Welcome to the Biology Equality and Diversity page

What is our promise?

To ensure that the Department promotes, celebrates and raises awareness of equality and diversity issues and fosters the acknowledgement that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.


Biology Working Group

The Biology Equality and Diversity Group (BioEDG) meets regularly, and minutes of its meetings will be published periodically on the relevant Biology Wiki page.

BioEDG Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference for the Equality & Diversity Champion

Current Members



Athena Swan gold 225

The Biology Department at York has been awarded Gold by Athena SWAN, and is one of only 3 Departments  to have achieved this highest level in the recent round of assessments.  It is the first Biology Department in Britain to have received a Gold award.

The Athena SWAN Awards recognise success in supporting the careers of women in science.

Find out more about Athena SWAN.

Athena Swan

2018 (June):
The University's Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2018 "Research-led teaching – in pursuit of excellence" took place on Friday 22 June.
Pen Holland and Katie Smith ran a conference workshop "How can we use games and play to encourage students to become active participants in creative learning?"
The following staff presented posters on their work:
Katie Smith - "Learning biology skills doesn’t have to take place in the laboratory!"
Pen Holland - "Becoming digital makers: Getting Bioscience students excited about programming"
Patrick Murphy - "A new online module to develop the digital literacy skills of students"
Rachel Hope & Kimberley Simpson - "Integrating continued reflection into the undergraduate learning experience"
Setareh Chong, James Chong, and Richard Walker (E-Learning Development Team) - "Facilitating peer-led group research through virtual collaboration spaces"
Five of twelve posters presented at the conference were from T&S staff in Biology. As part of the conference there were prizes for the best poster presentations awarded by John Robinson, PVC for Teaching, Leaning and Students, and Phil Lightfoot, Chair of the University's Teaching and Learning Forum.
Pen Holland won the overall prize for the best poster presentation and Katie Smith was runner up. Well done to all the T&S staff for their contribution to the conference. Very well done to Pen and Katie for winning their poster prizes.
2018 (May):
Chemistry at York: Athena SWAN 10 year Gold Celebration Event
On May 17th, Prof. Carolyn Bertozzi, of Stanford University, will give a public lecture from 18:15 in the Spring Lane lecture theatre

The title of the talk will be "The long game of STEM diversification" .  Prof Bertozzi will speak on her research and the importance of equality and diversity in science  The talk will be followed by a panel discussion.  Tickets for the public lecture are now available here: 


 Carolyn Bertozzi 

Carolyn Bertozzi is currently the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Chemical & Systems Biology at Stanford University and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.   

Carolyn Bertozzi’s name is synonymous bioorthogonal chemistry. Through her pioneering and innovative approaches she defined the field of Chemical Biology; demonstrating that chemical reactions can be designed with such exquisite specificity so as to proceed in environments as complex and richly-functionalized as living organisms.  Bertozzi has also made important fundamental discoveries regarding the origin of cancer-associated glyco-signatures and how they can be targeted for therapy. 


2018: 100 Years of Women's Suffrage - and still the need to march?

Monday 26 March 2018, 6.30pm

Speaker: Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu in conversation with Isabel Berwick 


International Women's Day Lecture

In the centenary year of women’s suffrage, women around the world are taking to the streets to march against misogyny, injustice and inequality. The Financial Times recently ran a major expose of the treatment of women in the city of London. Join us for a lively and engaging evening of conversation between Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu , organiser of the London Women’s March, and Isabel Berwick, executive editor of the Work & Careers section of The Financial Times, as they discuss gender equality and women’s rights.

Speaker biographies: Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu is a dual qualified lawyer in New York and Solicitor of England & Wales. She is the Co-Chair of the American Bar Association Africa Committee and editor-in-chief of the Women in Leadership publication she founded. An activist, Dr Shola is one of the organisers of Women's March London. More information on Dr Shola is available at www.drshola.com

Isabel Berwick is executive editor of the Financial Times Work & Careers section. She has been at the Financial Times since 1999 and writes about work, life, motherhood and feminism whenever she can. Her book essay, Feminists adjust to the age of Trump, is available here

Location: Bowland auditorium, Berrick Saul building

Admission: is by free ticket only. Please book via the link.



2018: The Equality Challenge Unit news.

The Equality Challenge Unit's Tinu Cornish was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 for “Why Are Even Women Biased Against Women?” (29 January).
Please watch the video: 



2016:  Professor Jane Hill spoke at the Microbiology Society conference in 2016 to talk about the Department of Biology's pathway to Gold. 

