Scheme to promote women in academia has been destroyed, professors say

Trans campaign ‘is sabotaging bid to help women lecturers’: Flagship scheme to promote females in academia has been destroyed by activists, feminist professors say

  • Athena Swan charter was set up to help universities with gender equality issues
  • Advance HE advised data be collected exclusively on gender-identity, not sex
  • Feminist academics have argued that the Athena scheme has now lost its way 
  • Kathleen Stock said the founding premise of the scheme had been ‘destroyed’ 

A flagship scheme to promote women in academia has been destroyed by the trans lobby, feminist professors said last night.

The Athena Swan charter was set up in 2005 to help universities address gender equality issues such as the pay gap and barriers to women’s careers.

It is used across the world to advance the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine.

However, Advance HE, which runs the scheme, is recommending that data be collected exclusively on gender-identity, not sex – meaning that transgender women, who were born men, are included. 

Advance HE, which runs the Athena Swan charter – which helps universities address gender equality issues, is advising data be collected exclusively on gender-identity, not sex. But Kathleen Stock (pictured) said it would ‘destroy’ the founding premise of the charter

Its website states: ‘Advance HE recommends asking a question about gender rather than asking a question about sex. This ensures equality efforts are … inclusive of a diverse range of gender identities.’

Activists have demanded that transgender women are treated the same as other women in official statistics and public policy. 

Feminist academics said the Athena scheme had now lost its way in promoting women’s sex-based rights.

Alice Sullivan, professor of sociology at University College London, and Dr John Armstrong, senior lecturer in financial mathematics, probability and statistics, co-authored a critical blog post yesterday.

They said: ‘Athena Swan’s embrace of ‘gender as a spectrum’ appears incompatible with its founding purpose.

Alice Sullivan (pictured), sociology professor at University College London, said in a blog that Athena Swan embracing ‘gender as a spectrum’ is ‘incompatible with its founding purpose’

‘This raises uncomfortable questions about the tendency of the [university] sector to outsource its thinking about equalities to external bodies.’

Kathleen Stock, the philosophy professor who quit the University of Sussex after students opposed her views on gender, agreed, saying: ‘The founding premise of Athena Swan destroyed, in other words.’

She told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It’s ridiculous. It changes the subject. Your data [on systematic discrimination of women] is no longer robust.’

Dr Armstrong added: ‘I think it’s absolutely fantastic to collect data on gender identity and sex. But they should absolutely not be conflated.’

Advance HE has previously said in a statement: ‘Seeking accreditation against the UK Athena Swan charter is entirely voluntary and not prescriptive.

‘It is no longer linked to funding. We strongly advocate open, constructive debate both within and between HE institutions on these challenging issues.’

The blog post was published by the British Educational Research Association.

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