Experimental Physics at MU converts Juno Award to achieve Athena Swan Bronze Award

Athena Swan Bronze Award Logo
Friday, August 25, 2023 - 13:15

The Department of Experimental Physics  at Maynooth University, has achieved the Athena Swan Bronze Award and Juno Practitioner Status, in recognition of work undertaken to advance gender equality for staff and students in Higher Education. 
Project Juno is an award scheme that recognises and rewards university physics departments, schools of physics, and related institutes and organisations that can demonstrate they have taken action to address gender equality at all levels and to foster a more inclusive working environment.
Achievement of the award of Juno Practitioner is based on the extent to which a department demonstrates that they have a robust organisational framework to deliver equality of opportunity and reward.
Project Juno and Athena SWAN are reciprocal awards, meaning once you have achieved one, you can convert it to the other using your existing paperwork provided that you are already a Juno Supporter and your institution has achieved at least Athena SWAN Bronze. The Department of Experimental Physics has applied for and been awarded an Athena Swan Bronze Department Award.

The Juno Committee is led by Dr Emma Whelan along with six colleagues from the department. The SAT was supported in its work by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Office, Human Resources and the Institutional Research Office.
The application includes a three-year Practitioner Action Plan specific to the Department that addresses key challenges to gender equality.

The plan includes actions to:

  • Monitor over time
  • Quantitative data by gender;
  • Obtain qualitative data from staff;
  • Identify any discrepancies in gender representation and/or progression and identify factors that might be causing them.
  • Initiate actions to address these issues.

Dr Créidhe O’Sullivan, Head of the Department of Experimental Physics, said: “I am delighted that the Department of Experimental Physics has achieved an Athena SWAN Bronze Award in recognition of our commitment to Equality Diversity and Inclusion. Not only do our students and staff derive an enormous benefit from an inclusive working environment, but the contribution of people from a wide range of backgrounds will lead to the betterment of the discipline of Physics itself.”
Professor Ronan Farrell, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: “The award acknowledges the impressive effort that the team in Experimental Physics have made in supporting, and welcoming women in to Physics, that goes beyond the Juno award and into their extensive schools and student outreach activities.”
Dr Emma Whelan, Chair of the Juno Committee, said: “I am privileged to enjoy an exciting career as a physicist working in the field of astrophysics. Coming from a background where I was the first person in my extended family to attend university I am committed to working to extend this privilege to everyone with a passion and aptitude for science. I am proud of the work of the department's committee in achieving the Juno Practitioner and Athena Swan Bronze awards and I look forward to working to help many students achieve their dreams of becoming scientists.”
Dr Rose Ryan, Vice-President for Equality and Diversity (Interim) said: “Many congratulations to the Department of Experimental Physics on the achievement of Athena Swan Bronze and Juno Practitioner Status. The success of these applications is the result of the hard work of colleagues across the department and the University to undertake a critical self-assessment and set out a targeted Action Plan to continue to advance gender equality, diversity and inclusion. The Athena Swan Ireland Charter provides a sustainable framework for the University and the HEI sector to build capacity for evidence-based equality work across the equality grounds enshrined in Irish legislation”

About Project Juno:
Project Juno is an award scheme by the Institute of Physics (IOP) that recognises and rewards university physics departments, schools of physics, and related institutes and organisations that can demonstrate they have taken action to address gender equality at all levels and to foster a more inclusive working environment. Much more than just a box ticking exercise, the three-step award scheme requires a significant amount of effort, evidence and commitment and the demonstration of long-term improvements in order for applicants to be recognised. It is also the first award of its kind specifically created for the physics community and by the physics community. Feedback from applicants has shown it can have a profound and lasting impact on gender equality in the awarded department or establishment.  

About Athena SWAN:
The Athena Swan charter is a framework that is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality in higher education and research. By being part of Athena Swan, institutions and departments are committing to a progressive charter; adopting these principles within their policies, practices, action plans and culture.
The Athena Swan Charter was launched in Ireland in 2015 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research. The charter has since been expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSBBL), and staff working in professional, managerial and support roles. The charter framework also recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, including consideration of the experience of trans staff and students, as well as the underrepresentation of men in particular disciplines.
The Athena Swan Ireland Charter has recently undergone a re-development in line with the findings of a national consultation and offers a framework for progressing equality in higher education and research that is unique to Ireland but aligns broadly with the global charter principles. The new charter framework, introduced in October 2021, has further adapted the previous expanded charter framework to the Irish HEI context and takes a comprehensive multi-level approach to organisation structural/cultural change across the equality grounds enshrined in Irish legislation. This includes national drivers and links to core grant and research funding, and European Commission requirements for Horizon Europe.

Seven Maynooth University Departments and one Maynooth University Faculty (six Departments and two Schools) have now achieved Athena Swan Bronze: the School of Business, School of Law and Criminology, the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Psychology, Experimental Physics and the Faculty of Arts, Celtic Studies & Philosophy each hold Bronze Department Awards.

For further information: Áine Coady, Equality Projects Officer, Maynooth University, athenaswan@mu.ie