Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn


RCSI is committed to equality between women and men, and the right of all members of our community to be treated equally regardless of gender identity and gender expression.

Athena SWAN

Athena SWAN is a Charter that recognises and celebrates good practice towards the advancement of equality and enables representation, progression and success for all. In 2005, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) – a charity funded by the UK Higher Education Funding Council - launched Athena SWAN in the United Kingdom (UK).

The Athena SWAN Charter was launched in Ireland in early 2015. It is now a national initiative supported by the Irish Higher Education Authority. Initially established as a gender equality initiative, Athena SWAN has now expanded to include intersectionality.

In November 2017, RCSI became a signatory of the expanded Athena SWAN Charter. In April 2018, RCSI intends to apply for the Athena SWAN Bronze award, which is recognition of positive gender practice (providing equal opportunities for success for all people) in Higher Education.

The Athena SWAN Charter

The Athena SWAN Charter is based on ten key principles. By being part of Athena SWAN, RCSI has committed to a progressive charter; adopting these principles within our policies, practices, action plans and culture.

  1. We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
  2. We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular, addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.
  3. We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including:
    • the relative underrepresentation of women in senior roles in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL)
    • the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)
  4. We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
  5. We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.
  6. We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
  7. We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.
  8. We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
  9. We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality.
  10. All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.

Athena SWAN Committee

Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Programmes

In 2015, RCSI partnered with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) and committed to supporting female staff to join the leadership programme. To date, 42 (23 female and 19 male) senior members of staff have completed an in house Leadership Development Programme which has been hugely beneficial on both a personal and organisational level.

To further support the progression of female staff, the College has also sponsored 28 female staff members to attend the Aurora programme, a dedicated women’s leadership programme. Aurora is for women up to senior lecturer level or professional services equivalent in a university or higher education college, ambitious for a career in the sector and interested in exploring leadership and management as one option for progression. Aurora addresses core areas associated with leadership success:

  • Understanding organisations and the sector
  • Developing leadership behaviours, skills and knowledge
  • Identifying and overcoming barriers and obstacles
  • Growing confidence and a leadership identity
  • Building networks, coalitions and support processes

For more information please contact L&

Aurora Women’s Network

In 2017, RCSI’s Aurora Programme participants came together to form the RCSI Aurora Women’s Network. This Network builds on the learning and insights gained from Aurora through the provision of quarterly networking opportunities and leadership events for Auroreans. For more information please contact

Emily Winifred Dickson Prize

In 2016, RCSI launched the Emily Winifred Dickson Prize which recognises women who have made an outstanding contribution to their field, has been established in honour of Emily Winifred Dickson (FRCSI) who broke boundaries when she became the first female Fellow of RCSI in 1893, which made her the first female Fellow of any of the surgical royal colleges in Britain and Ireland.

Emily Winifred Dickson was not only a Fellow of RCSI, a trailblazing first for a female surgeon; she was a working mother, a published scientist and a keen promoter of women's rights. Although she experienced prejudice and discrimination in her chosen career, she received considerable support from several of the hierarchy of the Irish medical profession. She continued that spirit and was supportive of young women, particularly female medical students, throughout her career.

The inaugural Emily Winifred Dickson Prize was awarded to Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of University of Oxford on 23 September 2016 at a special ceremony that took place in the College on St Stephen's Green in Dublin.

Professor Richardson became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford on 1 January 2016, having served previously for seven years as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, Scotland. A native of Tramore, Waterford, Ireland, she received a BA in History from Trinity College, Dublin, an MA in Political Science from UCLA, and an MA and PhD in Government from Harvard. Professor Richardson was awarded both the Levenson Prize and the Abramson Prize for her commitment to teaching. She served as Executive Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard 2001 - 2008 where she was instrumental in its transformation into an interdisciplinary centre promoting scholarship across academic fields and the creative arts.

The award is a special commissioned piece by Imogen Stuart, RHA, one of Ireland's foremost sculptors. In 2000, Imogen Stuart was elected Professor of Sculpture by the RHA. Her work is represented in churches and public places throughout Ireland, as well as The Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. Her work also includes a bust of Mary Robinson in Aras an Uachtarain. She was elected Saoi of Aosdana by the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on 15th September 2015.

The next RCSI Emily Winifred Dickson Award will be awarded in autumn 2018.


International Women's Day

International Women's Day (8 March) is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political

International Men's Day

RCSI celebrated International Men's Day (19 November) for the first time in 2017. International Men's Day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care.