My Experience at the Women in Leadership Conference

On the 26th of January I took myself on the four-hour train journey all the way to Sheffield to attend the NUS Women in Leadership Conference.

The day was filled with impressive speakers from the NUS UK Women’s Officer to Laura Bates. During the first hour of the conference, the hall filled with delegates from all over the country were hit with a big reminder of what we’re up against. The keynote speaker Laura bates, founder of ‘Everyday Sexism Project’ website in 2012. Her inspiring speech included these bold facts:

  • 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

I was reminder starkly of how important is it to encourage women in leadership, to over come the stigma and women in power and their supposed emotions controlling their actions (Hello what caused the world wars? Definitely not a female on her period) or the uncontrollable fear that companies have concerning women starting families.

The rest of the day I filtered in and out of networking session, where I met some amazing women officers, and heard of some brilliant campaigns such as National Period Day. I also participated in a ‘courageous conversations’ workshop. We discussed what makes a conversation courageous, is it the knowledge the information you’re about to have with someone is against the norm? Or is it because you’re afraid of their reaction to your opinion over something. The workshop highlighted more than anything that women need to have more of these conversations at work, that negative feedback that sometimes can’t be ignored, we also learned the importance of using our compassion to our advantage. It was a fantastic workshop, especially for myself and I reviewed the way I sometimes skirt away from problems that I should face heard on.

Another workshop I attended was the ‘Women in Elections’, we were shown the examples of how women in elections can face more backlash from the media from men, for example the cabinet reshuffle in 2014. A certain national newspaper took the opportunity of the new increase in women in the cabinet in a rather sexist view. Instead of encouraging the new gender balance, they chose to highlight their make up use, the clothes they wore on the way to downing stress calling it the ‘Downing Street Catwalk’. To my knowledge I have never noticed any men being scrutinised like this. The workshop not only highlighted the difficulties that women can face in elections but how to overcome them. They highlighted self-care in campaigns during elections the importance of ensuring suitable environments to work it. To not forget yourself in working for the good of others.
The importance of intersectionality is something that was brought to light throughout the day, the importance of working with our peers and ensuring that all students no matter, their race, religious views can always see solidarity from those around us.

Overall I learnt how important it is to support women. This is why I am pushing for the women’s officer to be returned to Full Time.