Monday 16-01-2017 - 11:18
Ahead of our Women in Leadership Conference in February, we caught up with the event’s keynote speaker, Ruth Hunt, who is Chief Executive of Stonewall and has been voted as one of the most influential LGBT+ people in Britain.
Tell us about your transition into leadership
Having worked in eight positions within Stonewall over the last decade, every move has felt like a transition into leadership.
The most important thing to realise is that leadership doesn’t come with seniority, but when you realise you have the influence and ability to champion others.
Being Chief Executive at Stonewall lets me create a culture to do that, and is something I have tried to do in every position I’ve held.
Did your role as a sabbatical officer influence your decision to becoming a more confident leader?
Absolutely. Sabbatical officer posts offer a unique opportunity to manage staff and set budgets and strategies.
Such an experience at that age can have an unequivocal impact on people, and I would absolutely recommend all students consider doing it.
Why is the fight for gender equality so important?
In some ways, I think the fight for gender equality is the least understood of our plights for equality.
From a young age, girls are told they’re different and should aspire to and want different things.
Against this background of underestimating one’s ability, it can be much harder to find their roles and strengths.
Until we enable everyone to be themselves and find their voice, inequalities will always exist.
As both a Woman and a lesbian, have you faced greater barriers into leadership?
I have always been aware that there are fewer female role models, particularly lesbians, in positions of leadership, of power or in public life.
There are fewer lesbians in politics, business, at the tops of charities or in the arts, and that lack of visibility certainly had an impact on my own sense of ambition.
If I go to meetings with men, often the other man with me is the first addressed. You cannot help but notice that – it so easily will often affect your sense of self.
Why are events such as NUS’ Women in Leadership Conference important for the student movement and why should people attend?
Events like the Women in Leadership Conference provide a unique opportunity for women to come together and, within a safe environment, discuss how they may change their world, systems and institutions they work in.
The most important thing is that we find ways to champion one another.
We may disagree politically, have different priorities or life experiences, but we still must give one another a leg up.
Spaces like this conference allow us to do that. And if we all shared our power, we would have more women leaders.
Finally, what is the best advice you’d give to aspiring Women leaders?
Don’t curb your ambition, have confidence and never waste an opportunity to help someone.
This year’s Women in Leadership Conference will be held in Sheffield on Wednesday 8 February. Spaces are limited so if you’d like to attend and hear from Ruth Hunt, please book your place!