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Dr Fiona Hill and Karen O'Brien stood together smiling wearing academic gowns with Durham Cathedral in the background

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O’Brien and our Chancellor Dr Fiona Hill have been named in a list of top 100 inspirational women in North East England.

The list has been compiled by the Newcastle-based publication Chronicle Live to celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, Friday 8 March.

Professor O’Brien and Dr Hill appear alongside some of the region’s most notable women, including award-winning author Anne Cleeves, UK Foreign Office Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson, City of Durham MP Mary Foy, Durham County Council Leader Amanda Hopgood and television presenter Steph McGovern.  

The theme of the list is ‘inspire inclusion’ about which both Professor O’Brien and Dr Hill are passionate.

Professor O’Brien joined Durham in 2022 and her commitment to social inclusion is reflected in her ongoing work to refresh the University’s Access and Participation Plan and support for scholarships and schools engagement.

On International Women’s Day she spoke at event to inspire inclusion at the UK Treasury’s Darlington Economic Campus.

Other speakers included politicians, business leaders and civil servants.

Acclaimed foreign affairs expert Dr Fiona Hill joined Durham as our 13th Chancellor last year.

She grew up in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and is a leading authority on Russian and European geopolitics, advising US presidents including Barack Obama and Donald Trump. 

The daughter of a coal miner, she works tirelessly to improve social mobility.

Challenging the status quo

Professor O’Brien said: “I’m honoured to feature on the Chronicle’s top 100 list alongside many great women who are championing the North East and inspiring women everywhere.

“Durham has a proud history of supporting strong women who challenge the status quo, and we support people of all backgrounds with the potential to succeed to come to Durham and flourish.

“While structural barriers and challenges do exist in achieving gender equity, universities have a key role play as agents of change, both as employers of women and in inspiring and empowering the next generation, including in the cities and regions in which we are based.”

A celebration of women

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day at Durham with a series of events and initiatives to shine a light on the achievements of the many great women of our university community.

This includes a concert celebrating the composition work of Durham alumna Ailsa Dixon (1932–2017) and events focused on the work of iconic composer, philosopher, technological innovator and humanitarian, Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016).

Our student performing arts societies are also using their musical and theatrical platforms to explore International Women’s Day’s rich themes over the course of March. 

Find out more