On Saturday 5th of March for a second time NUSU became a scene for Inspiring Women Conference, this year’s theme formulated around the concept of ’Global Women’.
The idea of holding the event on campus belongs to NUSU’s previous Welfare and Equality Officer, Olivia Jeffery, inspired by NUS Women in Leadership conference.
Following on from last year’s success, the initiative has been actively supported by Kay Hattam, Campaigns and Democracy Support Worker at the Students’ Union, and current sabbatical officers’ team with Hannah Goring, Activities Officer, coordinating the event throughout the day.
Through two keynote speeches, a panellist discussion, seven workshops and three all-day creative sessions, the conference invited all self-defining women at Newcastle University to discuss and celebrate the significant role women play in and impact they make on the economic, cultural and social well being of their communities around the world.
“More than 60% of the world’s university graduates are women. Women undertake over 50% of organisational management roles and are responsible for 70% of household budget management. Yet across the world they are still underrepresented in the most senior roles”, said Jacqui Henderson CBE, Honorary Conference Patron and Lifetime Member of NUSU, in her foreword.
Penni Blythe marked the beginning of the conference with a talk on her discoveries through Women of Wit, Wisdom and Wonder, sharing the stories of incredible women from across the globe who have fought for human rights, their families and even own lives, and whose voices and wisdom might otherwise have never been heard. Finishing her speech, Penni addressed the audience with a question: “Think about who you will inspire – and how?”
The second keynote speech of the day was delivered by Charlie Webster, TV presenter and women’s rights campaigner, through her talk paying a particluar attention to the problem of sexual abuse. Citing Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s statement “The best protection a woman can have is courage“, Charlie urged women in the audience to find their courage: “Change never happens if it’s not challenged, so let’s take responsibility and change the world“.
“More than 60% of the world’s university graduates are women yet they are underrepresented in the most senior roles”
The panel discussion, which this year consisted of Tina Simbo (BAM! Sistahood), Abi Kelly (Head of Newcastle University’s Corporate Affairs Directorate), Jo Rockingham (Founding member of the Women’s Equality Party), Charlotte Mitchell (Founder of Charlotte’s Butchery) and Prof Candy Rowe (Chair of NU Women, Director of Diversity in FMS), focused on the leading roles of women within organizations and challenges women-leaders have to go through in their careers on a daily basis.
“Leader is someone who accepts and empathizes to everyone, and women are tend to be particularly good at it, reading situation and people naturally“, commented Abi Kelly in response to the question on what makes someone an effective leader.
Winthin one of the workshops, conferense also featured an inspirational talk from Muzoon al-Mellehan, who fled with her parents and three younger siblings from Syria in 2013, and in December 2015 was named one of the BBC’s Top 100 Women for her campaign efforts to keep Syrian girls in the camp’s school, rather than being married off.
Taking place across the Students’ Union throughout the day, some of the sessions were aimed at addressing especially problematic women’s experiences, such as body image, menstruation and sexual violence, another celebrated the cultural, political and social heritage of BAME women in the North East, the others looked into what exactly makes women inspiring, successful and globally valued. “I myself learned so many new things!“, told to The Courier Erica, part of the coordinating team.
“The conference was amazing, and it is a great space for women and pro gender equality to get to meet new people and new ideas“, said Cristina, 2nd year Chemistry student and conference attendee.