDI and help drive deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem. Sound EDI-informed policies and practices increase access to the largest pool of qualified potential participants, enhance the integrity of a program's application and selection processes, strengthen research outputs and the overall excellence of research.

An independent research study carried out by Loughborough University in the UK reported on a number of benefits of the program, including advancing careers of women and creating a positive impact on changing attitude and culture.

As a certification-focused awards program, it follows a well-established model of using promising practices, shared standards, evaluation and benchmarking to raise performance and increase quality. At present, in the UK, 731 research institutions and departments hold an award, of which there are three levels: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Institutions who participate in the Athena SWAN program must sign and endorse the Athena SWAN Equality Charter.

The Athena SWAN Equality Charter encourages and recognizes commitment by post-secondary education institutions to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) employment in higher education and research.


Awards process

Research institutions apply for Athena SWAN awards, which are valid for multiple years. Applications are peer reviewed, however, unlike traditional peer review, applications are not ranked against others as in a normal competition. Applications focus on how institutions a) identify best practices as well as barriers to gender equity, b) construct an action plan to address the problems identified, c) implement these actions and d) evaluate outcomes.


Athena SWAN outside of the UK

The Athena SWAN model has been implemented in other countries outside of the UK with variations in focus and scope: Ireland, Australia and the US. In Australia (Science in Australia Gender Equity- SAGE) and the United States (STEM Equity Achievement - SEA Change), the program is still in the pilot stage. Australia focuses on STEM fields. The US version has increased the scope of underrepresented groups to include persons with disabilities and racialized populations, and will focus on all areas of the research ecosystem. The adoption of the Athena SWAN model in the US was the subject of a Nature article in September 2017.

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