University of the Highlands and Islands celebrates International Women’s Day

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Alex Walker and Deborah Halliday

Over 50 colleagues from around the University of the Highlands and Islands came together to mark International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March. Staff held a special event to celebrate the achievements of women across the university, to discuss how gender equality is promoted and to investigate what else can be done to address challenges female staff may face. The fully booked event was held at Inverness College UHI and colleagues also joined via an online link from around the university partnership.

The programme featured a range of staff, student and guest speakers. Professors Diane Kelly and Joy Merrell spoke about closing the gender pay gap at Swansea University, geography student Deborah Halliday talked about the importance of encouraging women to undertake careers in the rural sector and Dr Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology, presented on her experience of working in educational technology. The day concluded with talk from Anna-Wendy Stevenson, a music lecturer and programme leader at Lews Castle College UHI. Anna-Wendy, who recently won the Hands up for Trad music tutor of the year award, discussed how music has inspired her teaching career.

The university’s event was part of a wider campaign to mark International Women’s Day, which also included social media activity and a special edition of the staff newsletter. The initiative was coordinated by the university’s women’s network, which was set up to discuss and address challenges facing women in higher and further education.

Alex Walker from the university’s Learning and Teaching Academy, organised the International Women’s Day event. She said: “International Women’s Day is important for the university as it provides the opportunity to explore how we can better promote gender equality in education, research and professional services for our colleagues and students. It is also a chance to share work we are already doing to champion the development, representation and progression for those who identify as women. International Women’s Day brings together colleagues from across the partnership in celebration and recognition of the achievements of those who identify as women and aims to leave participants inspired and enthusiastic about our future as an institution which actively promotes equality.”

Professors Diane Kelly and Joy Merrell said: “We are delighted to be able to share in your International Women’s Day celebrations and to speak about the progress Swansea University is making in promoting gender equality and in addressing the gender pay gap in higher education.”

Deborah Halliday, a geography student at Inverness College UHI, added: “The geography BSc degree programme has helped me to develop a strong interest in the rural sector. Its provision of various engaging field trips in the Scottish Highlands and further afield (Switzerland) has opened my eyes to the importance of environmental protection which has helped fuel my interest in pursuing a career in the rural sector. I feel that it is important more young women and young people in general know more about the opportunities the rural sector has to offer and I am a strong supporter of environmental education at all education levels. Consequently, I was happy to be invited to speak and get involved in an event which is encouraging women's involvement in the rural sector.”

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year’s theme is #balanceforbetter, which highlights the importance of encouraging gender-balance in areas including the workplace, boardrooms and media. To find out more, visit www.internationalwomensday.com