Jane Hill

In the following video she and others share top tips and information about Athena Swan: http://www.microbiologysociety.org/about-us/equality-diversity.cfm


2016:  Biology employee nominated for an award


Biology PA Jenny Purcell was nominated in the prestigious Yorkshire PA Awards for best Social Media PA.

Jenny got through to the final but unfortunatley lost out to Leeds Beckett University.

Jenny said "it was really good to be around so many other talented Yorkshire PAs! It's a great annual event run by the PA Hub and I am going to promote it to Support Staff here as as much as I can."



2016:  York student Emma Stewart wins poster prize at the BSCB Spring Meeting 

Emma Stewart

Emma Stewart, a first year PhD student with Dawn Coverley, won the British Society for Cell Biology poster prize in April 2016.
Emma won this prize at the spring conference in Warwick, with her poster on X-chromosome inactivation.
She will be sponsored, by the BSCB, to present her work at the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in San Francisco in December.

2016:  University of Hertfordshire Life Sciences Conference


Jane Hill

Jane Hill was invited to the University of Hertfordshire Life Sciences Conference (5th April) to talk about York Biology's Athena SWAN Gold award and discuss Equality and Diversity in Science.


2015: Athena SWAN BioScience Best Practice Event in London


Jane Hill spoke at the Athena SWAN BioSciences Best Practice event in London on 10th December and talked about Biology's 'Pathway to Gold'. In December, Jane was also invited to the University of Bath and the GW4 network of Universities to discuss gender diversity and applying for an ECU/AS award."   

2015: Professor Sue Hartley, President of the British Ecological Society


Prof Sue Hartley gave evidence to the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee inquiry on GM Insects on 13 October 2015, in her capacity as President of the British Ecological Society.





2015:  Professor Sue Hartley, University Research Champion in 'Environmental Sustainability and Resilience' 

Prof Sue Hartley, the University’s Research Champion in ‘Environmental Sustainability and Resilience’ is a member of a Q&A panel during a day of the celebration to welcome the new Chancellor Professor Sir Malcolm Grant.

2015:  Rewarding Excellence 
Congratulations to Betsy Pownall for her 'Rewarding Excellence' award recognising her service to graduate studies in the Department.




2015:  York PhD student, Hayley Clissold,  wins 'I'm a Scientist, Get me Out of Here' (posted July 2015)


'I'm a Scienctist, Get Me Out of Here' is an online outreach competition where students across the country challenge scientists in text-based live chats.  Scientists can be asked anything including questions about their research, career choices, or their general science knowledge.  Students then vote for their favourite sicentists and 'evictions' are carried out on a daily basis until two scientists battle it out in the final.



2015:  Soapbox Science (posted June 2015)


Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do.  This film shows Jane Hill - and other scientists - on their soapboxes on London's South Bank in 2013.





2015:  Maggie Smith, Pegine Walrad and Allison Green are talking at the 'Pint of Science' festival in York in May (posted May 2015)

Professor Maggie Smith, pictured, is talking about the worrying rise in bugs resistant to antibiotics. Professor Smith said this is a global problem and threatens to undermine, not just how we treat infectious diseases, but also most other aspects of modern medicine.


2015:  Sue Hartley gives 2015 Verrall Lecture at the Natural History Museum (posted April 2015)

Prof Hartley with Dr Chris Lyal of the Natural History Museum

Dr Chris Lyal (also pictured) welcomed the audience on behalf of the Natural History Museum and the Royal Entomological Society and gave a warm overview of Sue's achievements, including her current position as Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI). 

Sue Hartley's 2015 Verrall Lecture


2015:  York Biologist wins European Accolade (posted April 2015)


Dr Ellie Harrison has been named winner of the inaugural 2014 graduate student prize for her paper ‘Sex drives intracellular conflict in yeast’, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

For more information, see details here.


2015:  Your Good Health:  Cutting-Edge Comedy and Stand-up Research (posted March 2015)

Dawn Coverley at 'Your Good Health: Cutting-Edge Comedy & Stand-Up Research'

At a cutting edge comedy and stand-up research event in York, Dawn Coverley introduced the work done by her research group on mammalian cell proliferation control.  She ended the session with the work the group are doing to exploit changes in CIZ1 gene expression in lung cancer cells.


