MU Department of Biology achieves Athena Swan Silver Award

Thursday, April 4, 2024 - 13:00


L-R: Dr. Mark Robinson, Prof. Paul Moynagh (HoD), Dr. Joanne Masterson, Dr. Rebecca Owens, Omar Abdelrahman, Dr. Frances Tinley, Jamie Casey, Deirdre Daly, Courteney Tunstead, Dr. Ailbhe Brazel, Dr. Tina Sidoli O'Connor, Gemma Lynch and Prof. Bernard Mahon. Absent: Kirti Achanta, Dr. Paul Dowling, Prof. Karen English, Gavin Fanning, Lauren Flynn, Dr Rob Leigh and Louis McCabe

Thursday, April 4, 2024 - 12:30

In a first for Maynooth University, the Department of Biology has achieved an Athena Swan Silver Award, in recognition of the impact of work undertaken to advance gender equality for staff and students in Higher Education.
The Self-Assessment Team (SAT) for the application was led by Dr Mark Robinson along with 19 colleagues from the School. The SAT was supported in its work by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Office, Human Resources and the Institutional Research Office.
To achieve the award, departments and institutions are required to perform a critical self-reflection and a demonstrate of progress through the completion of Bronze actions and evidence of success addressing gender inequality.

The application includes a four-year Gender Equality Action Plan specific to the Department of Biology that addresses key challenges to gender equality and, where relevant, wider equality work in the department. The Department was commended on progress such as:

  • The introduction of the Phyllis Clinch “Women in Science” lecture
  • Implementation of a formal departmental mentoring scheme available to all staff in 2021 and feedback to improve the institutional mentoring scheme
  • Guidelines on working hours, work-life balance and annual leave to new postgraduate students during induction sessions and in the updated annual review meeting form for discussion with the student’s PhD progress committee
  • Revised workload allocation model for academics launched in 2021 

Professor Paul Moynagh, Head of the Department of Biology said: "I am delighted that our Department of Biology at Maynooth University has been awarded an Athena Swan Silver Award.  This recognition is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our staff and students to gender equality and inclusivity over many years. The receipt of this award also underscores our continuing efforts to create an inclusive culture and a supportive and equitable environment for all members of our department. I would like to thank the Self-Assessment Team of the Department of Biology, led by Dr Mark Robinson, the EDI Office of the Maynooth University, led by Dr Gemma Irvine, Athena Swan Ireland, and all the students and staff of our department who participated and contributed to the assessment process. With this Athena Swan Silver Award, we continue on our journey together to further promote diversity, equality, and inclusivity in all aspects of our departmental activities."

Dr Mark Robinson, Department of Biology Self-Assessment Team Chair, commented: “This Athena Swan Silver Award is the result of the incredible effort by the Department’s Athena Swan Committee over the past 5 years, and the strong support from staff and students in our Department. We have been willing to reflect on both the good and the not so good and work together towards embedding equality and diversity in everything we do. In all our endeavours we have had the full support of our Head of Department, Prof. Paul Moynagh, has been 100% behind our work. The advice and guidance of Dr Gemma Irvine, Vice-President for Equality and Diversity and her office has been a great benefit to us. As a Department we have made real progress throughout the course of our Bronze Award, and we now look forward to continuing these efforts in our Silver Action Plan.”
Dr Gemma Irvine, Vice President for Equality & Diversity, said: “Many congratulations to the Department of Biology on the achievement of an Athena Swan Silver Award, which is international peer-reviewed recognition of their dedication and commitment to identifying and implementing targeted actions to improve and advance gender equality in their department. I look forward to continuing to work with them on their Silver Action Plan."

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.
In 2018, Maynooth University was the first Higher Education Institution in Ireland to achieve an Athena Swan Bronze Institution Award under the expanded charter, in recognition of its commitment to progressing gender and intersectional equality for staff and students. The University renewed it’s Bronze Award in 2022, under the new charter framework.  Sixteen Maynooth University Departments/Schools have now achieved Athena Swan Bronze: in addition to the six departments and two schools in the Faculty of Arts, Celtic Studies & Philosophy, the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Experimental Physics, Geography, Maths & Statistics and Psychology the School of Law & Criminology, the School of Business each hold Bronze Awards.

For further information:
Áine Coady, Equality Projects Officer, Maynooth University,