Women’s Leadership Conference
International Women’s Day fell on the 8th of March 2017, and the RSU decided it was about the right time to grab feminism with both hands. The Women’s Leadership Conference in Monte Hall welcomed ALL students to come and listen to some inspirational female leaders and take part in leadership workshops. Lights were atmospheric and the smell of coffee filled the room as students filled up the banquet tables, helping themselves to Custard Creams and Digestives.
Marie Johansen, the RSU Vice President of Education lead the event, introducing the inspirational guest speakers to the stage. Liane Landor, previous Head of the BBC World Service News, began as the first guest speaker. She spoke in depth about the problems that she had to overcome on her way to the top, noting her mixed ethnicity as her biggest set back. She spent some time speaking about the lack of representation of ethnic minority women in managerial roles throughout the industry. Her most notable tip was that “When the opportunity arises, take it. Even if it means moving laterally. You will meet new people. You will be scared and you will be challenged”. Something else that seems to hit home with a lot of the women in the room, was Lilane’s concept of “good girl syndrome”; the idea that by just doing your job well, and not speaking up, you won’t be noticed in the way that you may want to be. Instead, speak up, be heard and never go unnoticed.
Students were then given the choice of 4 different workshops to attend. Ruth Hekman, a PHD Marketing student gave a workshop called “What is a Leader” which focused itself on the qualities that a leader should possess. The University’s General Equality Officer, Kat Walker, held a session based around staying resilient in the face of sexism, discussing and comparing student’s various experiences. Marie Johansen held a discussion called “Why We Should Represent the Under-represented”, introducing facts and percentages to show the unbalanced representation of minorities at the University. the final workshop was lead by Jacqueline Onalo, a Human Rights Lawyer and founder and CEO of JOLT International Ltd. She exerted power and control as she walked around the room. Her voice was calm and solid. She gave an inspirational workshop about the celebration of women, touching on her movements #BeBoldForChange and #CelebrateWomen.
The afternoon ended with a small panel of speaker, composed of Jacqueline Onalo, Sharon Mavin, the director of the Roehampton University Business School and Janet Cooper, a partner and cofounder of law firm Tapestry Compliance LLP. Questions centred around challenges face on their path to success and their best pieces of advice that they can give. “Define yourself”. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” and “Think differently about how you engage”.
Students took full advantage of the mini bowls of spring rolls and sausage and mash which were passed around to end the event, as well as the opportunity to speak to the our inspirational guest speakers, scribbling down email addresses and taking pictures. Conversations of brainstormed ideas involving equality events and feminist concepts could be heard in mutters as groups exited the room. Really positive feedback was given by the students, the only improvement being, “Let’s host more of these”!