2015:   Allison Green wins Diabetes UK Award (posted February 2015)

Allison Green

CII investigator, Dr E Allison Green, has been awarded £250,000 by Diabetes UK to investigate the contributions of thymic B cells in the development of Type 1 Diabetes.


2015:  Butterflies need stable populations to combat climate change (posted January 2015)

Dr Jane K Hill

Many British butterfly species are moving north in response to climate change. But research by our biologists shows this shift is only possible if populations are either stable or expanding.




2014-2015:  International Genetically Engineered Machine team

iGEM team (2014-15)

Leading Athena SWAN department forges ahead with primarily female undergraduate science team.

iGEM project



2014:  Good practice shared with Newcastle University
Athena Swan gold 225
Jane Hill visits Newcastle University to share good practice in applying for Athena Swan awards and gives a talk on 'Path to Athena SWAN Gold - some reflections from Biology at York.
2014:  Public Lecture - Saturday 1 November 2014 (posted October 2014)


Royal Society Research Fellow Elva Robinson is giving a public lecture at the Manchester Science Festival, titled ‘Ants and Information’. The talk will demonstrate ‘collectively intelligent’ decision-making ant colonies, and will discuss how our own communication methods can be informed by the collective abilities of ants.



2014: Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship Awarded (posted August 2014)



A University of York academic has received a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust fellowship to further her research on novel mathematics for anti-viral therapy and evolution.



2014:  Society of General Microbiology Hayes-Burnet scholarship (posted August 2014)


Research Associate Dr Erica Kintz (from Dr Marjan van der Woude's lab - Centre of Immunology and Infection) was awarded the Hayes-Burnet scholarship from the Society of General Microbiology, and gave an oral presentaion at the annual meeting of the Australian Society of Microbiology in Melbourne, entitled "Addition of glucose to O antigen subunit by glycosyltransferase operons of Salmonella Typhi results in increased serum survival."


2014: Bladder Cancer Research (posted July 2014)



A University of York scientist has played a key role in research that could help to improve the treatment of muscle-invasive bladder cancer, one of the most common cancers, particularly among men.



 2014:  Athena Swan Awards Ceremony - Summer 2014



Jane Hill speaking about Biology's pathway to Athena SWAN Gold at the awards ceremony in Durham. July 2014


Jane Hill and Nina Pirozek receiving the Biology Department's Gold Award from Prof Dame Julia Higgins. July 2014


Members of the University of York receiving Departmental and University Athena SWAN awards. July 2014

2014: Pint of Science Festival (posted May 2014)

Dr Betsy Pownall 

Betsy Pownall is one of several Biology researchers exploring current cutting edge research at York ... at the pub!

 A pint of science



2014:  York Scientists at Parliament (posted March 2014)

Five early career scientists from the University of York attended Parliament to present their science to politicians and a panel of expert judges as part of SET for Britain.

PhD students Amy Sawtell, Christiana Kitsiou, Emily Johnston and Amanda Barnes,  and postdoctoral researcher Dr Isabelle Winder, were shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to take part in this year’s event at the House of Commons.

2014:  International Women's Day (posted March 2014)

International Women's Day (8 March 2014) aims to inspire women and celebrate achievements and at the University of York we have many female scientists who are leading groundbreaking research with international partners. Here we recognise a small selection of some of those women.


2013:  Mothers in Science

  • Link to Professor Ottoline Leyser's book 'Mothers in Science' (completed whilst Professor Leyser was based in York and held a Royal Society Rosalind Franklin award




‌2017:  Avoiding gender biases when writing references

Report on the issue of gender biases in references, prepared by Jane Hill following a lunchtime session which aimed to raise awareness for both writing references and when reading references written about prospective staff/students.


2016:  Is there Unconscious Bias in the recruitment process for academics in Biology?

Findings taken from an analysis of the applications and shortlisting of candidates for the Biomedical Science lectureships, Department of BIology, June-September 2016


‌2016: Summary of gender effects in student assessment of lectures (Stage 1 Biology 2015/16)


2015:  Changes to Athena Swan

ECU Athena SWAN is changing. The first two documents below outline the main changes, such as inclusion of professional & support staff, trans people and intersectionality.   The third document is a copy of the presentation on the proposed change given at the Biology Academic Staff meeting in June 2015.


