Oxford Brookes Business School

Gender equality certification: Lessons learnt and future developments

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It is often argued that CAs reflect an organisational desire for compliance with legislation and/or enhancing their reputation for talent and funding competition. There is a danger that this might continue, despite efforts to increase gender equality in research through the introduction of the requirement to have a GEP in place to access EU funding, as recently announced by the European Commission (at a time where National Institute of health Research withdrew the eligibility criterion of having Athena SWAN silver award to apply for research). Thus, CAs can be seen as reinforcing and reproducing inequalities, using approaches aligned to fixing the individuals rather than changing the institutions and wider system (Tzanakou and Pearce, 2019), or as gaming the system (Tzanakou 2019).

Thus far, academic researchers in different fields have predominantly focused on investigating barriers and challenges in women’s careers and organisational change, but there has been less research on understanding and conceptualising how CAs are operating and whether/how they contribute towards advancing gender equality (Tzanakou and Pearce, 2019; Kalpazidou Schmidt et al. 2019). This panel brings together speakers who have investigated gender equality certification in different national contexts, such as the Athena SWAN Charter in the UK and Ireland, but also contributors from Denmark and Sweden. Athena SWAN is considered as one of the most comprehensive and easily transferable certification system of gender equality in the academic world reflected in its recent adoption in Ireland, Australia, the United States, and Canada. It could also form the basis for a possible Europe wide CAs. This panel has a dual purpose: to discuss the value of academic research on gender equality certification and given the current European developments to highlight lessons learnt from academic research for the future of gender equality certification in national and European context.

The panel discussions will be facilitated by Dr. Anne Laure Humbert , Centre for Diversity Policy, Research and Practice, UK

Panel members are confirmed as follows:


Dr Charikleia Tzanakou, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice, Oxford Brookes University

Dr Charikleia Tzanakou is an expert in gender and diversity in organisations with a particular focus on higher education. She has conducted research at micro (careers in STEMM, academic narratives of Athena SWAN), meso (operationalisation of and evaluation of organisational interventions) and macro (architectures, debates of certifications/awards) level. She has a 10-year experience in coordinating and contributing to departmental (including STEMM) and university Athena SWAN applications in different universities. Charikleia has led and contributed to numerous UK and European projects (ESRC-leaky pipeline STEMM; EPSRC-gender spinouts; EU- PLOTINA, EU-CASPER, EU-GEARING-Roles) that aim at designing and evaluating evidence-based interventions in higher education institutions. She is particularly interested in understanding better what works and the unintended consequences of gender and diversity efforts and thus contribute towards developing activities that will not only advance gender equality but will also lead to impactful capacity building resources for HEIs across the world. Charikleia is an Athena SWAN panellist, a member of the ADVANCE HE sub-governance panel on intersectionality, and a member of the European Association of Science Editors Gender Policy Committee. She is a Network Lead for the Inclusion, Diversity and Gender Network at Oxford Brookes University.


Dr Pavel Ovseiko, Senior Research Fellow, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford

Pavel Ovseiko is leading a multi-disciplinary programme of research and policy advocacy on gender equity and diversity across medical and social sciences. This includes building an evidence base to accelerate women's advancement and leadership through systematic reviews; developing markers of achievement, metrics, and indicators for assessing and monitoring progress towards gender equity; conducting multi-centre cross-country comparisons of the gender leadership gap in academic health centres; exploring ways of creating a more supportive and inclusive university culture, and evaluating impact of Athena SWAN gender equality action plans. Pavel serves as a member of the departmental Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team, a member the Advance HE Athena SWAN Governance Committee, a member of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Advisory Group on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and a member of the European Association of Science Editors Working Group on Sex and Gender Equity in Research. His personal ambition is to co-create “a science of Athena SWAN” in collaboration with researchers and practitioners from the institutions and countries participating in the Athena SWAN Charter.


Dr Monica O’Mullane, University College Cork, Ireland

Dr Monica O’Mullane is currently pursuing an EC funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship  GendeResearchIreland, which seeks to explore the institutional responses in Irish universities to the Athena SWAN Charter using a Feminist Institutionalist theoretical lens.  This fellowship is being hosted with the Institute of Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21) in UCC, Cork, Ireland. Prior to this fellowship, Dr O’Mullane worked on the GENOVATE project (Transforming organisational culture for gender equality in research and innovation), an EC funded project with seven partner country teams. Dr O’Mullane was scientific coordinator of the Slovak GENOVATE team for a time before taking parent leave. Also with a keen critical interest in Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and tackling health inequalities generally, an article was published recently with RTE on the opportunities for learning from a  HIA on COVID-19.


Dr Anne-Charlott Callerstig, Centre for Feminist Social Studies, University of Örebro, Sweden

Dr Anne-Charlott Callerstig holds a PhD in gender studies. Her thesis is titled: Making Equality work. Ambiguities, conflicts and change agents in the implementation of equality policies in public sector organisations. She has long experience from working with equality issues in a practical policy context issues in Sweden and on a European level including several years at Swedish Equality Ombudsman (DO) and as an expert in the last national gender equality investigation. Her research areas include equality policy and organization; policy implementation and evaluation; research and innovation and interactive research approaches. She is currently involved in several national and international research projects at the Centre for Feminist Social Studies (CFS), Örebro University. She has been engaged by several Swedish universities in the ongoing national initiative to strengthen gender mainstreaming at Swedish universities and is currently an internal consultant in the work with gender mainstreaming and equal opportunities at Örebro University.


Dr Evanthia K. Schmidt, Aarhus university, Denmark

Evanthia K. Schmidt is Associate Professor and Research Director at the Department of Political Science, the Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Aarhus University, Denmark. She specializes in research and innovation policy; Responsible Research and Innovation; gender in knowledge production and research organizations; European gender policies and strategies; higher education studies; and research evaluation. She has been involved in a number of projects focusing on gender issues (EFFORTI, STAGES, PRAGES, WHIST), and RRI (STARBIOS, RESBIOS, STEP-CHANGE) funded by the European Union, and has been frequently engaged by the European Commission as expert in the evaluations of FP6, FP7 and Horizon 2020 project proposals. She was member of the European Union group of experts working on the ex-ante impact assessment of Horizon 2020 in the area of Environment and Climate Change and on the ex-post evaluation of the FP7, in the area of International Cooperation. She is the European Commission appointed Danish expert member of the European RTD Evaluation Network and former expert member of the Horizon 2020 Advisory Group for Gender.

Speakers will address the following question (s):

  • How can academic research inform and address the unintended consequences ofgender equality certification?
  • How can we develop certification/award schemes for gender equality that are not box ticking exercises but induce sustainable structural and cultural change?
  • What can we learn from Athena SWAN about gender equality certification especially in terms of a potential Europe wide CAs? How can incentives (introduction or withdrawal) can affect the future development of a CA?
  • Considering the diversity of CAs at national level, how we can create links and potential equivalencies between them?

This event disseminates and contributes to discussion and activities of European Horizon 2020 project CASPER and GEARING-Roles. This event is part of the seminar series programme of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Research, Innovation and Knowledge Exchange network at Oxford Brookes University.