Gender at UCD

UCD is committed to supporting gender diversity, equality and inclusion in the University. Find out how UCD is making strides in gender equality and how you can support UCD in contributing to positive change for everyone.

Athena SWAN at UCD

University College Dublin was awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award on 15th March 2017 for a period of three years. The Athena SWAN Award was established to promote the advancement of women’s careers in higher education and research. Receiving this Award is a welcome recognition of UCD’s commitment to our community to enhance gender equality in the university and is a significant milestone for UCD. A new application including a new Gender Equality Action Plan will need to be submitted in April 2020 to retain the bronze award. For more information on the 2020 Institutional application please visit the dedicated webpage here


UCD Schools Athena SWAN Application

Five Schools applied for Athena SWAN in 2018, and three School applications and one combined College application were submitted in April 2019. For information on how to apply, click here. If your School is interested in applying, please contact for more details.

Gender Equality Action Group

The Gender Equality Action Group chaired by Professor Orla Feely, VP for Research, Impact and Innovation oversees the implementation of the Gender Equality Action Plan and also acts as the Steering Group for University Athena SWAN applications. It will also encourage and support applications from Schools across all disciplines to apply for Athena SWAN awards and carry out a mock assessment role for School applications prior to submission. This group also has a broader remit in terms of addressing gender related issues and promoting gender equality that may fall outside the scope of Athena SWAN.

Any queries or comments in relation to gender equality can be sent to and will be considered by the Gender Equality Action Group.

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Chair/UMT Sponsor

The Gender Equality Action Group (including Athena SWAN) will be chaired by the UMT Sponsor, Professor Orla Feely, VP for Research, Innovation and Impact.  The Chair may appoint a Deputy Chair, to fulfil specific tasks including representation on the UMT Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group. 

Terms of Reference

The Gender Equality Action Group will:  

  • Lead on the progression of the University on gender initiatives such as membership of the Athena SWAN Charter;
  • Oversee the Implementation of UCD’s Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) and support project leads;
  • Conduct a gap analysis to identify areas for further consideration which are not covered by the GEAP but are necessary to respond to emerging policy changes on gender equality;
  • Report to UMT (through the UMT Sponsor);
  • Liaise with the UMT Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group;
  • Support Schools to apply for Athena SWAN applications, including:
    • Agree with Schools the timing of submissions for Departmental Awards,
    • Support School Self-Assessment Teams, and
    • Participate in relevant quality assurance processes (e.g. peer review);
  • Specifically act as the Self-Assessment Team (SAT) for the Athena SWAN awards, and prepare a submission on behalf of the University for subsequent Athena SWAN awards;
  • Promote the GEAP and all gender initiatives within the university community; 
  • Liaise with UCD representatives on relevant UCD and national committees.


Membership and Term of Office

The membership of the Group will include standing members and those appointed to the group for a 3 year term.  At that point the membership and terms of reference will be reviewed.  Membership of the Group will be representative of the University Community including: gender balance and diversity; disciplines and grades; faculty, staff and students; relevant committees and networks; and expertise in areas such as equality and organisational development/ cultural change.

It is anticipated that there will be approximately 4 meetings per year.

Name AreaContact
Professor Orla Feely (Chair) Research, Innovation and Impact
Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty (Deputy Chair) School of Art History and Cultural Policy – Arts & Humanities
Professor Dolores Cahill School of Medicine - Health and Agricultural Sciences
Rory Carey Culture and Engagement, UCD HR
Professor Joe Carthy College of Science
Dr Simon Kelly School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Associate Professor Donal Finn School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering
Professor Jason Last Office of Registrar
Marcellina Fogarty Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, UCD HR
Professor Catherine Godson School of Medicine - Health and Agricultural Sciences
Dr Aoife Gowen School of Biosystems & Food Engineering – Engineering & Architecture
Melissa Plunkett SU Welfare Officer
Dr Meriel McClatchie School of Archaeology - Social Sciences & Law
Maura McGinn Director of Institutional Research
Dr Jennifer Mitchell School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science - Science
Dr Marie Luce Paris School of Law – Social Sciences & Law
Professor Denis Shields School of Medicine - Health & Agricultural Sciences
Mark Simpson Culture and Engagement, UCD HR
Dr Emma Sokell School of Physics - Science
Dr Saoirse Tracy School of Agriculture & Food Sciences - Health & Agricultural Sciences
Dr Gavin Stewart School of Biology & Environmental Science -
Judy Walsh Social Policy, Social Work & Social Justice – Social Sciences & Law
Licia Carlesi (Secretary to the GEAG) Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Unit 

Athena SWAN in action

Diversity is highlighted in the university’s strategic plan as one of the core values of UCD, and one of our strategic objectives is the attraction and retention of an excellent and diverse cohort of students, faculty and staff. The Athena SWAN Gender Equality Action Plan will be central to our ability to deliver on this objective.

