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Published: 06 March 2023

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It takes place on 8 March and this year the theme is #EmbraceEquity.

For IWD this year we want to amplify the voices and share some of the incredible stories of women from the St George's, University of London community.

In the following article you will hear from:

  • Julie Hendry SFHEA Therapeutic Radiographer and Associate Professor, Professional Lead (Radiotherapy & Oncology) and Associate Dean for Student Outcomes
  • Katie Pavoni, Associate Professor, Course Director - BSc Paramedic Science and Pastoral Care Lead. 
  • Lenesha Riley MA, Student Recruitment Manager (Outreach)
  • Ramat Ayoola, class of 2019 Biomedical Science alumna
  • Roopa Farooki, class of 2019 alumna, Junior Doctor and author.

What International Women's Day and #EmbraceEquity means to me

"As a woman [International Women's Day] is important to me individually, but it is much more than that. Part of my teaching role includes health inequities and inequalities. These are different, giving everyone the same does not mean we are all equal, the inequity can remain. So we need to ensure every individual gets what they need to reach the level of others who do not suffer typical inequity. It goes hand in hand with inclusion."

- Julie -

"International Women’s Day for me is about celebrating women who have and continue to challenge stereotypes and it is about being a part of the on-going fight for true equality." - Katie

"As a day that was designed to celebrate women, and their achievements especially surrounding gender equality, this day means a lot to me. The right to vote and other political rights should never have been withheld from women. At present, there are a lot of movements around race and other gender equality matters at the forefront of the news and social media, but let’s not forget the women that protested year after year for women’s rights and Women’s Day."

- Lenesha -

"To me, equity is about supporting the most disadvantaged in society to ensure the equality of outcomes. By embracing equality, you demonstrate a commitment to uplifting others throughout every aspect of life, instead of a singular aspect." - Ramat

Barriers I have experienced

"As a mother of four who is also an older, brown, Muslim woman, I have experienced some intersectional barriers to what I wanted to achieve, both in medicine and outside medicine. My response has been to embrace these parts of my identity, and take on roles/projects which highlight how these are also a source of power, for example through my work with Relate as family counselling ambassador, and my work with the Royal Literary Fund BAME board, which supports literature/arts from people of colour, and my writing for adults and children, which reflect diverse realities."

- Roopa -

"The main and ever-present barrier I experience is imposter syndrome. Because of what I have seen before me in the workplace and in my personal life, I regularly doubt my abilities or can find it hard to accept my accomplishments. I do believe I deserve all I have because I have worked hard for it however, I sometimes wonder if I have achieved ‘xyz’ or have genuinely moved up because of my own efforts." - Lenesha

"As a woman in paramedicine who believes in compassionate leadership, people have often remarked that my approach is ‘too soft’ or ‘fluffy’ and mistaken my empathy for ‘weakness’. I firmly believe however that compassion is often a courageous and progressive choice which takes strength, and I therefore have strived to challenge this narrative in my career and mental health work"

- Katie -

"I had a long career in the NHS before joining Higher Education. Barriers can be institutional with deep seated differences being experienced. This could be comments around appearance that would never happen to men, being told to ‘man-up’, that being assertive as a woman is due to hormones, shocking to think this still happens. The saddest part is the bias from other women. It was suggested a promotion was unsuitable for me as a mother with young children, by a woman. Even in meetings where men can be given free rein to speak but as a woman you are given less time and opportunity, cut short and just feeling less. And being told that misogyny and the patriarchy do not exist….by a man. Plus, the gender pay gap is sadly real. The great thing about St George’s is the strong female leadership we have; it makes me proud to work in an institution with women leading and to be part of that team as a woman." - Julie

Hopes for the future

"My hope for the future is for there to be a genuine peace in the world. It would be great if we as a people can do more of what we love, without having to worry about other’s thoughts and opinions. Let’s all care more about family matters, community and caring for our environment. No more wars, segregated societies and conscious or unconscious racism or bias. "Personally for me, I would like to continue to work my way up in this organisation or the next, and see what professional legacy I can leave behind for future generations."

- Lenesha -

"I hope that I can continue to support and advocate for equality, and in rooms full of opportunities, mention the names of other women, particularly those starting out in their career." - Katie

Words of advice for other women

"At university there are so many opportunities to get involved with a vast array of different projects. Think about what drives and motivates you and keep an eye out for opportunities to showcase your passion and skill. Many societies are involved with volunteering or fundraising, and joining a committee is a great way to not only get involved but to be able to gain experience and build up your CV. Keep an eye out for opportunities outside of university too, particularly in national charities or non-governmental organisations as they are always looking for student representatives. If you don’t see an existing society or community project that interests you, don’t be afraid to start one!"

- Ramat -

"You can achieve whatever you put your mind to if it is also in your heart to do so. Work with a genuine passion and success will almost certainly be guaranteed. Finally, at the end of your working day switch off and focus on your personal life because ‘burnout’ is a real thing and can reduce your accomplishments." - Lenesha

"Try and enjoy all your time in medical school. I found that the busier I was, the better I did! So get involved in societies, sports, clubs, and study with your friends, and teach the younger years and your peers. It's ok to make mistakes, because that's how you learn. Remember how incredibly valuable you are, on the ward, and on the campus, and that the skills that you learn now will set you up to save lives and help people every day, which is why working in healthcare is the best job in the world."

- Roopa -

"Have the courage to challenge, be passionate, be brave, and above all be you, as this is the only way we will achieve change." - Katie

"Women often suffer from Imposter Syndrome, I do too. The ‘system’ can feed into this, but we need to support and empower other women, ideally, we have men doing the same thing too, supporting women. So even though radiotherapy is a female dominated profession, men still gain promotion faster than women. We need this inequity to stop and for women to better support and nurture other women, as leaders let us raise up other women. Do not let misogyny and inequity exist quietly, call it out. Believe in yourself, empower others, do not be afraid to ask for support, for a mentor, and to put yourself forward as the best woman for the job. You probably are, and if not this time you will gain from the experience and be the best woman for the job the next time!"

- Julie -

More work to be done

At St George's we know that we have more to do to break gender bias.

Our median gender pay gap has improved from 8.4% to 7.9% and we are continuing to make improvements in a number of ways, including:

  • reinforcing our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion has been in our 2022 to 2023 strategy
  • welcoming aspiring female leader to take part in the Aurora leadership development programme
  • emphasising options for flexible working in our roles and broadening where we advertise vacancies, as well as promoting the use of gender-neutral language in our adverts
  • undertaking equal-pay audits every 3 years
  • offering workshops on academic promotions and career development aimed especially at encouraging female staff to apply for promotion.

You can find out more by reading our 2023 Gender Pay Gap report.

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