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UCL Connect Women in Leadership event

GuestBlogger20 March 2017

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By Sophie Moore, Office of the Vice-Provost (Development)

On 8 March, UCL Connect celebrated International Women’s Day with a Women in Leadership panel event exploring both the opportunities available to, and challenges faced by, women in the workforce.

Hosted by Professor Becky Francis, Director of the Institute of Education, the panel discussed key issues experienced by women on their paths to leadership roles.

There were contributions from a selection of highly successful UCL alumnae and supporters who shared advice, tips and comments from their diverse professional backgrounds, including former British Ambassador Georgina Butler, Caroline Ellis of Caroline Ellis & Associates and Director of the Precision Medicine Catapult, Professor Joanne Hackett.Women in leadership 1

With studies suggesting that women currently occupy less than 6% of leadership positions in the world’s top 500 corporations and, in the UK, earn on average 20% less than men, the event was a timely opportunity to discuss the factors that contribute to gender disparity in the workplace.

“While women are not a minority, their experience often is” explained UCL Anthropology graduate Caroline Ellis, who has made a career in tackling inequality and marginalisation, including as a former Senior Director of the charity Stonewall. “Women’s progression in the workplace is not simple; it’s a complex interaction of things.”

Indeed, while each of the panellists had experienced their own unique challenges on the road to success, the event shed light on a series of common experiences that had affected them.

The ‘imposter syndrome’ – the feeling of being fraudulent, or a lack of belief in your own skills and achievements was a familiar topic. “We are affected by different kinds of biases,” explained Ellis. “How we absorb all of these biases has a huge impact on the perceptions that we have of ourselves. We tend not to go for a job unless we fill all of the points on the specification and we tend not to negotiate as well, or take as many risks.”Women in leadership 3

Strategies the panel recommended for overcoming the ‘inner critic’ included recognising the significance in developing your skills, interests and personal relationships outside of work.

“I know that I’m good at lots of different things, which radiates through you when you’ve got people around who support you,” said Professor Hackett, who has spent 15 years working as scientist, strategist and entrepreneur. “If you can get people around you who can push you forward, as much as you’re pulling them with you, then it works.”

As one of only four female fast-streamers in the Foreign Office’s 1968 cohort of 22, UCL Laws graduate Georgina Butler has spent her entire career working in a field traditionally dominated by men. She said, “you’ve got to take control and be confident with who you are. It’s a question of deciding what you want and then fighting for it.”

Professor Francis asked the panel how much the lack of representation of women can be attributed to a lack of confidence amongst women, and how much it has to do with flaws in existing structures.

“For me it’s 50/50,” said Professor Hackett. “It’s our responsibility, but it’s also what people are expecting of us. In my former role at UCL, I managed relationships with 23 NHS trusts and 11 universities. Nine times out of ten, a chief executive would come into a meeting, look at me and say ‘I’d like some milk in my tea’ and I would be thinking ‘well, who is going to make that for them?’ It was partly my responsibility to make them aware that I was not there to make them tea – I was there because I was smart, good at my job and just as important to the room as they were – but, it was also my colleagues’ responsibility to inform them of those very same things.”

Ellis agreed and added that it’s important to get “allies” on board by helping other people to understand why gender parity is beneficial for all of us. “I wish that I had realised that my difference is actually a strength,” she reflected. “What it enables me to bring is a very different perspective to a conversation. It’s not necessarily a better idea or opinion, but diversity is really needed in every workplace.”

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Adding to this the panel discussed the obligation that they felt, as women in leadership roles, to step up and affect change for other women, too.

“You’re always in a leadership position in one way or another, because all of our shadows cast long,” explained Professor Hackett. “You don’t always realise who you affect, or who looks up to you as a way of being a leader.”

Professor Francis was keen to echo this. “It is important to recognise the onus of those of us who do have power and agency in our lives. The more we have women in positions of power who challenge existing cultures, the more other women will feel entitled and able to apply.”

