Daily Mail

Trans campaign ‘sabotaging bid to help women lecturers’

- By Eleanor Harding Education Editor

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. 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, coauthored a critical blog post yesterday.

They said: ‘Athena Swan’s embrace of “gender as a spectrum” appears 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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