International Women’s Day – Interview with Samantha White
International Women’s Day (Thursday 8 th 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 I have the pleasure of interviewing Samantha White. Samantha graduated from LSBU in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Studies; she was then promoted as a PA to two University Executives and is now a project manager within the Organisational Development team at LSBU and the first Chair of the Gender Equality Network (GenderNet).
How are you celebrating this International Women’s Day?
We are going bigger and better this year and have scheduled a whole week of events and activities! This year is especially important as the 6 th Feb 2018 marked 100 years since the Representation of the People Act was passed which granted women in the UK the right to vote for the first time. LSBU’s Women Week will launch on Monday, March 5th and will end on Friday 9th March. This special week is the combination of efforts from various teams and individuals across LSBU including the Organisational Development team, Student Support and Employment team, the Students Union, Enterprise team, and Academy of Sport. There will be plenty to do such as attending free development workshops, trampolining, zumba, self-defence classes, fantastic panel discussions and keynote speakers, a film night and a quiz night. Everybody is welcome to attend! That includes students, staff, friends and family.
Who is a woman that inspires you the most and why?
My mother, she doesn’t do everything perfectly and she’s aware of that – but she raised three young children singlehandedly whilst working and her strength really inspires me. She wasn’t raised in the most perfect circumstances, but to see what she has made for herself, her determination and strength has had a huge influence on me and has always motivated me. She instilled in me more core values, showed me how to be a hard worker and encouraged me to make the most of every opportunity; she continues to support me and believe in me, she is my biggest cheerleader and I owe everything to her!
If I could choose one other I would say my sister. She has overcome adversity growing up being Dyslexic at a time when schools still did not know how to support children with Dyslexia. She has gone from strength to strength, taking up any development opportunities available to her and not allowing people to tell her ‘no’.
She is now an Office Manager at the Royal College of Physicians, achieving awards and being a complete superstar at work and in her personal life.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Stick to what I believe in, believe in myself and remember sometimes it’s okay not to be liked! That sounds like a strange piece of advice but I’ve always been a ‘people pleaser’ and I think sometimes it’s held me back. I think it’s important to do what you believe in and do what is right for you as an individual – this will take you far!
What message would you like to leave for men and women this International
Press for progress – that might sound cheesy, but it’s important that we move forwards, and that we do this as a society by including everyone: men, women, non–binary and transgender in our discussions. I think that we should work towards challenging stereotypes; I’d like to see more men supporting women without fear that they are seen as ‘feminine’ and I’d like to see more women in leadership roles and working in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
What do you think is the biggest issue facing women in higher education
Although we’re seeing more young women going into, I believe that there is still a stigma around it, it’s still seen as a ‘masculine’ field and this comes from stereotypes engrained from a young age. I think women should be more confident in pursuing career opportunities and shouldn’t feel held back if they are missing one or two skills from a huge range of criteria when applying for jobs – it’s about learning and going for every opportunity!
We need to have policies that are fair for all e.g. maternity and paternity allowance should be equal. People of all genders should have equal access to opportunities whether they are applying for a promotion or seeking to further develop their skills.
What do you think is the next big step for gender equality?
We need to focus on all gender aspects as they are all equally important this includes awareness for trans, non-binary, men and women. People should be allowed to be their true selves and in order to progress we need to include everyone in these conversations – it’s not just a man’s fight or a women’s fight, it’s a fight for everyone. It’s also extremely important that we consider intersectionality when we talk about gender equality. We need to be asking questions about equality for those who are BAME or disabled for example – this conversation is bigger than just ‘gender’; we need to consider every element.
You are chair of the Gender Equality Network (GenderNet), can you tell us a bit about GenderNet and also how and why did you get involved with GenderNet?
GenderNet is for anyone who is a member of staff here at LSBU, it’s not to be confused with a Women’s Network, we welcome individuals of all gender identities. We hold meetings every two months and we organise events for International Women’s Day, International Men’s Day and Transgender Day of Awareness. Our aim is to provide support to staff, allow staff to raise any issues they have regarding gender equality in the university, and involve staff in the planning of our events.
In November 2015 we sent out communications to staff about gender issues across the university and we had an immense response from both men and women all expressing an interest in a forum such as GenderNet. We officially launched in March 2016; since then we have been involved with many things from hosting events, helping to shape policies and supporting the creation of the gender-neutral toilets in Borough Road.
I got involved as wanted to progress in my career and this was the perfect opportunity to take the next step and to work towards something I am passionate about. I have been extremely fortunate to have had managers who have supported me and encouraged me to develop and become the first Chair of GenderNet – I’ve never looked back and thoroughly enjoy my job!
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