Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Department of Computer Science and Information Systems and Lero at University of Limerick have achieved an Athena SWAN Bronze award, it has been announced.

This is the first Athena SWAN award for a university department that includes an SFI Centre. UL and Trinity College Dublin also gained the first departmental Athena SWAN awards in Ireland for computer science.

The securing of the CSIS/Lero award brings to 12 the number of faculties, schools and departments in UL with Bronze Awards (25 departments overall), the leader in the country.

The Athena SWAN Charter is an accreditation framework that is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality in higher education (HE) and research.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said she wished to “congratulate our CSIS & Lero Colleagues on their successful Athena SWAN Bronze award. The joint CSIS-Lero SFI Centre application was led by Professor Ita Richardson utilising the Professional Managerial and Support Staff Interim Pilot Process. 

“The Athena SWAN Assessment Panel commended the commitment of the Head of Department, Lero Director, Self-Assessment Team Chair and wider SAT team for using the Athena SWAN process to progress CSIS-Lero’s opportunities for making progress on gender equality.

“I would like to wish all the departments SAT (Self-Assessment Teams) currently preparing renewal and new applications for the June 2021 submission deadline well.  The institution will hopefully be on track to secure a Silver Institution Award in 2022,” added Professor Mey.

Five institutes of technology and 10 university departments have been recognised for measures to improve gender equality in higher education in the latest round of Athena SWAN awards.

Awards made to Lero academic partner Dundalk IT along with Athlone IT, Galway-Mayo IT, Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo bring the total number of institutions in Ireland with Athena SWAN Bronze to 19. Ten university departments also received Bronze in this assessment round, meaning a total of 52 departments now hold awards across Ireland’s higher education sector.

Simon Harris, T.D., Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, said: “My department is working to ensure gender equality across Higher and Further Education. I very much welcome today’s announcement of the 15 new Athena SWAN awards. These awards represent a significant step forward for gender equality in our higher education institutions. We are making progress on this issue, and these awards recognise the commitment that our institutions are making to improving gender equality for those working in higher education.”

Dr Victoria Brownlee, Head of Athena SWAN Ireland, said: “Progress on gender equality right across higher education is essential for retaining talent and ensuring our institutions at all levels are representative of society.

“These are the first entry-level awards to recognise institutions and departments taking action to address gender inequalities in career development experienced by professional, managerial and support staff as well as by academic staff. It’s very encouraging to see so many applicants engage in improvements to support the spectrum of staff roles in the sector,” Dr Brownlee added.

Welcoming the announcement, Lero Director, Professor Brian Fitzgerald, commented: “At Lero, we are steadfast in our commitment to gender equality, not just in Higher Education, but also in our society.

“We have a strong education and public engagement programme aimed at increasing the number of girls and women who choose to learn and pursue careers in computer science. We have undertaken a number of actions to support, sponsor and mentor women within the centre. We have a growing number of female Lero researchers.

“However, there is more to do. The Athena SWAN Bronze award acknowledges that we have conducted a robust self-assessment but also recognises the actions we have committed to carry out in order to achieve gender equality.

“I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Lero and CSIS Athena SWAN self-assessment team chaired by Professor Ita Richardson for their work in achieving this award. Lero will continue to strive for gender equality across not just at UL but also more widely,” he added.

Professor Ita Richardson, chairperson of the Lero and CSIS Athena SWAN team said: “Receiving this Athena SWAN award is an external confirmation of our commitment to gender equality. Working with primary and secondary schools to encourage girls to consider careers in software, we see that the number of female ICT enrolments nationally increases annually - overall by 20% since 2014/2015.

“We have increased the number of female funded and principal investigators in Lero, and our future work includes the development of career development initiatives for researchers”.

Remarking on the institutional and department awards conferred in this round, Dr Ross Woods from the Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the HEA said: “The Athena SWAN charter is an invaluable lever in changing institutional and departmental cultures.

“The news of these awards is timely with the recent announcement that a gender equality plan will be a requirement for Horizon Europe funding, with nearly all higher education institutions in Ireland holding one as part of the Athena SWAN process.”