International women’s day 2023: #EmbracingEquity with London HE’s inspirational leaders

This year’s international women’s day theme is embracing equity. London’s higher education landscape is incredibly diverse with our member institutions ranging from small and specialist providers to large, multi-faculty universities, all with students and staff coming from a range of different backgrounds. In turn, the capital’s HEIs must accommodate, harness and champion these communities in its aim to be inclusive and representative. Today, we aim to share some words from our inspirational female leaders about what embracing equity means to them.

Professor Amanda J Broderick, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of East London (and London Higher Chair) said:

“Today, we shine the spotlight on the challenges that women continue to face in the journey towards equity. #embraceequity is a call to reinforce our commitment and actions to deliver the systemic and cultural changes needed to identify, value and support talent, wherever it is found – to level the playing field, focusing on equitable opportunities to flourish and thrive. I am proud to lead one of the most socially inclusive and representative universities in the world; a vibrant and enriching environment, where diversity is the very quality that sets us apart. #nogenderpaygap”

Clare Connor, Chief Executive of The Place and London Contemporary Dance School said:

“Dance is a profession highly populated by women. It is also the least understood or well-funded artform. So, embracing equity for me means a “world with more dance”- which is our vision at The Place. Dance is like a “superfood” for the body and mind. Enter any studio at The Place and you see equity in action, told through the body in space and time – whether that be our over 60’s, our young people or the professional dance students. It is hard to ignore a person once you have danced with them – something our politicians would do well to remember!”

Professor Julie Sanders, Principal at Royal Holloway, University of London said:

“Our founding story is that of two remarkable nineteenth-century women’s colleges. Today I want to carry that pioneering spirit into a bright and equitable future for all who are part of this great university and I celebrate the many women who made that possible for me. It is both an honour and a deep responsibility to continue to make positive change. #EmbraceEquity”

Professor Jane Harrington, Vice-Chancellor and CEO, University of Greenwich said:

“Having been the first member of my family to go to university and having experienced teachers who believed that there was no limit to future possibilities – my hope for international women’s day is that education is made available to every girl and every woman in every country in the world and that there is no limit only encouragement to continue learning. With access to universal education, we can hope that everyone can embrace equity. Without it girls and women in countries such as Afghanistan continue to be denied the opportunities and rights they deserve to embrace equity.”

Professor Frances Corner OBE, Warden, Goldsmiths, University of London said:

“Rights for women and girls are being eroded all over the world. On IWD 2023, my hope is that we see women and girls in Afghanistan once again able to go to school and university. Their exclusion from education has a devastating impact on their futures, and has direct consequences for the pursuit of equitable rights. The lack of any meaningful response from the international community on this issue is a stark indication of how women and girls’ equity is viewed by those in positions of power. I hope the day serves to remind us all of these issues – and the importance of action.”

Professor Jenny Higham, Vice-Chancellor, St George’s, University of London said:

“Equity benefits all, not just some.  We all bring different elements of our whole experience to our work lives.  The more of these perspectives that are listen to and understood, the better the decisions taken.”

And finally our own CEO, Dr Diana Beech said:

“While I’m proud to lead the largest regional representative body for UK higher education, I grew up in one of the few English counties without a university and understand only too well the importance of making others aware of opportunities they might not otherwise know exist or not think are for them. For me, then, to #EmbraceEquity means to open doors fully to others – both by empowering individuals with information, advice and guidance, and working effectively with policymakers to ensure we are creating truly inclusive conditions which cater for every individual’s needs and enhance accessibility for all.”

We are incredibly proud of the diversity of our London institutions, some universities being among the first to educate women, as well as our leaders, with some being the first to go to university themselves. There is still work to be done on #EmbracingEquity, and our leaders outline some of those challenges above. Let’s keep working collaboratively and together we can ensure that progress continues to be made every day.