Department of Law awarded Bronze Athena SWAN for Gender Equality

Department Staff at 10th Anniversary Celebration, November 2019
Monday, September 28, 2020 - 09:00

The Department of Law has received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, which recognises work undertaken to advance gender equality for staff and students in Higher Education.  To achieve the award, institutions and departments are required to perform a critical self-reflection and analysis to identify both good practice and problem areas. Law is the third department at Maynooth University, and one of the first two law departments in the state, to apply for, and achieve, Athena SWAN accreditation.
Awarded by Advance HE, the cornerstone of the application is a 4-year action plan that addresses challenges particular to the department and discipline.  The 45 items in the Law action plan include:

  • Establishing a voluntary mentoring programme for academic staff;
  • Making gender balance a condition of Department financial support for academic events;
  • Relieving staff members returning from maternity and adoption leave of teaching responsibilities for one full semester, to be taken within 12 months of their return.

President of Maynooth University, Professor Philip Nolan, said:  “This award is a welcome recognition of Maynooth University’s commitment to creating a culture of gender equality at departmental level, and in particular the commitment and leadership of colleagues in the Department of Law.  I congratulate everyone whose hard work has made this possible.”
Head of Department, Professor Michael Doherty, stated: “I am delighted that the hard work that went into the application has been rewarded.  The self-reflection process was fantastic in highlighting all sorts of issues for me and colleagues, and I look forward to now beginning the real work of ensuring that the Law Department is a leader in advancing gender equality for staff and students in the Irish Higher Education sector.”
Using data visualisation, the Department’s self-assessment team, comprising both staff (academic and administrative) and students (undergraduate and postgraduate), was able to provide a baseline for our gender action plan and an essential platform from which to monitor our progress:
Athena SWAN departmental lead, Dr Brian Flanagan, commented: “The application process revealed a cultural commitment to gender equality within the department; we now understand how important it is to scaffold that culture through the introduction of greater formality around departmental practices and decision-making processes.”
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) in higher education and research.  In 2015, the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, 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.
In 2017, Maynooth University was the first HEI in Ireland to achieve an Athena SWAN Bronze Institution Award under the expanded charter, in recognition of its commitment to progressing gender and intersectional equality for staff and students.