UCL Human Resources


UCL leads the way in landmark gender equality awards

10 May 2021

Six UCL departments have successfully secured national Athena SWAN awards in recognition of their efforts to accelerate gender equality.

Athena SWAN logo

There was a renewed Gold status award for Elizabeth Garrett Anderson UCL’s Institute of Women’s Health (IfWH). The departments of Mathematics, Institute of Ophthalmology and Psychology and Language Sciences (PALS) achieved Silver awards, while the departments of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) and Security and Crime Science both achieved Bronze.

The Athena Swan charter is a gender equality framework used across the higher education sector. Participating institutions use the charter to improve gender representation, progression and the working environment for all staff.

UCL was one of the first institutions to sign up to the scheme and now holds an institutional Silver award. The latest honours mean that a total 41 departments, divisions and institutes from across the university hold Athena SWAN awards: 21 Bronze, 17 Silver and three Gold. This is the most held by any UK university.

Gold awards are awarded to departments who can evidence 'beacon' activity to promote gender equality in their discipline at a national level. There are only 16 across the UK, with UCL holding three. UCL’s Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology were also previously given Gold status.

Image of Suzy Buckley
Dr Suzy Buckley, Vice-Dean (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) for the Faculty of Population Health Sciences and IfWH EDI team co-lead said: “We are absolutely delighted that our continued efforts to deliver sustained impact on gender equality have been recognised through this national award. It has only been possible through our continued engagement and by embedding these principles in all day-to-day aspects of our working lives.”

The Athena SWAN panel was unanimous in its decision for the IfWH Gold award and praised the institute for its sustained efforts and achievements.  

The panel highlighted the introduction of job sharing, including the Director’s role, which led to an increase in women involved in senior leadership roles, both within the IfWH and elsewhere. 

The panel also highlighted: 

  • Increase in women at senior level linked to uptake of leadership courses
  • Flexible working practices as evidenced in take-up and survey responses
  • Culture change due to beacon activity
  • Improvement in appraisal take up

IfWH Director Professor Anna David added: “This renewal of Gold demonstrates the commitment of the Institute for Women’s Health to continue its focus on gender equality in all that we do. We value diversity and strive for institutional culture and processes that foster the health and wellbeing of all staff and students. I am so very proud of everyone who is putting equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of our community and our academic strategy.”

In preparation for UCL’s submissions this year, 31 staff volunteered to review the departmental applications as part of an internal mock panel process.

Professor Tim Levine, who co-chairs the Equality Challenge team at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology as well as

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UCL’s Athena Forum, described the panels as ‘transformative’, commenting: “Giving this small amount of support to the Athena SWAN journeys of other departments was so useful to create local understanding of the true purpose of our application. Our writing became more accurate at delivering what our readers would need to see. I would encourage colleagues to engage in this process to increase your chances of success.” 

For more information on Athena SWAN and how to get involved, visit UCL’s Athena SWAN SharePoint