It is the first time that institutions that are not part of universities have been accepted on to the scheme.
The announcement opens the door for 65 more research institutes to sign up to the initiative, including CERN and the Natural History Museum.
It comes after successful pilot project with research institutes, which ran in 2013.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has given the Equality Challenge Unit, which runs the Athena SWAN scheme, more than £30,000 to fund the expansion of the charter until March 2015.
David Willetts, universities and science minister said: “We support this expansion of the Athena SWAN Charter to research institutes as an opportunity to ensure that the potential of women throughout the workforce is retained and encouraged.”
Mr Willets added: “Such a visible commitment to developing excellence in employment practices can only assist in keeping the UK performing on a global stage.”
David Ruebain, chief executive of the ECU, said that he was “delighted” to expand the Athena SWAN charter. He said: “Research institutes are part of the academic community and share many of the structures and barriers to career progression experienced by women in universities.”
“We know that the strong methodology and robust process of the Charter can create cultural and systemic change that has a real impact,” he said.
One of the freshly awarded institutes, the John Innes Centre in Norwich, won a silver award, and the others achieved bronze. These were the British Geological Survey, James Hutton Institute, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, Pirbright Institute, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.