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Karen McCloskey

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Karen McCloskey attended the international conference Structural Change for Gender Equality in Research and Innovation: Contextual Factors, which took place on 19 May 2017 in Prague.

Karen McCloskey is Professor of Cell Physiology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast.

Since 2012, she has been Director of the Gender Equality Office in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.

She led the successful Athena SWAN Silver Award Applications for the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences in 2012 and 2016, working with an enthusiastic and highly-motivated Gender Equality Committee representing staff and students at all levels across the research and education units of the School.

In 2016, she proposed and implemented a strategy for a Gender Equality Office in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, serving 4 Schools. Chairing the University SWAN Champions Group has provided valuable insight into the challenges faced by colleagues in other disciplines as they work towards Gender Equality and has enabled good practice to be shared across the University.

Outside of academia, Karen is the mother of 2 children, is married to Scott, a hospital doctor and when free time is available enjoys fitness, playing piano, travelling and reading.

Abstract of her paper:

The Athena SWAN journey and its impact on Gender Equality in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast

The Athena SWAN charter was developed in 2005 by the Equality Challenge Unit, UK with the aim of encouraging and recognising commitment to progressing the careers of women in STEMM academia (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine), where traditionally there were few female students, researchers or academics. More recently, the charter was extended to Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Business and Law (AHSSBL). UK Universities who commit to the principles of the Charter are then eligible to apply for Institutional Awards, recognising their commitment to advancing the careers of women and working towards Gender Equality across the Institution. With successful Institutional Awards, STEM Departments or Schools (Units) are able to apply for Departmental Awards at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels.

This presentation will reflect on the experiences of the 4 Schools in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Queen’s University Belfast in their Athena SWAN Gold and Silver Awards and the impact that these are having across the Faculty. We have learned that the combination of a supportive culture and decisive leadership are key to promoting Gender Equality which is encapsulated in the concept of ‘fairness’ where initiatives that may be perceived as primarily benefiting women (e.g. flexible working) also benefit men e.g. with parental or caring responsibilities.

Across our Faculty, consistent with the national UK and wider EU context, the majority of our undergraduate and postgraduate students are female. We are encouraged that more than 50% of our early career academics (lecturers and postdoctoral researchers) are female, yet at Professorial level the percentage drops to around 20%.  As part of our Athena SWAN Action Plans, we conduct surveys of the culture and obtain feedback on perceptions of opportunities for career progression. This context informs our Action Plans and initiatives such as the Women’ Early Career Network (WeCAN) have developed from this to support women through career progression. We have worked to increase awareness of Unconscious Bias in all aspects of academic life from how students evaluate their lecturers to decision making in recruitment panels and now provide training to mitigate this issue.  Modelling of our data has shown that the Athena SWAN context has delivered impacts towards achieving Gender Equality across academic grades and female membership of powerful decision-making committees.  Importantly, our culture is regarded as supportive and positive and we conduct regular surveys and focus groups to discuss how this might be improved.