UL leadership in gender equality recognised with prestigious award

silver athena award
President Kerstin Mey with UL's Dr. Marie Connolly, Director Human Rights, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Photo by Alan Place

UL’s first female president said she was not ‘suprised’ that the university has been recognised for its commitment to diversity

By Rachel Petticrew

University of Limerick’s dedication to gender equality has been recognised this week, as the first Irish institution to receive the prestigious Athena Swan Silver Award.

The Athena Swan awards are part of a global framework used to support and transform gender equality and promote equality work within higher education and research.

In 2015, UL was one of the first institutions in Ireland to achieve an Athena Swan Bronze Institution Award, and has since established an office of Human Rights and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in 2021.

The midwest university’s Kemmy Business School is also to receive a Silver Faculty Athena Swan Award this year, marking ongoing efforts to achieve equality, diversity, and inclusion. KBS will be the first business school in Ireland to be recognised with the prize.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said the institution “has always considered gender equality and broader equality, diversity, and inclusion issues as a key priority and through dedicated leadership has embedded gender equality across the institution.

“As not only President of this wonderful institution but also as chairperson of the Athena Swan EDI Steering Committee, I am exceptionally proud that our institution has been recognised as a leader in embedding gender equality and the broader equality, diversion and inclusion agenda in the sector.”

Professor Mey said she was not “suprised” that UL has been recognised for its commitment to diversity: “UL has always led the way in pursuit of gender equality as is evident in my own appointment as the first woman president of an Irish university in 2020.”

Recent progress made towards equality and diversity at the university include acknowledging the negative impact career interruptions for caring reasons were having on female staff. As part of the Athena Swan process, a Research Grant for Returning Academic Carers was introduced to help staff re-establish their independent research careers on returning from extended leave. To date, 73 grants have been availed of at a cost of over €1.5 million.

Sarah Fink, Advance HE’s Head of Athena Swan Ireland, said UL had demonstrated real impact in ensuring more female academics had been able to progress within the institution: “In the last three years, UL’s number of female Associate Professors has more than doubled, while its number of female Professors has increased by a third.”

Find out more about Athena Swan Ireland.

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