Making our University a hub for social change
The last in a series of features profiling our Women of Achievement Awards 2021 celebrants highlights outstanding accomplishments of colleagues in the field of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Professor Louise Bryant, Professor Helen Gleeson, Stella Foster and Professor Iyiola Solanke (pictured clockwise from top right) are among our Women of Achievement 2021 celebrants
Amazing achievements of 28 colleagues were recognised during a special online ceremony last month.
Held for the sixth time, the awards aim to acknowledge and celebrate women who share a common commitment to excellence and have performed outstandingly in their fields, whether this be in research, student education or student experience, scholarship, international strategies, leadership of key University initiatives, or supporting vital administrative and technical activities.
The awards highlight the significant contributions and impact the recipients have made across the University and beyond.
The women receiving awards were all nominated by their peers, and are drawn from across the University, from a range of academic and professional colleagues, highlighting how excellence is being achieved throughout the institution.
Leading research scientist
Professor Helen Gleeson, Cavendish Professor of Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, is a leading research scientist in the field of soft matter physics, with an outstanding record in addressing gender equality, diversity and inclusion.
She was awarded an OBE in 2009 for Services to Science and was named as the Times Higher Education Supervisor of the Year in 2018.
Professor Gleeson said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be elected as a Woman of Achievement by the University.
“Leeds does an amazing job of recognising and supporting women and it’s a privilege to join some remarkable colleagues on the list.”
Professor Helen Gleeson has an outstanding record in addressing gender equality, diversity and inclusion
Outstanding research track record
Professor Iyiola Solanke is Chair of EU Law and Social Justice within the Law School at Leeds, with an outstanding research track record in the fields of EU and anti-discrimination law.
Alongside research, she’s an international advocate for anti-discrimination, diversity and equality, within and beyond the University, including being Chair of Leeds 11 and the University’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff network, as well as a founder of the Temple Women’s Forum North and the Black Female Professors Forum.
Professor Solanke was also recently appointed one of the University’s inaugural Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
She said: “I’m thrilled to have received a Women of Achievement Award.
“The awards are important as they ensure the visibility of the work done to create tangible change within our University. While celebrating the progress we have made, the awards are also reminder of the work that still needs to be done to ensure equality for all.
“Going forward, I hope the awards motivate staff and students to come together to make our University a hub for social change.”
Professor Iyiola Solanke is an international advocate for anti-discrimination, diversity and equality
Louise Bryant is a Professor in Psychological and Social Medicine, Associate Dean for EDI in the School of Medicine and the University’s Academic Lead for Gender Equality.
Her inspirational leadership and drive played an integral role in the School of Medicine’s Gold Athena SWAN Award in 2019 – the first medical school in the UK to receive the accolade, which recognises progress towards gender equality within higher education. She also led the recent institutional Bronze Award submission with colleagues across the University.
Professor Bryant continues to raise the profile of equality, diversity and inclusion through her roles, and through research that challenges health inequalities experienced by people with a learning disability. Together with Professor Solanke, she was also recently appointed one of the University’s inaugural Deans for EDI.
Professor Bryant said: “I was delighted to be nominated for Women of Achievement this year.
“For me, the nomination was more important than the award itself. To be recognised by others for the work we do is both wonderful and necessary. We all need to be valued by our colleagues, especially during difficult times.”
Professor Louise Bryant continues to raise the profile of equality, diversity and inclusion through her roles and through her research
Improving women’s visibility in STEM
Stella Foster is an early-career researcher in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, and is committed to improving women’s visibility in STEM.
In 2020, she organised a screening of ‘Picture a Scientist’, a film examining the sexism that persists in physical sciences. She’s a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry local section committee, Women in Engineering Society and Scientists for Labour.
Stella said: “Receiving this award for work highlighting the barriers women can face in the sciences is a testament to the wider philosophy and desire for equality here at Leeds, and to the collaborative and encouraging atmosphere that my colleagues enable.
“As a woman and as a lesbian in the sciences, I am keenly aware we still have a way to go. This was evident at the recent relaunch meeting of the Women in Engineering Society, where young female engineering students shared their experiences of sexism in this faculty.
“Following the documentary screening last year, I received many heartfelt thank you emails from women for whom the documentary had resonated strongly, which shows these are not isolated experiences. We have to challenge the atmosphere that young women entering STEM experience.”
Stella Foster is committed to improving women’s visibility in STEM
Success for all
Leeds has been commended for its work to support the career development of talented women in the form of a prestigious Bronze award under the Athena SWAN Charter. The Athena SWAN Charter is designed to recognise advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all. Faculties at Leeds celebrated a hat-trick of new awards across the University last year.
Further profiles of each of the Women of Achievement Awards 2021 celebrants will be published on For Staff during the coming weeks. Links to these articles will be added to the weekly eNews editions and the Equality and Inclusion Unit website, so watch this space for further information.
For those unable to attend the online Women of Achievement Awards 2021, you can access a recording of the ceremony to watch in full.Posted in: University news