Invitation to NSERC 'Made-in-Canada' Athena SWAN consultation workshop

Feb 5th, 2019

By Jeff Green

Invitation to NSERC 'Made-in-Canada' Athena SWAN consultation workshop

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is hosting a consultation workshop at Memorial to seek input on a draft charter outlining the proposed key principles of the Canadian Athena SWAN (Scientific Women's Academic Network) model.

Members of the university community are invited to attend.

Date: Monday, Feb. 18
Time: 9 a.m. until noon (Refreshments and networking at 8:30 a.m.)
Location: Room AA-1043, Arts and Administration Building, St. John’s Campus
RVSP details: Please e-mail

The workshop agenda is included below.

This consultation follows a series of workshops held last fall. The draft Charter addresses underrepresented groups in academic research— specifically, Indigenous Peoples, women, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ2+ community—and all areas of research in post-secondary institutions. Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strengthen the research enterprise and its quality, social relevance, and impact. National discussions and input from a wide range of stakeholders are essential to designing a Canadian Athena SWAN model that embraces the diversity of the research community in this country.

The draft Athena SWAN Canadian Charter is available online.

The Government of Canada has recently announced that it would move forward with implementing a “made-in-Canada” Athena SWAN initiative. The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, consulted with post-secondary education institutions in Fall 2018 to discuss their views on how to adapt the Athena SWAN 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. 


The UK Athena SWAN 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.  In the UK, institutions and departments can hold an award at one of three levels: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Institutions that 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.

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.





8:30-9 a.m

Coffee and networking


9-9:10 a.m.

Introductions and Context

NSERC and Memorial University representative: Dr. Max Liboiron, associate vice-president (Indigenous research) pro tempore

9:10-9:25 a.m.

Athena SWAN in Canada – The vision


9:25-9:45 a.m.

Q&A session about the Athena SWAN Program


9:45-10 a.m.

Coffee/health break


10-11:30 a.m.

Small group discussion (breakout sessions)

Each group will have a facilitator and a note-taker

11:30-11:55 a.m.

Report back from each breakout group and general discussion


11:55 a.m. to noon

Closing Remarks

Group photo (optional)


The guiding questions found here will be used to facilitate discussions during the workshop.


Summary report of the first round of consultations on the development of the Made in Canada Athena SWAN program.



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