By Ciara Browne – Deputy News Editor
The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)’s Athena SWAN Award is a national charter that recognises the advancement of gender equality in higher education, encompassing representation, progression, and success for all.
Recently, University College Cork celebrated its recent Athena SWAN Award which recognised the university’s commitment to promoting and excelling in practice and advancing gender equality. At a virtual ceremony, Minister of Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, said that the Athena SWAN is “one of the most important initiatives we have in higher education”.
During the Virtual Ceremony, UCC received the Institutional Bronze Award (awarded in 2019). The Institutional Bronze Awards recognise that the institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.
To celebrate the University’s success, UCC held an outdoor ceremony in the University’s President’s Garden in which the President of UCC, Professor John O’Halloran, presented the Athena SWAN Awards to UCC’s School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology (2021 Awardee), Dental School & Hospital (2020 Awardee), School of Law (2021 Awardee), School of Nursing & Midwifery (2020 Awardee), and School of Public Health (2019 Awardee). President John O’Halloran accepted an award from Professor Áine Hyland for the University’s Institutional Athena SWAN (Bronze Award) accreditation, successfully renewed in 2019.
Professor Stephen Byrne, Interim Registrar and Chair of UCC’s Athena SWAN steering group said that “these awards are a tribute” to the work of the Athena SWAN teams working across UCC. Professor Áine Hyland, former Vice President of UCC, commended President O’Halloran and her UCC colleagues at the ceremony saying “UCC’s Institutional Athena SWAN Award is an internationally recognised accreditation, and a hallmark of the University’s commitment to improving equality and creating an inclusive University that values and respects diversity”.
On September 17th 2015, a meeting took place for the GENOVATE’s Gender Equality action plan for UCC which considered nine gender equality actions, eight of which the University Management Team committed to implementing at the University, during the meeting. The establishment of an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Unit in University College Cork was announced back in March 2017. This announcement came as the Higher Education landscape in Ireland and Europe began to focus on a holistic and targeted gender equality approach. UCC was one of seven universities involved in the cross-European GENOVATE consortium. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion have been a core focus of teaching, research and policy activity for a wide range of UCC staff and students for decades. The UCC equality committee has existed for several years & has advised the university on equality focused initiatives and produces equality strategies and annual reports.
In October of this year, the UCC EDI Unit launched a survey in which all students received an invitation to take part in the second ever UCC EDI student survey. Students across UCC in all programmes were invited to complete the new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey. The feedback collected is used to help and advance UCC’S Equality, Diversity & Inclusion priorities. The survey opened on October 13th and continued to run until October 20th.
Another recent event that took place to represent UCC’s diversity and equality across campus is the opening of the Rainbow Walkway in early October. UCC encourages students and visitors to go to the walkway, between the Boole Library and the O’Rahilly building on UCC’s main campus, to “support LGBTI+, black, brown and ethnic minority communities, raise awareness of the meaning of the colours of the Rainbow Walkway and how they represent different cultures and facets of the community and also to highlight intersectionality.” UCC encourages visitors and students to post a picture on social media while at the Rainbow Walkway with the hashtag #ProgressWithPride to show their support for UCC’s diverse and equal community.
UCC’s EDI events are available to follow on UCC’S homepage under ‘Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Unit’ and students can also register their own events with the EDI team.