Athena Swan charter is a UK organization promoting gender equality in academia, among other things. University departments apply for gold / silver / bronze Athena Swan certificates, while providing an action plan of promoting gender equality.
In STEM Departments, typical goals in an action plan may include percentage targets for:
female PhD students
women in Lecturer / Senior Lecturer position
female speakers in seminars
The question: is this legal in the UK to set such recruiting goals?
By the 2010 Equality Act, positive discrimination, i.e. hiring someone based on their protected characteristic, such as age, race or gender, when they are not the most suitable candidate, is illegal in the UK, see here for some examples, including a successful litigation case.
Do not goals (1), (2), (3) link directly to positive discrimination, hence form an illegal practice in the UK?
(3) is more subtle, as no actual employment is involved, but it also seems to be a more blunt case of positive discrimination, as having more female speakers than the average in the field (whatever this average is), provided that the ability is equally distributed among the genders, will most likely imply that some better, male speakers will not be invited.