International Women’s Day – Interview with Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Shân Wareing
International Women’s Day (Thursday 8th March 2018) 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. International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level.
To celebrate this International Women’s Day I, Indira Patel, Women’s Officer at LSBSU, will be bringing you an exclusive series of interviews from strong women here at London South Bank University.
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing one such woman; Professor Shân Wareing, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience at London South Bank University and a Professor of Teaching in Higher Education. She has responsibility for Teaching Quality Enhancement across the University, including the Centre for Research Informed Teaching and Academic Quality and Enhancement, and for Student Services and Employability, and for LEAP, a new major programme, to put students more firmly at the heart of university processes.
Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
There’s been a big increase in awareness the issues surrounding gender inequality. However, in the past year, the coverage of salary discrepancies and abuse of power leading to sexual assault and manipulation in the film industry and charities shows there is still so much more work that remains to be done before women have equal rights.
International Women’s Day is also important to me as it’s a global movement for change. Whilst women in the UK still face many challenges, it’s important that we think about gender inequality on a global scale. Women still face systemic, consistent and profound inequality in some countries on a much more shocking scale than we experience.
Who has inspired you to get to where you are in your career?
I haven’t so much been inspired by a particular person. It’s more that I’ve seen things I wanted to change and this has driven my career.
What is the best advice you have been given?
My mother gave me two great pieces of advice – she said when you are choosing between two options, always pick one that will lead to the most opportunities, not that one that narrows your future options. And that in order to look after other people, you have to take care of yourself first.
What has been your proudest moment in the last five years?
Definitely, London South Bank University achieving a Silver rating under the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) last summer. We worked together as a very effective team when we put our submission together, we told a true and powerful story, and the outcome confirms to our students, our staff and the world all the work that LSBU does to make a difference through education.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I think we all – men and women – need to challenge our ideas about what leadership looks and sounds like. I think we inadvertently adopt gendered concepts where it is harder to perceive women as effective leaders.
When I walk into room I notice that may be equal numbers of men and women around the table, but it’s noticeable that the pathways that they have taken in their careers to get where they are different. Men’s career paths from a very early age often make it easier for them to rise to very senior positions. Decisions we made in our careers as young as 16 have very long term impacts, so one thing I would change is extra-curricular activities and education and careers guidance to young people in primary schools and the first years of secondary schooling.
I think lack of flexibility in the workplace impacts on women’s careers profoundly too. The more we really adopt flexible working, the more women will be able to balance their lives to achieve leadership roles. Of course, men taking flexible working opportunities too and sharing domestic and caring roles outside work more equally is a major factor.
What main change would you like to see for young women in the next generation?
I’d like young women to be ambitious for change and their own ability to achieve it. I’d like them to ask for help and support in order to get to the next level in their career, and expect to receive it.
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