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Gender Equality Redemption Arc for the School of Medicine

The University of St Andrews’ School of Medicine has been granted the Athena Silver Swan Award after being previously awarded Bronze status in 2015. The Silver Swan Award recognises the School of Medicine’s ongoing commitment to gender equality.

According to the Athena Swan Charter, the Athena Swan awards, “Act as a framework for sustainable change through which participants enhance their inclusivity and performance, with a particular focus on gender equality. The Awards recognise commitment and achievement in upholding the Principles and driving positive change.”

Silver Awards are granted following an application process where universities provide evidence-based self-assessment and plans for future action designed to reduce gender inequality.

The School of Medicine’s Director of Inclusion, Dr John Winpenny, said in a statement, “As Director of Inclusion for the School, I am delighted that Athena Swan (AS) has recognised the gender equality work that the School has done and continues to do with an Athena Swan Silver Award. The award covers the five-year period, 2023-2028.

“I now look forward to working with the Inclusion Committee and other colleagues in the School to enact our Athena Swan five-year Action Plan.”

He added, “I am grateful to India Pinker, Dr Jane Illes and the central EDI team – Karen McGregor, Kathryn Herschell, and James Law – for all their help and advice in putting the School’s application together and for the support of Professor David Crossman, Dean of the Medical School”.

However, in 2021 a report by The Times revealed that since 2014 the ratio of male professors to female professors slipped from 6:3 to 12:1.

The article quoted a University spokesperson who said, “The number of individuals holding professorships within the School of Medicine at any given time is not a reflection of the senior leadership team within the school and has fluctuated during the period of the pandemic due to posts being gapped or filled temporarily due to clinical commitments.

“The university is committed to the elimination of discrimination of all kinds and to advancing equality of opportunity.”

The School of Medicine could not be reached for comment on whether these numbers have since changed or are indicative of any need for improvement.

The School of Medicine is the fourth School in the University to receive the Athena Swan Silver Award, demonstrating a broader University commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable environment.

Dr Rebekah Widdowfield, Vice-Principal (People and Diversity), said, “[Diversity] is a theme in the University’s refreshed Strategy 2022-2027, reflecting our commitment to becoming a truly diverse, inclusive and supportive institution.

“Participation in external accreditation schemes such as Athena Swan and the Race Equality Charter provide a framework for a rigorous self-assessment and reflection of evidence, policy and practice to help us take action, as required to build greater equality and diversity across our community.

“The achievement of these awards is not an end in itself, but a reflection of the progress we are making and provides visible signals of inclusion for our students and staff.”

Those seeking additional information on the University’s EDI policies can be found on their website.

Photo: University of St Andrews

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