At the Guardian, University College London's Jenny Rohn writes that she was at first skeptical of the check-box approach taken by the UK's Equality Charity Unit for its Athena SWAN charter. The charity aims to improve gender equality in academia and bestows awards — Bronze, Silver, or Gold — to universities and their departments that have deeply analyzed their gender composition. These awards are beginning to be used by some funders to determine grant eligibility, Rohn notes.
Rohn has since become in charge of her division's application to renew its Athena SWAN Silver award. Her desk, she says, is now overflowing with charts and data. "We are up to our elbows in evidence: in survey and focus group responses, in tables of numbers of male and female student and staff in various groups and subgroups, in calculations of national averages against which we can benchmark our own performance," she writes.
With all this data, Rohn says that she and her colleagues are analyzing whether changes that they have made have had an effect and whether ineffective programs should be abandoned or replaced. She adds that she was surprised about the earnestness of the process. "I was perhaps expecting nods and winks, complex strategies for papering over cracks; instead, we are staring our situation squarely in the face and honestly trying to understand why it's not better, and what we can do to fix it," she adds.