Skip to Content

Featured News

Queen’s strikes gold for gender equality

Queen’s relationship with the Athena Swan programme to promote gender equality in higher education started more than 20 years ago in 2003.

Lanyon at sunrise

Queen’s has today become the first university on the island of Ireland and only the second in the UK to achieve the gold level of a prestigious higher education award for its work improving gender equality.

Positioning the University as a leader in gender equality in the higher education sector, the Athena Swan Gold Award recognises how Queen’s influence extends beyond higher education and has been awarded by industry body Advance HE.

The result of 25 years of hard work led by visionary senior women, improvements the University has recently made leading up to this award include:

  • Improving gender balance across roles and grades – in areas of challenge, significant progress has been made with more than three times (34%) the percentage of women professors today than 25 years ago. The University has ambitions to reach 40% by 2030;
  • Changes to working practices and patterns with the University recently enhancing its portfolio of work / life policies with new menopause and fertility treatment policies.

The hard work does not stop there though with Queen’s pledging an ambitious plan to continue its sustained and longitudinal approach to gender equality. This work will include investing in a new Queen’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, which will improve access to higher education for disadvantaged schoolgirls, showcase gender equality research across Queen’s and launch international leadership programmes.

Welcoming news of the Gold Award, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Ian Greer said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to become the first university on the island of Ireland and the second in the UK to achieve an institutional Athena Swan Gold Award. The wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda underpins everything that we do here at Queen’s. Many might think of EDI as some modern, contemporary idea but it’s been a foundation principle at this University for more than 100 years – embedded within our historic Charter, and today stands as a cornerstone of Queen’s Strategy 2030.

“As we celebrate this incredible achievement, it’s important to also reflect on how far we’ve come – opening in 1845 with men-only enrolment for more than three decades, to today standing as an institution that leads the way in gender equality and with a woman at the helm as Chancellor. I extend my warmest congratulations to all of my colleagues across Queen’s who have worked hard to deliver what is truly a remarkable feat. And this work will of course continue.”

Adding to the Vice-Chancellor’s comments, Professor Karen McCloskey, Director of Queen’s Gender Initiative and Deputy Director of the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research, said:

“Colleagues, both past and present, have worked tirelessly to make these vital improvements to ensure people at Queen’s can thrive in an inclusive and supportive culture. I would like to acknowledge the ongoing contribution of committed champions and networks of staff and students who build on the legacy of outstanding women graduates and leaders. Our ambitious Gold action plan challenges us to extend our reach, to nurture future leaders and further advance gender equality.

“To have come from a men-only university at the outset, through to the pioneering Riddel sisters who established a hall of residence for women students through to the long list of high achievers in medicine, the arts, engineering and across a full range of disciplines, today feels like the culmination of a long and worthy journey.  But it is not the end. The Gold award is a fantastic achievement for the University and will spur us on to continue this important work.”

Queen’s relationship with the Athena Swan programme to promote gender equality in higher education started more than 20 years ago in 2003, when the University achieved the Royal Society Athena Award. Two years later, Queen’s was one of 10 founding members of the Athena Swan Charter, holding an Institutional Silver Award since 2007.

Advance HE’s Athena Swan Charter is a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research.

For more information about Queen’s work with Athena Swan, please visit:



Media enquiries to Queen’s Communications Office via email: or tel: (028) 9097 3091