UCL Connect

International Women’s Day: Inspiring women, and what’s funny about Everyday Sexism?

MelissaBradshaw16 March 2016

“If we didn’t have a pretty awesome sense of humour there’d be a f*** load more murders.”

Just one of many memorable quotes from two of UCL’s many International Women’s Day events.

Inspiring women

“I don’t think you should apply for that job. They don’t take women, or people from red brick universities”, Nicola Brewer was told. She is now Dame Nicola Brewer, and UCL’s Vice-Provost (International), having held roles such as the first Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and British High Commissioner to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Dame Brewer was listing a series of pieces of advice she’d been given. “I’d like you to guess if I followed them.” The answer was always obviously “no you didn’t!”

Nicola Brewer

Dame Nicola Brewer

Defiance

Defiance or doing things in spite of obstacles was a refrain at the afternoon of ‘Inspiring Women, where several prominent women in academia took to the stage for a session of career reflection and inspiration

Those obstacles ranged from having to give a lecture holding a baby, to homelessness: and the achievements were great.

Dr Celia Caulcott UCL Vice-Provost (Enterprise) claimed that she is 10 years behind her male peers. “That’s the 10 years I took out for my family. I’m so glad I did.”  She also wrote the paper for doubling the funding for the human genome project, and as the Executive Director, Innovation and Skills at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, she changed part of the system of innovation and discovery in the UK.

“I’m telling you this in a light-hearted way,” said Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, telling us how she made her way up from homelessness, divorce, and trying to do a PhD as a single mum with three children.

“But I did spend a lot of time quietly weeping while the children were in bed.” When rejected for housing benefit, she consulted the law statute books, found out the council were wrong, and kept a roof over her head. She is now UCL Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and the Middle East). (more…)

SEVEN the play

SiobhanPipa11 March 2015

Professor Peter Brocklehurst at SEVEN (Courtesy of Ben Sharman)

Professor Peter Brocklehurst at SEVEN
(Courtesy of Ben Sharman)

As part of a series of events to celebrate International Women’s Day at UCL, the UCL Institute for Women’s Health put on a special production of SEVEN – a documentary play based on the lives of seven inspirational women from seven countries around the world.

Presented as a reading, seven of the most senior men at UCL lent their voices to the female activists: Professor Michael Arthur (UCL President & Provost), Professor Sir John Tooke (Vice Provost, Health and Head of UCL School of Life & Medical Sciences), Professor David Lomas (Vice Provost-elect, Health and Dean of Medical Sciences), Professor Anthony Smith (Vice Provost, Education & Student Affairs), Professor Alejandro Madrigal (Pro Vice Provost for the America’s), Professor Peter Brocklehurst (Director, UCL Institute for Women’s Health) and Professor Anthony Costello (Pro Vice Provost for Africa & the Middle East and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health).

The play, which was directed by Tove Eriksson and organised by Asma Ashraf and Professor Judith Stephenson (UCL Institute for Women’s Health), depicts how these women overcame extreme adversity to become leaders for women’s rights, both within their own society and globally.

(more…)

Having it all – dispelling the myths about work and motherhood

newseditor12 March 2012

Thursday 8 March saw worldwide celebrations for International Women’s Day, one of which was held at Stanmore College. The College linked into a live stream of the UCL lunch hour lecture titled ‘Having it all – dispelling the myths about work and motherhood’ which was delivered by Dr Anne McMunn (UCL Department of Epidemiology & Public Health).

Dr McMunn presented fascinating data which indicated that there are significant behavioral differences between daughters of mothers who work and those who stay at home; the behavior of those whose mothers go out to work being more positive. Interestingly, the significance was not as high with regard to sons. Data was also provided to show that the BMI (body mass index) for mothers who work tends to be healthier than for those who remain at home.

Watch the full lunch hour lecture below

(more…)