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Inspirational womens lecture at University of Sheffield

Inspirational women's lecture at University of Sheffield

The University Women's Network - Women@TUoS and the Arts & Humanities Faculty Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee were delighted to host a panel discussion on women and leadership for its annual lecture last month. The panel, representing different parties and levels of political representation, included MP and former Shadow Secretary Rachel Reeves, MEP and Chair of the Development Committee Linda McAvan, Baroness Jenkin and Virginia Crosbie of Women2Win, and former Lord Mayor of Sheffield Sylvia Dunkley.

Dr Julie Gottlieb, Chair of the Faculty ED&I Committee, opened the discussion by inviting the panellists to speak about opportunities, obstacles and achievements of women in the political sphere, as well as their experience of campaigning for gender equality and women's representation at municipal, parliamentary, and EU level.

Women from across the University attended the event, including Professor Gillian Gehring, the first woman at the University to have her portrait hung in Firth Hall as part of the Portrait of a Woman initiative. The panel discussion was followed by questions from the floor, with individuals raising concerns specific to women in the Higher Education sector and more generally about the impact of political events such as Brexit. This was followed by lunch and time for networking and informal discussions with the panellists.

A commitment to gender equality

Despite their political differences, the panellists shared a commitment to gender equality, better political representation of women and prioritising gender issues. They spoke about their experience campaigning on these issues within the party system, and the ways in which they have smashed the glass ceilings they have faced. Julie Gottleib spoke about the many confident, capable and gifted women in leadership positions at our University, whilst acknowledging the barriers that still exist between women and senior leadership roles. She encouraged women to embrace leadership opportunities, taking inspiration and courage from the panellists.

A review of women's achievements this year

The Women in Leadership event took place against a backdrop of key events concerning gender issues. Achievements were touched upon, including the increased number of women MPs in Parliament since the General Election and the planned unveiling of the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square - the suffragist Millicent Fawcett - to coincide with the centenary of women’s suffrage next year.

It was also acknowledged, however, how recent events have revealed the extent of gender inequalities, with revelations on both sides of the Atlantic demonstrating women’s continued and even increasing vulnerability to sexism, sexual harassment and sexual violence. Despite the many challenges, women at the event were encouraged to remember that reactionary developments have also encouraged women’s mobilisation in the fight for gender equality and equal representation.

Dr Julie Gottlieb said "It was a privilege to have women leaders inspire women to lead. The panellists did not speak through rose-tinted glasses, they shared the real issues facing women in public life, including the scale of the abuse many women face on social media and elsewhere. There are lessons that we at our University, both women and men, can take away from their experience.

Addressing important gender equality issues

“Our panellists are brave, bold and brilliant, and it was gratifying to see these women share a platform, and to hear how women from the three political parties agree about the priority of gender equality and the need for constant vigilance."

Claire Mangham, Chair of the Women@TUoS Network commented, “The annual lecture is always really well attended, as it provides our members with a forum to engage and discuss issues that are important to women. This year’s event provided us with insight into women's experiences in the political sphere, which is relevant to our own professional and personal lives. I look forward to working with Julie Gottlieb to further discuss and address the important issues that were raised.”

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