WHEN's Blog

A selection of insightful pieces written by women who work across the breadth of the higher education sector

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What can a professional services member of staff learn from listening to two highly successful academics share their career pathways?

Aug 12, 2019

Sitting in on an academic career pathway workshop at this year's WHEN conference might seem like an unusual choice for a professional services member of staff. But actually, we’ve all faced with similar choices in our careers and hearing the inspirational stories about how Karen found herself to be the Head of the Humanities Department at Oxford University, and how Becky found herself as Director of the UCL IOE, gave me some really useful insights about my own career development. Namely about being pragmatic about the choices I face, seizing opportunities that present themselves to me and about seeking out mentoring relationships.

Professor Becky Francis, Director of the UCL...

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WHEN annual conference 2019: ''Who am I supposed to be?''

Aug 12, 2019
WHEN annual conference 2019 blog
By Madiha Sajid with contributions from Dr Susi Poli

On 20 June 2019, WHEN held its second annual conference around the theme of exploring intersectional identities through our labels. This year, we welcomed over 100 women from over 20 different universities around the UK, who set about embarking on journeys of self-exploration as we all attempted to demystify the concept of labels, both those that are given to us by others and the ones that we give to ourselves. 

Labels - which ones do I want to own?

The conference opened with a video of women, including many of the WHEN volunteers, confidently sharing some of the labels that people had given to...

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Knowing your why - the most important part of starting a new business

Jun 21, 2019

An interview with Sneha Shah, founder and director of Curaty www.curaty.co  

Curaty champions early career artists by curating intellectually engaging exhibitions of their artwork in inspiring workspaces across London, with a mission to democratise the art experience for all.  

What led you to set up your own enterprise?

I studied in art school but as it was wrapping up I realised I didn’t have the platform I needed to transition my art practice into the “real world,” as most galleries require you to have years of work experience before you join in. That’s when I realised there have to be other fresh graduates like myself who struggled to...

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Do we own our labels? A summary of WHEN member reflections

Jun 18, 2019

How I see myself versus how others see me – Is it all about labels we receive or give, coming to know who we are or are supposed to be, or is it more about leveraging these labels to fight back against stereotypes?

By Dr Susi Poli

In a short survey run in recent months, we asked WHEN members to have a say on the common practice of labelling others at first sight, in the workplace and out of it.

The purpose has been to map the variety of labels to check them against women’s consciousness of how others see them and of how they see themselves. What do these labels have to say, do they match our perception of how others see us or are they simply the trigger for our...

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WHEN celebrates International Women's Day 2019

Mar 11, 2019

By Clare Hewitt and Madiha Sajid

Monday morning is not usually a time when one feels enthused, inspired and ready to go out and make a real change in the world. But our group of 25 women, who had gathered for WHEN’s celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, were feeling all of that!  

International Women’s Day (IWD) presents a unique opportunity for call-to-action for accelerating gender balance across the world. This year’s theme is Balance for better and at the WHEN event we were lucky to have three amazing speakers sharing their experiences of:

Finding balance in diversity

Finding balance in cultures

Finding work/life balance

We were then challenged...

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How we sparked a new direction for our women’s network

Feb 24, 2019

By Kayleigh Woods Harley, the incumbent chair of the Birkbeck Astrea network.

Birkbeck Astrea is a grassroots professional development and networking initiative for professional services and administrative staff at Birkbeck, University of London who identify as women or transgender. It is run by nine facilitators from across the College, who for one year volunteer to plan and deliver six events each year. 

Having established a women’s network in 2014, and being the seat of Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS), Birkbeck is in many ways a university ahead of the gender equality curve. So it was with a sense of achievement that I attended the first forum hosted by WHEN at UCL...

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Gender Equality Publication: Inside the Ivory Tower

Jan 23, 2019

Inside the Ivory Tower
Narratives of women of colour surviving and thriving in British Academia

This publication generates voice and visibility for the lived experiences of women of colour and seeks to inform policy and practice around race and gender equality in higher education. Find out about the strategies that women of colour have had to develop to be successful in academia, which is a space dominated primarily by whiteness and patriarchy.


Author / Editor Dr Deborah Gabriel and Shirley Anne Tate
Published November 2017

Gender - like other facets of identity have always been approached institutionally from a monocultural standpoint, through essentialised categories that make up...

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Enterprise, gender and rules of the game

Jan 23, 2019

By Holly Campbell, UCL

Historically, the concept of ‘enterprise’ has been typically associated with and ascribed to the realm of men. It lies with socially constructed gendered binaries of rationality, public spaces, and economics. Women, on the other hand, have been deemed to only exist in spaces of the home/ private / domestic. This forms what might be called the ‘rules of the game’.

Whilst in England we may feel that the majority of these stereotypes have now broken down, in many places they are still upheld to be true. In Turkey, where I spent my summer of 2016 doing dissertation research, women’s economic activity ranked 206th among the 215...

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A career based on careful decisions for the here, the now and the future

Jan 23, 2019
by Kay Biscomb, Associate Dean Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, University of Wolverhampton 

I have worked in Education all of my professional career and in HE for the last 22 years. Very little of my career has been in response to a mapped out strategic plan but rather best described as careful decisions made for the here and now and the immediate future.  I trained as a secondary school teacher and very early on decided that I would rather teach adults. That I knew would require me to have further degrees and I gained my first masters which was subject specific from Warwick University.  In order to pragmatically achieve this I took a 0.1...

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Where are all the BME women? My hopes for the sector and my own career

Jan 23, 2019

By Shanaz Durrant, Human Resources Administrator, UCL


At the start of her career in higher education, Shanaz considers what opportunities lay ahead of her and how she perceives the leadership positions. Shanaz also explores ideas for action - what can be done?

On the 27th March 2018, I was privileged to attend the first ever WHEN conference created and presented by Alice Chilver - and what an amazing day it turned out to be!

I was very impressed at the turn out and how much work Alice had put into putting this all together and the theme of the conference ‘Eliminating the Gender Pay Gap in Higher Education’ was an extremely topical subject to cover with the Gender Pay...

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