The impact of Athena SWAN in UK medical schools

Ian Gregory-Smith


This paper examines the impact of the Athena SWAN initiative on female careers in UK medical schools by exploiting two natural experiments. The first is the introduction of Athena SWAN charter in 2005, whereby twelve UK institutions selected into the charter. The second is the announcement in 2011 by the NIHR, to only shortlist medical schools with a ‘silver’ Athena SWAN award for certain research grants going forward. This second change potentially impacts schools that are further away from silver status than those that were already close in 2011. While there is a marked improvement of women succeeding in medical schools during the sample period, early Athena SWAN adopters have not increased female participation by more than other schools whose institution signed up later. In addition, tying funding to Athena SWAN silver status has yet to have an impact on female careers, although medical schools have invested in efforts to achieve silver status.