We have already put in place a number of actions including:

  • The appointment of a Vice-President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • The establishment of an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group reporting to the University Management Team
  • A new University Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy
  • The development of an Equality Impact Assessment Tool, which will enable and require all policy developers to ensure that UCD policies are inclusive and promote equality and diversity 
  • The introduction of a social levy, to distribute the costs of leave
  • The development of an Equality Impact Assessment Tool, which will enable and require all policy developers to ensure that UCD policies are inclusive and promote equality and diversity
  • The introduction of a social levy, to distribute the costs of leave
  • Introduction of Core meeting hours
  • Gender Balance target for Committee membership
  • Introduction of a welcome statement in all advertisements to under-represented groups and mandatory EDI criteria in job descriptions and tips and tools on drafting inclusive job descriptions
  • Development of a gender analytics tool for Schools
  • Development of targets for promotions based on the cascade model targets

Further detailed steps are identified in the UCD Gender Equality Action Plan, including

  • Unconscious bias awareness raising
  • Mainstreaming gender equality across all university processes, including data collection.
  • Development of Exit Interview process
  • Support for those taking family related leave
  • Gender balance in Head of School appointments
  • Enhancement of local level induction

UCD Gender Equality Action Plan

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Athena SWAN comes to Ireland

In April 2014, it was announced that the Athena SWAN would be extended to Ireland. The extension of the Athena SWAN Charter is supported by the Higher Education Authority. 

UCD is proud to have been among the Higher Education Institutions (HEI's) who helped bring Athena SWAN to Ireland and continues to support the process through participation on the National Coordination Committee (NCC). Since 2014, UCD has been working with the UK Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the NCC to adapt the UK model for the Irish context. The goal for the initial three year period is for all Irish HEIs to join the Charter and successfully secure the entry level Athena SWAN Bronze Award. 

Athena SWAN was formally launched in Ireland on 5th February by the Minister for Education and Science, Jan O’Sullivan TD. Speaking at the launch, UCD’s President and current IUA President, Professor Andrew Deeks welcomed the initiative. 

While Athena SWAN currently focuses on academic and research staff in STEMM areas, in the UK this is being broadened out to include staff across all disciplines. In line with the Athena SWAN framework, from the outset, UCD has included all disciplines, STEMM and AHSS. It also developed an incremental approach, seeking ultimately to include all employees in gender equality initiatives, noting also the relevance of certain initiatives for students.

Athena SWAN in UCD

UCD recognises the contribution that women have made to our progress. However, it is widely acknowledged ­ including at a European level - that proactive steps need to be taken to ensure sustainable and equal participation of women in higher education and research roles throughout their careers. While initiatives have been taken at a European level, UCD equally is seeking to ensure that we have an environment that supports and enables equality for women in this area. 

UCD has established a number of equality related initiatives across the University. In 2014, in line with our commitment to gender equality, UCD developed a specific gender project to enhance women’s participation and equality, including through engaging in gender equality action planning and developing frameworks to encourage relevant stakeholders to develop actions to support gender equality. UCD strives to support a culture of commitment to equality, beyond compliance with legal requirements. 

UCD’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2020 names diversity as a key value and one of our ten priority objectives is to attract and retain an excellent and diverse cohort of students, faculty and staff. The Strategic Plan commits UCD to promoting gender balance and equality of opportunity among students and employees and to engaging in national and international cutting edge diversity programmes to ensure that UCD achieves the benefits of diversity at all leadership levels. 

UCD applied for the Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award at the first opportunity and attained an Athena Swan Bronze Institution award in 2017

There are six guiding principles underpinning Athena SWAN, namely:

  • To address gender inequalities requires commitment and action from everyone, at all levels of the organisation
  • To tackle the unequal representation of women in science requires changing cultures and attitudes across the organisation
  • The absence of diversity at management and policy-making levels has broad implications which the organisation will examine
  • The high loss rate of women in science is an urgent concern which the organisation will address
  • The system of short-term contracts has particularly negative consequences for the retention and progression of women in science, which the organisation recognises
  • There are both personal and structural obstacles to women making the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career in science, which require the active consideration of the organisation

While Athena SWAN currently focuses on academic and research staff in STEMM areas, this is being broadened out to include staff across all disciplines.

Further information on Athena SWAN

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) UK had developed a range of resources to support universities. The Handbook (to be adapted for Ireland) is a very practical resource.