Medicine leads the way in latest Athena SWAN achievements

We're celebrating a clutch of new Athena SWAN Charter awards across the University, recognising advancement of gender equality.

Following submissions made this April, schools across several faculties have achieved awards, including Gold for the School of Medicine, the highest level achievable and a first for medical schools in England.

The Athena SWAN Charter is designed to recognise advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all. At Leeds, faculties work towards achieving Athena SWAN recognition as part of the Leeds Gender Framework initiative, which is supported by the University's Equality Policy Unit and academic leadership from Professor Steve Scott. 

Professor Scott said:

"On behalf of the University leadership team, I’d like to give thanks to all those who have worked very hard to demonstrate, through the submission process, why these awards are merited. It’s an endorsement of our widespread progress in this area and a reminder of our commitment to achieving greater gender equality at Leeds. These awards indicate that we have made a lot of progress and that there is substantial good practice around the University, albeit that there is lots still to do. 

"I’d also like to extend that thank you to the hard work of colleagues whose submissions were not successful this time. The exercise has helped us better understand ourselves and we will support that work and learn from each other to achieve a successful award outcome next time.”

Our latest awards announced today, which complement existing awards:

Medicine and Health 

School of Medicine

The School of Medicine has received a Gold award.  

The Gold award recognises work undertaken across the School since 2012 to demonstrate significant and sustained progression and achievement in promoting gender equality. It is also the first Gold award for a medical school in England.

In giving the Gold award, Advance HE recognised the focus on activities that work towards gender equality and their continued impact in this area and ambitions action plan for future development. Medicine also proved that it is championing and promoting good practice to a wider community across the University, and beyond. This achievement will also make a significant contribution toward the equality element of the environment statement for REF2021; so the wider impact of this award should not be underestimated.

Since the School began its Athena SWAN journey, over 230 staff members have been actively involved in Institute Self Assessment Teams; the Steering Group; and Equality and Inclusion Committee.

Colleagues across Medicine recognise the need to work hard to maintain this level of award. Their focus will now be on:

  • Providing sustainable careers for researchers on fixed-term contracts.
  • Increasing the number of senior female clinical academics.
  • Tackling sexual harassment and sexism issues for students, including those on clinical placements.
  • Career development opportunities for professional and support staff.
  • Improving understanding around career development barriers for black and ethnic minority staff. 

Engineering & Physical Sciences

The Schools of Chemical and Process Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computing, Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering have been granted a Silver award (submitted under the previous Faculty of Engineering structure). This is evidence of our strong commitment to supporting women in engineering and computing, and our broader inclusion strategy, which uses gender as catalyst to address broader challenges faced by students and staff from under-represented groups (including gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability).  

The Silver was given in recognition of our strong and continued commitment to gender equality and reflects the significant progress made over the past five years. 

Our sustained outreach programme, extensive use of role models, and carefully planned web and marketing materials have helped us to attract outstanding female students. At Faculty level:

  • 21% of our full-time undergraduate students are female, and this has been consistently above than the national average.
  • 25.8% of our full-time postgraduate taught students are female, with increase in applications in recent years.
  • 30.5% of our full-time postgraduate research students are female, and this has been consistently above than the national average.

Through a series of actions to attract and grow female staff, we have significantly increased the number and proportion of female research staff within the Faculty: 

  • The percentage of female researchers has grown in the past 5 years from 18.7% to 24.9%
  • The overall academic-research-teaching female percentage has grown from 17.8% to 20.1%
  • 33.3% of our University Academic Fellows are female.
  • Both male and female researchers are equally successful in awarded grants over the past three years.
  • Women represent 73% of fellowship award-holders over the past three years.
  • Women are associated with 24% of the total value of research funding.

Our diverse professional, support and technical staff are invaluable members of our community. We provide a wide range of support to reflect their needs across a broad range of roles.  

As well as this Silver, schools aligned to the former Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences have been re-awarded a Bronze.


The Faculty of Environment has been granted a Silver award, in recognition of the actions undertaken over the last three years in supporting gender equity across the Faculty at all levels.

The submission identified key achievements in supporting women's careers through multiple activities including promotion workshops, writing retreats and a renewed protocol covering return to work after periods of leave, to name but a few.

The submission also contained an ambitious action plan to improve our support further, which will now be put into practice over the next three years. Key topics include support for staff on non-permanent contracts, enhancing access to training, improving the SRDS experience, promoting mentoring uptake and enhancing the visibility of female staff and of our equality and inclusion policies.

Andy Dougill, Executive Dean of Environment, said:

"Thanks go to the Faculty of Environment Athena SWAN self-assessment team for leading all the hard work that has led to this this excellent result. In particular, Clare Woulds for her excellent leadership and writing skills in co-ordinating this successful submission and special thanks also to Sarah Dennis, Nichola Sykes, Sam Jamson, Kate Pangbourne, Anne Owen, Kirsty Pringle, Jared West, Sara Gonzales and Sam Haynes for their inputs and key roles in advancing our forward planning for these activities."

Posted in: