Gender equality is a critical issue across the world, and several universities have taken significant steps to address this issue. Many higher education institutions have implemented policies, programmes, and initiatives to promote gender equality and create a more inclusive environment for their students, faculty, and staff. The Athena SWAN award recognises this, where the Athena SWAN Charter is a framework designed to promote gender equality across higher education. Although no institution has won the Gold award yet (this has only been departments), many universities have the Silver Athena SWAN award. So we’ve highlighted those award-winning universities that are doing the best for gender equality, and paving the way forward for the educational future for women.

1. Aston University

 Aston University the best universities for gender equality
Source: Aston University

Aston University is one of the best universities for gender equality, which is why they are among the Athena SWAN Silver award winners. It’s clear from their website, they have dedicated support, programmes, policies and activities aimed at promoting gender equality and inclusive action.

2. Glasgow Caledonian University

Source: GCU

The GCU Advancing Gender Equality Group is a committee at Glasgow Caledonian University that is responsible for advancing gender equality policies and initiatives across the university. The group has established several working groups that focus on different aspects of gender equality, such as gender-based violence, recruitment and promotion, and the gender pay gap. It has also introduced a programme to combat gender-based violence on campus, including a support service for students who have experienced sexual violence, harassment or abuse. Overall, GCU’s commitment to gender equality has resulted in the university being awarded the Athena SWAN Silver award in recognition of its progress in advancing gender equality in academia.

3. Imperial College London

Imperial college london

The Imperial College London is already one of the best universities for gender equality, but it strives to be even better. It’s aiming for a Gold Athena SWAN award, with several actions in place. These include supporting and celebrating the achievements of women through events and tailored training programmes. They also aim to support parents by providing childcare assistance, and aim to reduce the gender pay gap.

4. King’s College London

gender equality at King's College London
Source: King’s College London

Arguably the best university for gender equality is King’s College London, with multiple Athena SWAN awards to its name. The university has eight Bronze and six Silver awards across its departments, and they have detailed information on how they are implementing the Athena SWAN framework overall.

5. Newcastle University

Newcastle university is one of the best unis for gender equality
Source: Newcastle University

Another university that has gone all out for gender equality is Newcastle. It has several initiatives in place, alongside its Silver Athena SWAN award. These initiatives include action on pay equality, research funding, parenting and childcare reviews, unconscious bias training and many more.

6. Queen Mary University of London

queen mary university of london gender equality
Source: Queen Mary University of London

This London university is among the universities that are the best for gender equality. They also have plenty in place to promote equality among all students, with policies for LGBTQ+, an Ethnicity Pay Gap and Gender Pay Gap and much more.

7. Queen’s University Belfast

Queen's University Belfast
Source: Queen’s University Belfast

Holding 15 Athena SWAN awards for their departments, including two Gold ones, Queen’s University Belfast is certainly one of the best UK universities for gender equality. It’s committed to promoting gender equality through various initiatives and policies, including the Queen’s Gender Initiative. This aims to represent women’s views across Queen’s, deliver bespoke development packages for women, enhance visibility of the contribution of women and much more.

8. St George’s University of London

St George's University of London
Source: St George’s University of London

The university has also taken steps to address the gender pay gap, with the implementation of a range of measures such as pay audits, unconscious bias training, and the development of career development programs for women. Additionally, the university provides support and mentoring opportunities for female academics and researchers, including a Women’s Academic Network and a mentoring program for female postdoctoral researchers.

9. Swansea University

swansea university
Source: Swansea University

Swansea University have been working on gender equality through the Athena SWAN framework since 2008. They currently hold a Silver award at institutional level, like the other universities on this list that are the best for gender equality. They’re also the only Welsh university on this list! Swansea University  encourage students and staff to get involved in their activities to actively promote balance and support for women.

10. The University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh
Source: The University of Edinburgh

Beyond their Silver Athena SWAN award, the University of Edinburgh has a recipe book aimed at promoting gender equality. The EqualBITE recipe book has strategies that aim to create gender-balanced working environments within higher institutions, using the real life experiences of the unis staff and students.

11. UCL

UCL gender equality
Source: UCL

UCL have a GEN is a virtual network, which provides an opportunity for any member of the community who is passionate about gender equality to gain more knowledge about the topic. Members of GEN can share information about gender equality initiatives, events and activities within the university as well as in the broader community. Furthermore, the network provides a platform to exchange information on national gender equality initiatives. The university also has plenty of other updates in place aimed at maintaining its commitments to the Athena SWAN status, making it one of the best universities for gender equality.

12. University of Bath

University of Bath
Source: University of Bath

The University of Bath is committed to promoting gender equality and has implemented a range of initiatives, reports and action plans to ensure gender equality across the institution. The university’s gender equality plan is aligned with Horizon Europe Gender Equality Plan (GEP) requirements, including the provision of dedicated resources, data collection and monitoring, and training and capacity building. The university’s Athena Swan application and action plan are available online, and each department has an Athena Swan lead and committee to oversee implementation. The university also focuses on work-life balance, gender balance in leadership and decision-making, gender equality in recruitment and career progression, integrating the gender dimension into research and teaching, and measures against gender-based violence and sexual harassment.

13. University of Brighton

University of Brighton university
Source: University of Brighton

From Equality Allies to #NeverOK, the University of Brighton has lots of networks, programmes and benchmarking in place to promote equality for everyone. For gender equality, it adheres to the Athena SWAN framework, as well as promoting inclusive practice. This means everyone has a say in creating the curriculum.

14. University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

Cambridge University was one of the founding members of the Athena SWAN Charter and received its first award in March 2006. Since then, the university has renewed its Bronze award in 2009 and 2012, achieved a silver award in 2014, and renewed it under new criteria in 2018. Currently, the university has 19 Bronze awards, 5 Silver awards (including the Clinical school), and 1 Gold award (Physics) across its departments. It also maintains its institutional-level Silver award too!

15. University of East Anglia

University of east anglia
Source: University of East Anglia

At present, The University of East Anglia holds 19 department awards, consisting of 6 Silver and 13 Bronze, with a goal of achieving awards for all schools by the end of the academic year 2022-23. The university has an Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing (EDI) team who oversee gender equality initiatives across the institution. Each school has an Athena Swan/Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee that is integrated into its structure, and each school has an academic Athena Swan Lead responsible for the implementation of the School’s Athena Swan action plan. Additionally, all Athena Swan Leads attend a University Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Frameworks Group to share best practices across the university.

16. University of Exeter

University of Exeter best universities for gender equality
Source: University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is dedicated to creating a positive and inclusive working environment that is an excellent place to work. Central to this vision is the promotion and integration of gender equality, which has been acknowledged with the institution’s Athena Swan Silver Award, while all nine STEMM departments have Bronze or Silver awards. The Gender Equality Group, formed after the University’s participation in gender equality accreditations, meets regularly to examine various gender-related issues affecting staff and students and monitor the Gender Equality Action Plan. The University is presently working on renewing its institutional Silver award and creating a new gender equality action plan.

17. University of  Kent

university of kent
Source: Kent University

Since 2004, the Women’s Network has been a highly successful initiative, offering valuable support to its members and feedback to the University on priorities for action. This programme has been especially critical during the University’s effort to encourage the recruitment, retention, and recognition of women in higher education, and Kent in particular. Having been committed to gender equality for decades, the University of Kent is among the best universities for balancing the scales.

18. University of Leicester

university of leicester gender equailty
Source: University of Leicester

The University of Leicester claims to offer support to all staff and students, with policies for gender, race, LGBTQ+ equality and more. Their gender pay gap report and diversity data demonstrate our strong commitment to advancing gender equality. They also have initiatives such as Standing Together and Together Against Harassment, designed to provide an inclusive learning environment. Their overall commitment has ranked them as one of the best universities for gender equality, according to Athena SWAN awards.

19. University of Liverpool

University of Liverpool one of the best universities for gender equality
Source: University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool has several schools and institutes that have been awarded Athena Swan awards, including Silver awards for the Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences, the Institute of Life Course and Medical Science, the Institute of Population Health, the Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology, and the School of Engineering. The Management School has also been awarded a Silver Athena Swan award. Bronze awards have been presented to the School of the Arts, the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures, the School of Law and Social Justice, the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science, and the School of Environmental Sciences. The School of Physical Sciences has also been granted a Silver award.

20. University of Nottingham

Is the University of Nottingham good for gender equality?
Source: University of Nottingham

Providing clarity on their gender equality activities, the University of Nottingham ensures they aim to achieve equity for all individuals, including cisgender women, cisgender men, trans men, trans women, and non-binary people. All the schools and faculties are working towards gender equality recognition through the Athena SWAN programme. Furthermore, you can find a number of networks that promote gender equality further. These include the Women’s Network, Women in Law, Women in Medicine and Surgery, UoN feminists and more. With so many groups proactively tackling gender inequality, Nottingham uni is definitely one of the best institutions.

21. University of Reading

university of reading
Source: University of Reading

The University of Reading has a history of diversity and inclusion and holds an Athena SWAN Silver Award at the university level, as well as in all of its science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) schools. The university’s diversity and inclusion initiatives are led by the Athena SWAN Implementation Team, the Race Equality Action Team (RE-ACT) and the LGBT+ Action Plan Group. The university publishes annual equality and diversity reports and provides training and mentoring opportunities for staff. The university also supports work-life balance, gender balance in leadership and decision-making, gender equality in recruitment and career progression, the integration of the gender dimension into research and teaching content, and measures against gender-based violence, including sexual harassment.

22. University of Sheffield

University of Sheffield
Source: University of Sheffield

As part of its efforts to eliminate the gender pay gap, The University of Sheffield has established partnerships to work towards a five-percentage-point reduction by 2025. They have made progress in leadership and governance, with 44% of female membership in their Senate and Council Committees and six out of 13 colleagues on their Executive Board being female. They have also established the Gender Equality Committee to advise senior management on measures to address gender equality and oversee the implementation of their Athena SWAN action plan. The university offers support for menopause, carers, parents, and fertility, and has a Women@TUOS Staff Network to support female staff members. They also strive to create an inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees and have initiatives to encourage women to pursue careers in engineering.

23. University of Southampton

University of Southampton
Source: The University of Southampton, The Stefan Cross Centre

As a founding signatory of the Athena Swan gender equality charter, the University of Southampton holds an institutional Silver award. This award was renewed in 2022, making it one of the best universities for gender equality according to recent awards. They have actions in place to address issues like unblocking talent pipelines and attracting more diverse job candidates. They also have The Stefan Cross Centre for conducting research into gender-related issues.

24. University of Warwick

University of Warwick
Source: University of Warwick

The University of Warwick has several initiatives in place to promote gender equality. This includes the Gender Task Force, which oversees the advancement of gender equality at all levels of the University. The university is also part of a consortium project promoting gender balance and inclusion in research. Additionally, Warwick supports local networks for women in various fields, such as engineering, physics, and chemistry. The university also offers Inspiring Women Events, e-learning courses on gender bias, and fully funded scholarships for female students from South Asia interested in studying climate change.

These are the best universities for gender equality, according to their Silver Athena SWAN award status. If you’re interested in knowing which degrees are becoming more female-friendly, take a look here.