2015:  Age at promotion and time in previous grade / Staff Pay Gaps

The University provided data for Biology academic staff promotions (anonymised) for ‘age at promotion’ and ‘time in previous grade’ (years). These data provide support for the fairness of the promotions processes, and no evidence that the career paths of females are slower than those of males. 

Staff pay gaps were also analysed and the data gathered showed that the overall pay gap in staff salaries in the Department is smaller than average for the sector.


2015: Staff Module Feedback Scores from Students

We examined whether or not male and female staff differ in their module feedback scores from students – we found no difference. 


2015:  Analysis of Grant Application Data (including bridging funding)


2015:  Feedback on Visit to Queen's University Belfast


2015:  Survey of Biology Graduuate Students


2014:  Staff survey

The University carries out a survey of its staff every few years. The results for Biology staff in the last survey (2014) are available, and compared with the previous survey in 2011. Members of the Biology AS committee were involved with discussions about the survey findings to ensure they were aware of any specific issues related to gender equality in the Department. Findings from the staff survey are on the Biology HR webpage.


2014 Analysis of changes to A level requirements for the Biology intake (posted October 2014)


2014: Presentation given to Biology Post-Docs (posted July 2014)


2013:  Feedback from Athena on Biology's Gold Sumbission


2013 Gold Submission Documents


2013: Staff and Student Survey Summary Results

In 2013 both academic staff and second year undergraduate students within the Deparmtent of Biology, University of York were surveyed. 

The aim was to help the Biology Department understand how male and female staff and students experience their working environment/the Department, and what improvements could be made to ensure equality of opportunity for all staff and students.

The summary results are given below:


Case Studies

Case Studies:

The following case studies were used in the Department's 2013 application for a Gold award:

Anna Riach, PhD student

Anna and her son Edward

Anna and her son Edward

‌Anna is a BBSRC PhD student who started in October 2009 and is due to submit her thesis in March 2014. Her project straddles biological disciplines and uses metabolomics to investigate chemical interactions between insects and their host plants. She has two supervisors, one male and one female. At 3 years and 3 months into her studies she took 6 months maternity leave, and has subsequently returned for the remaining 9 months of her studies.

‌‘As well as academics, there have been a number of other PhD students taking maternity leave in the Biology Department which made my decision to start a family during my PhD much easier. I found a universal positive attitude towards my pregnancy and maternity leave among other students and academic staff and did not meet with any disbelief that I wanted to have a baby while studying (contrary to the horror stories from PhD mothers on internet forums). Similarly, administration issues such as extending study time and having a flexible date for the start of my maternity leave were no problem. I am trusted to manage my own time and can therefore be flexible about when I work which means leaving university if my baby is ill is possible, something my partner’s job does not allow him to do.

There are plenty of women in senior positions in my department which encourages me to believe I can get that far in my career too. Having had these examples of how women conduct themselves in managerial roles will definitely be useful in my future career. I am glad I have had the opportunity to take maternity leave now as I was worried that starting a career after my PhD in a new organisation/company could be hampered by a maternity leave break if attitudes there were not as progressive as in the Biology Department at York.’

Dr Elva Robinson, Lecturer 


Elva and her son David

Elva and her son David

Elva is a behavioural ecologist studying the organisation of animal social groups. She uses social insects as a model system, combining empirical and modelling work to identify the simple rules followed by individual members of a colony, and to determine how they interact to produce adaptive group-level behaviours. Elva joined the Biology Department on an independent Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship in January 2010, and in June 2010 obtained a pro-leptic lectureship. She has taken maternity leave (8 months) and has returned to work at 80% FTE.

‘I arrived in the Department on a fellowship, but with the goal of securing a permanent position. As part of the Biology Department’s support to independent fellows, I was guaranteed to be short-listed for any suitable position. Knowing this helped encourage me to apply for a lectureship, as I knew I would at least get some beneficial interview practice. Having secured a pro-leptic lectureship makes it easier for me to apply for grants extending beyond my fellowship and allows me to make long-term research plans.'

Dr Amanda Noble, Daphne Jackson Research Fellow

Mandy at work in the lab

Mandy at work in the lab

Mandy is a biological chemist researching prostate cancer. Her last job was as a development chemist in a bulk pharmaceutical company. She stopped work after her second child was born to be at home full time. After her career break, Mandy volunteered with Dr Martin Rumsby in the Biology Department while applying for a Daphne Jackson fellowship. The rigorous application process took around 10 months. Prostate Cancer UK has provided the sponsorship to Daphne Jackson for this fellowship which is part time for 2 years and includes a retraining programme.

