Last Saturday the University of Bath’s Student Union hosted its first Women in Leadership Conference, organized by the Community Officer Tommy Parker.
The day began at 9.30 as 100 self-defining female students met in the Chancellor’s Building and were invited to sign up to 3 different sets of workshops and attend an introductory speech.
The event welcomed four female guest speakers, of which the current NUS president Toni Pearce who, as one of only 8 female NUS presidents, discussed the importance of Lad Culture and its effect on women in leadership positions, particularly through her own experience.
The speakers described the subject of gender balance as both an organizational and behavioral problem that needed to be tackled through advice on how to overcome gender barriers in our academic, social and professional environments.
Students thus had the opportunity to attend particular workshops based on the issues they personally considered as paramount. Among the choices was the Double Glazed Glass Ceiling workshop that dealt with the topical issue of ‘intersectionality’, talks on how to run an effective campaign, Advice regarding networking with a purpose and women in academia.
The workshops were led by one or two speakers and enabled students to interact with one another to build their confidence and overcome some of the obstacles that prevent young women from aspiring to leadership positions.
In addition, Students had the opportunity to hear from and talk to the Mayor of Bath, Councilor Cherry Beath. When discussing the conference, Madam mayor expressed her profound interest in the issue, saying that ‘women need to have more confidence in themselves to be able to say “I am a leader and I can do that” without being looked at as “unfeminine”’. She applauded the Student’s Union’s ability to organize the inaugural Women in Leadership Conference and hopes to attend many more in the future.
Although a certain amount of criticism was given towards the decision to prohibit male participation to the event, it enabled the conference and workshops to act as a safe space for women, as it meant that the girls were free to discuss topical yet uneasy issues like sexual harassment and discrimination.
Toni Pearce herself addressed the issue of gender equality, affirming that although the latter is incredibly important, the fact is men are not structurally oppressed or discriminated due to their gender, therefore it is vital that institutions like the University provide support for women, even if it means treating them differently.
The conference did not only aim to raise awareness on the pressing issues of gender barriers in the professional realm, but it was also a chance for young women to get constructive advice and support on their careers. In the afternoon, the university’s Career Center held one-to-one meetings with a certain number of the attendees to discuss their professional future.
The event correlates perfectly with our University and Student Union’s agenda by acting as a recruitment strategy to promote female participation in the upcoming Students’ Union elections. Furthermore illustrates a real initiative in terms of breaking down gender barriers as well as preventing both discrimination and abuse in light of the recent Lad Culture Survey’s shocking results published earlier this week.