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York’s support of gender equality recognised with Athena SWAN awards

Posted on 24 June 2019

The University of York’s departments of Chemistry and Biology have been officially awarded their Athena SWAN Gold awards for a further four years at a ceremony today.

Dr Leonie Jones, Dr Derek Wann and Dr Helen Coombs (Department of Chemistry) were presented with an Athena SWAN Gold award by Professor Dame Julia Higgins Dr Leonie Jones, Dr Derek Wann and Dr Helen Coombs (Department of Chemistry) were presented with an Athena SWAN Gold award by Professor Dame Julia Higgins.

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. 

In May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and in professional and support roles, as well as for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Progression and success

York’s Department of Chemistry was the first in the UK to obtain the Gold award in 2007 and is the only department in the country to stay this long at Gold level. The award recognises the advancement of gender equality including issues related to representation, progression and success for all.

Head of Department, Professor Duncan Bruce said: “This new Gold award recognises our long-term commitment to supporting the careers of women in chemistry and challenges us to continue to embrace diversity in its widest sense in the future.

“It reflects the innovative policies and practices that have been developed here, for example in the areas of flexible and part-time working schemes and supportive parental leave structures. Over many years, the department has achieved a vibrant and open culture where equality, diversity and inclusion are an accepted part of everyday life, providing a setting where the careers of individuals can flourish, regardless of who they are.”

Supportive culture

York’s Department of Biology was awarded an Athena SWAN silver award in 2006. In 2014, it was awarded Gold, the first Biology Department in Great Britain to reach this level. 

Head of Department, Professor Jennifer Potts said: “We are proud of our reputation for providing a supportive culture and strive to ensure that there are no barriers to our staff and students reaching their goals.

“Our approach is transparent and inclusive - poor working practices disproportionately discriminate against women, whilst good practices benefit all. We are committed to promoting, celebrating and raising awareness of equality and diversity issues and acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all."

Professor James Moir, Angela Lipscomb and Professor Nia Bryant collected the Department of Biology’s Athena SWAN Gold award.


The University of York also holds an institutional Bronze award that was renewed today.

Professor Deborah Smith, Athena SWAN University lead and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research said: “We are pleased that the University’s commitment to the Athena SWAN charter has been recognised today by renewal of our institutional Bronze award.

"York is encouraging colleagues across the disciplines to apply for Athena SWAN recognition with 15 of our 28 Departments across our three Faculties holding awards currently."

Find out more about the University's commitment to women in science and the Athena SWAN Charter.