On 15th November, Lancaster University Women’s Network celebrated its official launch event. Women from around the University joined us for some incredibly fruitful and eye-opening discussions, but if you weren’t able to be one of them, we’ve rounded up the highlights for you.
The keynote speaker was Dr Paula Burkinshaw, who gave a talk named “Where are the Women? Challenging HE leadership” based on her research. The 4 papers in particular that she went over were:
- Fixing the Women or Fixing Universities: Women in HE Leadership (Burkinshaw & White, 2017)
- Gendered Performances of Leadership: Generational Perspectives (Burkinshaw & White, 2018)
- Empirical evidence illuminating gendered regimes in UK higher education: developing a new conceptual framework (Burkinshaw, Cahill & Ford, 2017)
- Networking and Gender Equality in Academic Leadership (Burkinshaw & White, 2018)
Within minutes, Paula had mentioned the “F word”, and although it used to be taboo to call oneself a feminist, Paula and others around the room did so proudly. Many of the discussions centred around the idea, championed by Emma Watson in her #HeForShe campaign, that feminism is not and does not need to be anti-men: it benefits men as well as women by challenging the rigid, and sometimes toxic, ideal of masculinity.
Paula’s talk inspired a lot of contribution from the audience. There was lengthy discussion about assumptions made about women when it comes to family responsibilities, with examples given such as a woman being asked during an interview what her plans would be if her children were ill, and a panel member suggesting a recently married woman shouldn’t be offered the job as she would be having children soon. A worrying show of hands revealed that over half of the women in the room had either faced this sort of bias, or knew of someone who had. In general, men are not challenged in this way. The bulk of responsibility when it comes to childcare is still assumed to rest on womens’ shoulders, and this can affect how they progress in their careers in a way that we don’t often see with men.
Some of the other things we talked about included:
- Talent gap: what we lose out on when women don’t lead
- Challenging leadership ideals that are based on stereotypical masculine attributes (some female leaders around the room commented that they’d been told they were “too nice!”)
- Dealing with menstruation and menopause at work
After lunch, we broke into groups to discuss topics such as “To tackle inequality you have to change the society in which it exists… how can we do this at Lancaster?” No one shied away from these big questions, and you can see some of our ideas below:
The event also featured a presentation from Rachel Beauchamp, Chair of the Women’s Network, about our achievements and activities so far, and upcoming events. These will include a book club, skill share sessions, and agenda-free Women’s Wednesdays events taking place on the first Wednesday of each month.
We’re very grateful to OED for all of their help with making the event happen, Paula Burkinshaw for inspiring us all, and to all who made time to come to the event: everyone who spoke and everyone who listened. We hope you went away feeling empowered and supported. This was a great way to officially launch the Women’s Network and we’re very excited to see where we go from here!