Women in universities

Today, 8th March, is International Women’s Day. It’s a date that has always stood out for me in the calendar as a chance not just to celebrate the achievements of women and their contribution to society, but to take stock of the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality.

This year feels significant to me personally as it’s my first as Warden of Goldsmiths.

I’m the first woman to lead the College, but I know that this is not an end in itself. There is still a great deal of change needed when it comes to creating meaningful equality for all women in higher education.

Despite making up the majority of staff working in universities, women remain underrepresented in academic and senior management roles across our sector.

The problem is laid out starkly when you look at Professorships: 74.5% of UK Professors are men.

And of the women who do become Professors, only 2.3% are women from BME backgrounds. As work by Dr Nicola Rollock highlights, there is a shocking dearth of Black women in particular in the top tiers of academia.

Here on campus, work is going on to advance gender equality.

Goldsmiths is a member of the Athena SWAN Charter, and has developed an action plan to help remove barriers to senior academic roles for women at the College.

Colleagues are also working to address our gender pay gap. At 3.7% this is one of the lowest in the university sector, but our aim is to eliminate it completely. And vital work is also happening to examine our racial pay gap.

I’m also looking forward to some important events on campus this month which will celebrate inspirational women in our sector.

On 16th March acclaimed visual artist Professor Lucy Orta will give a lecture at Goldsmiths on her artistic projects tackling the climate emergency, species loss and migration among other topics.

Antarctica, a project by Lucy and Jorge Orta. Photograph: Thierry Bal

On 20th March colleagues in the Department of History and Library welcome Professor Olivette Otele, the UK’s first Black female history professor, to campus to discuss decolonising history.

And 23rd March will see an interactive Wall of Women on campus, where staff and students are invited to nominate a woman at Goldsmiths who has inspired them.

Over the coming months I also plan to use this blog to celebrate the achievements of women who are driving change. I’m constantly learning from others in this job and want to use this space to highlight some of the many women who inspire me. I hope their stories might go some way to inspire others.