SAGE Athena SWAN Award

We are a proud member of the Athena SWAN Charter

UNSW are one of 45 institutions participating in the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Athena SWAN program.

The award

Athena Swan Bronze Award

In 2018 UNSW received the SAGE Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award for our work and ongoing commitment to advancing gender equity and diversity in STEMM disciplines in higher education and research.

The award submission included the UNSW Athena SWAN Action Plan: 2018-2022, which outlines our commitment to addressing gender bias, particularly in academia, and developing a more inclusive culture where all staff can succeed regardless of their gender. 

Two examples of UNSW’s initiatives to improve gender equity include the recruitment and retention of top female candidates via the SHARP program and 2025 targets for 40% female academic staff at levels D & E and 50% female professional staff at level 10 and above.  Read more about our Athena SWAN findings and Action Plan.

UNSW Cygnet Awards

The next stage of progress in the Athena SWAN program is the SAGE Cygnet Awards. The Cygnet Awards are an opportunity to reflect on how our Bronze Action Plan has been delivered.

Five key barriers to gender equity at UNSW have been identified by the Athena SWAN Self Assessment Team (SAT). These five areas will be the focus for UNSW’s five Cygnet Award applications to be made in 2023:

  1. Promotions
  2. Student pathways (STEMM)
  3. Flexible working and families
  4. LGBTIQ+ inclusion 
  5. Workplace culture

To help inform themes relevant to these areas at UNSW Sydney, a series of focus groups have been undertaken, led by Associate Professor Sue Williamson, deputy chair of the Athena Swan Leadership Group and Self-Assessment Team. We are grateful to the 95 staff and students who have provided their time and valuable insights in this process. 

Key initiatives

Staff from seven Australian and Canadian universities were surveyed between July-October 2020 on working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Almost half of the responses (47.2%, 5,323) came from Australia and 639 of these were from UNSW.

A follow-up survey ran at UNSW in April-May 2022, which included 266 UNSW respondents.  Questions in the surveys addressed topics including working from home, productivity and workload, ability to conduct research and submit papers, university expectations, job satisfaction, career prospects, wellbeing and work-life balance. 

Through the Athena Swan group, the Faculty of Science engaged Lisa Kewley, Laureate Professor at ANU and Director of the ASTRO 3-D ARC Centre of Excellence of Academic Staff to undertake gender modelling for STEM disciplines, using promotions, hires, departures and retirements data. 

10 annual workshops have been funded to support working parents at UNSW. 

UNSW's membership of Parents At Work greatly contributes to the University's commitment to achieving gender equality by acknowledging that one of the barriers to greater participation of women in the workforce, including academia, are parenting and caring responsibilities that are disproportionately held by women.

The resources and guidance provided by Parents At Work assists UNSW in providing a family-friendly workplace, supporting every staff member who is also a parent or carer to thrive in both their work and home lives.

During 2022 UNSW Athena SWAN has funded research, delivered by UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre, into the outcomes of a new support program for academic women, including sessional staff and post-graduate students, with current or recent carer responsibilities.

3C is led by Associate Professor Lizzie Muller is an initiative of the Women’s Wellbeing Academy.

The pilot, funded through philanthropic support, assists participants to overcome the disadvantage many experienced by being disproportionately impacted by the intensification of care loads during the pandemic. Participants took part in small-group career coaching sessions between 25 July – 30 September, run by an expert facilitator. 

The Athena SWAN team coordinates feedback responses from a gender equity perspective.


  • Athena Swan Academic Lead, Fiona Stapleton and Director, Access Equity & Inclusion, Mary Teague, co-signed a submission to the UNSW Employee Relations Team, giving feedback on proposed updates to UNSW’s Enterprise Agreements from a gender equity perspective.

Support for UNSW’s International Women’s Day (IWD) campaign included promotional collateral: Athena SWAN in support of The Illuminators: Scope for Change – a video interview showcasing creative work of scientifically and culturally diverse female identifying microscopists from UNSW, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. 

UNSW Athena SWAN explores opportunities for co-branding and support of gender equity events.

Facilitated by Better People Learning (Be Learning), UNSW’s Inclusive Leadership Program (ILP) has been designed based on research evidence to build leadership capabilities in times of disruption and workplace change and support senior leaders and their teams to adopt a collaborative and positive vision for the future.

Athena SWAN contributed funds to the Inclusive Leadership Program for senior leaders.

More information

UNSW has agreed to publicly align our gender equity journey with the Australian Academy of Science Women in STEM Decadal Plan. The champions process builds on the efforts already underway across many organisations including UNSW, providing a platform to share knowledge, act, evaluate and create accountability.

A virtual exhibition acknowledging and celebrating the beautiful, creative work of a scientifically and culturally diverse group of female-identifying microscopists from UNSW, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

Produced for UNSW Diversity Fest 2021