Female Representation at the Top of The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Agenda

(L-R: Back row: Iain Gray, Donald Ritchie, James Blake, Maggie Cusack, John Baxter, Petra Wend, John Brown, John Connell, Alan Alexander; Front row: Mandy MacLean, Marian Scott, Rebekah Widdowfield, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Neva Haites, Alison Elliot, Becky Lunn)


For the first time since its conception in 1783, the RSE has a council membership that is majority female and is led by its first female CEO, Dr Rebekah Widdowfield. This follows the election of the first female President, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell in 2014.

The RSE’s Council contains 11 individuals who have received Royal honours: this includes one Dame, four CBEs, four OBEs and two MBEs, one Principal of a Scottish University, one Vice-Principal of a Scottish university, and a Chair of an NHS board.  However, the vast and varied expertise of this group is not what makes this council unique – that lies in the fact that this is the only national academy within the UK to have such a large female presence and representation on its Council.

The RSE Council is made up of the President, five Vice Presidents, a General Secretary, Treasurer, Fellowship Secretary, and five ordinary members. The new council in April 2018 will continue to be majority female consisting of eight female members. Female members will hold five of the most senior positions.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the RSE’s current president said: “Encouraging women into science has always been a key interest of mine, and so diversifying the Fellowship was a key commitment for me when I took up presidency in 2014. The appointment of a female CEO and a second female president has shown the strength and progress of the RSE in diversifying the Fellowship.”