The Athena Project was launched in 1999 with the aim of the advancement of women in science, engineering and technology (SET) in higher education(HE) and a significant increase in the number of women recruited to top posts. The Project works in partnership with UK universities, research organisations and SET professional and learned societies. Athena asks for a commitment from senior management to any Athena initiative in which they participate. Their commitment raises awareness of the issue of women’s career progression and ensures a high profile for Athena’s activities. Most of the Project’s initiatives have improved practices and procedures; some have begun to change the culture of SET and HE.
The targets suggested by Athena for SET employers are:
- Short term – the percentage of female applicants for academic posts to reflect the percentage of women at the level immediately below (in their own institution and/or the ‘pool’ of institutions where they usually recruit)
- Medium term – the percentage of newly appointed and newly promoted women in academic posts to reflect the percentages at the level below
- Long term – the percentage of women at each career level to reflect the percentage at the level below (including the undergraduate intake)
The work of Athena
Athena works with its partners to develop and disseminate good practice in SET employment. The universities and research organisations who have worked with Athena since 1999 have all made a commitment to work towards Athena’s aims. Without them, the input and involvement of their senior management at institutional, faculty and departmental level and the active engagement of male and female scientists at all levels, Athena’s work would not have been possible. Their successes are described in Athena’s achievements.
Originally funded as a four year project, Athena has been successful in broadening its support base and its programme which will now run through to mid/late 2007. By this time the Athena Committee hopes that Athena’s stakeholders, SET employers in the public sector and the leading SET professional societies will have taken on full ownership of the mission, aims and objectives set by Athena.