‘I have found everyone in the Biology Department to be very helpful and supportive in my quest to return to work. Members of the research group as well as Martin Rumsby and Prof Norman Maitland helped me in planning my project proposal and along with the Assoc. Head of Department and others supported me by offering mock interviews and advice along the way. The Department also supported me financially in contributing to travel to last year’s Daphne Jackson conference. One of the main advantages of returning to work at the Biology Department is the freedom to work in a flexible way that fits around family life.’ 

Dr Jon Pitchford, Senior Lecturer 


Jon and family on sabbatical in New Zealand

Jon and family on sabbatical in New Zealand

Jon trained as a mathematician before discovering how exciting biology can be. His research explores the importance of randomness in living systems, from sub-cellular to macro-ecological scales. He joined York in 2001 as a Lecturer, appointed jointly between the departments of Biology and Mathematics, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009. He is married with three young children.

‘Straddling two disciplines, and two departments, I find my job to be enormously challenging. The supportive and collegiate atmosphere in the Biology Department makes it a place where working hard is both enjoyable and appreciated. Good mathematics needs peace and quiet, which is hard to find in a dynamic environment such as this. I have twice benefitted from sabbaticals to New Zealand, with strong encouragement and absolutely no HoD expectations beyond "go away and do something good". I obeyed, and my best publications are a direct result. Biology has understood the extra pressures generated by joint appointments, and has instigated helpful policies which have now been adopted university-wide. I also appreciate the flexible working arrangements which have enabled my wife to continue her career.’ 

Professor Jane Hill, Chair of Biology Athena SWAN committee; Assoc. Head of Department


Jane and her husband Keith

Jane and her husband Keith

Jane is an ecologist whose research focuses on how species are responding and adapting to global climate warming. She explores how the loss of habitat interacts with climate warming to affect biodiversity and the ecosystem functions it provides. Jane joined the Department in 2001 as a lecturer, and was promoted to Senior lecturer (2005), Reader (2008), and Professor in 2010 (promotion to Band 2 in 2013). During her time at York, Jane has taken one period of maternity leave (7 months), after which she returned to work full time.

‘I find academic life to be very flexible which helps to get a good work/life balance, and this is helped by the fact that my husband is also an academic at another University. I have been promoted during my time at York, and found that the process was fair and transparent. I am pleased that there is now more support available within the Biology Department to help staff assess whether or not they are ready to apply for promotion, and I greatly benefitted from strong encouragement from the Head of Department to apply, at a time when I was uncertain if it was appropriate. I appreciate the supportive culture and working environment in Biology, and I am fully aware from talking with colleagues that this is unfortunately not typical of some other Universities. I have really enjoyed opportunities to mentor early-career women in STEMM, and I wish something similar had been available for me earlier in my career.’


‌‌Biology Working Group

The Biology Equality and Diversity Group (BioEDG) meets regularly, and minutes of its meetings will be published periodically on the BioEDG website.

BioEDG Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference for the Equality & Diversity Champion

Current Members




Athena SWAN links

University of York links

External resources

  • Click here for the Department of Chemistry's useful list of Twitter accounts on a range of Equality & Diversity issues.  The Department of Chemistry website also has links to other Departments and Insititutions

Articles and reports

Books for borrowing

The following books are available for people to borrow.  Please contact the Biology Staff Administation Office on ext 8503 if you wish to borrow one: 

  • Lean In (Women, Work, and the Will to Lead) by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi and Drea Zigarmi
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (powerful lessons in personal change) by Stephen R. Covey.
  • Why So Slow?  (the advancement of women) by Virginia Valian
  • Managing People for the First Time by Julie Lewthwaite



Athena swan_218px

Prof Jennifer Potts, Head of Department says "We are proud to have received this award. It reflects our continuing commitment to Athena SWAN principles, which have become embedded in all aspects of Departmental life. But we are also aware that there is still more to be done and we have new actions that will allow us to continue making progress in future."

Prof Jane Hill, Athena SWAN champion in Biology says, "We are delighted that our actions have resulted in gender parity in academic appointments over the past few years. Approximately 30% of our professors are women, a proportion that is rarely exceeded in science departments in the UK. This Gold award recognises the supportive culture in the Department that helps all staff and students reach their full potential."