Five things we learned at Women in Leadership conference

Wednesday 27-01-2016 - 14:22

Couldn’t make it to our Women in Leadership conference? We’ve put together some of the learning from the day for you…

1. What are we up against? Some stats on women leaders in the UK:

  • Fewer than 1/3 MPs are women
  • Around 1/5 of the House of Lords are women
  • Only 7 out of 38 Lord Justices of Appeal are women
  • Only 18 out of 108 High Court Judges are women
  • Only 5% directors of major Hollywood films are women
  • Only 1/10 engineers are women
  • Only 1/5 architects are women
  • Only 1/5 front pages written by women
  • 50% of chemistry graduates are women, yet only 6% of chemistry professors are…
  • FTSE 100 companies in the UK have more leaders named John than they do women 

… we know that these stats are not the result of self-defining women not being as good as men, but are instead the result of years of sexist and structural oppression that starts right from birth.

2. Women need to have to have courageous conversations at work. Women tend to be acutely aware of other people’s feelings, which is a strength, but if we overplay it then it becomes a weakness. If people don’t get that negative feedback then they can’t change and they can’t do better, so by withholding negative feedback we’re hurting both them and ourselves. We need to have those difficult conversations in a planned and compassionate way.

3. Knowing your values and your purpose makes you an authentic leader, so it's essential to give yourself space to think and reflect, and to be positive about yourself. People can feel ‘selfish’ spending time looking after themselves, but self-care makes us better at what we do, so it isn’t a selfish act. Even if it were selfish, it is still so important.

4. Students’ unions are doing great work to get sports societies on board with tackling lad culture. Good places to start include working to make night clubs safe, working with charities to support students and working to get your institution on board (which SUs report is often easier if there is a woman in a leadership position at the institution). 

5. Intersectionality is something that brings our movement closer together because in practicing it, we create educational spaces to learn about each other’s different experiences and ways to show effective solidarity. 


This article pulls together some,  but by no means all, of the issues discussed in sessions on the day. The sessions referenced above were led by: Laura Bates (founder of Everyday Sexism), Jenny Garett (award winning Executive & Leadership coach, author, & trainer), Rosie Soffe (Student Opportunities Coordinator at NUS), Sally Thomas (Policy Officer for Liberation at NUS) and Susuana Amoah (NUS Women’s Officer).



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