Athena SWAN

Athena SWAN Silver Award

In April 2020 we were awarded the Athena SWAN Silver award, having been one of the first research institutes to achieve the Bronze award in April 2014.

The organisation values the diversity of its employees, students, visiting scientists and collaborators and is committed to providing equality of opportunity. The diversity of our workforce is of critical importance in drawing together the talent, skills and experience on which we depend to conduct world-class science and support biomedical discovery. We are strongly committed to the Athena SWAN scheme to promote women’s careers in science and to progressing equality.

“Our Athena SWAN submission has been an excellent opportunity to take stock of where we are, identify areas in need of action, and formulate a strong aspirational plan for the future.”

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Sanger Institute


Athena SWAN at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

LGBT in STEM Day in June 2019 at the Wellcome Genome Campus
LGBT in STEM Day in June 2019 at the Wellcome Genome Campus

Athena SWAN is a Charter to advance women’s careers in STEMM subjects (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine). Its Bronze, Silver and Gold awards celebrate good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in those subject areas within higher education and research. Until 2014, Athena SWAN awards were only available to University departments and institutions. In May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

We were one of the first research institutes outside of the University sector to join the Charter and receive an Athena SWAN Bronze award.

In November 2019, we submitted our application for a Silver award. Our Silver award application is here: Athena SWAN 2019 Silver award application.

In April 2020, the Sanger Institute and its associated organisations received the Silver Award.

Read more about Athena SWAN at the Sanger Institute, Connecting Science and the various teams across the Wellcome Genome Campus in the Sanger Life blog “Welcoming Athena SWAN”.

Initiatives implemented since 2016

  • Stop-the-Clock initiative
  • Family friendly meeting times
  • Generous maternity, paternity, shared parental leave provision and comprehensive support
  • Flexible working
  • Subsidised holiday club
  • Onsite workplace nursery, exploring subsidy for childcare costs. Plans in the Campus Development plans to expand nursery places
  • Career breaks considered in recruitment and promotion
  • Paid leave for carers
  • Carers’ Grant
  • Parent and Carers’ Network
  • Career break policy
  • Extension of tenure, group and consumables for up to 18 months for Faculty returning from parental leave
  • Returners’ Grant
  • Tell us about yourself campaign to improve staff diversity data disclosure on CoreHR
  • LGBT+ Network
  • Supporting out Technicians – Signatories of the Technicians’ Commitment
  • DORA signatory (San Fransisco Declaration on Research Assessment)

Athena SWAN Action Plan

Professor Sara Rankin giving a talk to the Wellcome Genome Campus on raising awareness of neurodiversity in the STEM workplace
Professor Sara Rankin giving a talk to the Wellcome Genome Campus on raising awareness of neurodiversity in the STEM workplace

Our Athena SWAN action plan for 2019-2023 can be found here: Athena SWAN 2019 action plan

To ensure the organisation progresses its Athena SWAN Action Plan, we have set up a Self-Assessment Team composed of staff members at all levels – from PhD and postdoc level to Faculty and members of the Board of Management, including the Director. This team reports progress made against the Action Plan on a six-monthly basis to the Board of Management.

In addition, the Equality in Science programme run on Campus aims to generate discussion and raise awareness about issues traditionally facing women and marginalised groups in science, and to drive policy and practice changes to redress them.

Linked to this, we are adapting our scientific career models and recruitment processes, raising the profile of mentoring and running regular events, including careers days. We pride ourselves on our flexibility and family-friendly environment and have in place a range of policies and benefits to enable people to balance their professional and home lives.

Athena SWAN Charter

The key beliefs underpinning the Athena SWAN Charter are that:

  • the advancement of science, engineering and technology (SET) is fundamental to quality of life across the globe
  • it is vitally important that women are adequately represented in what has traditionally been, and is still, a male-dominated area
  • science cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population, and until women and men can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.

The scheme is managed by Advance HE.


For further information contact Dr Saher Ahmed: