From creating more diverse workplaces and challenging the stigma of mental health, to supporting women with disabilities and increasing representation of women of colour, female students and staff across the UEA are marking International Women’s Day.
Celebrating the 2021 theme #ChooseToChallenge ten women give their personal accounts of how they continually choose to challenge something in their life, be that personal, academic, or related to their University experience.
Ayane Hida- Students’ Union Postgraduate Education Officer
"Whilst I am currently working for UEA students, there are many things I would like to change. I am a Japanese woman with disabilities, therefore I know the importance of representation and having our voice heard properly.
"This is the reason that I am challenging and hoping to get more BAME and women’s representation in the University and Students’ Union. I have been inspired by many role models and seen the impact they have had on my life and how they have encouraged me to stand up and have a voice.
"I want to have a positive impact as a way of repaying these role models and I’m trying to create a more diverse and equal workplace.
"No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world” (from the movie Dead Poets Society).”
Patrycja Poplawska, Law student
"Something that has always baffled me is the existence of beauty standards and the concept of one ideal body type.
"As someone who has never fit that, learning to love myself and reject the ideal mould forced upon us as women has been a big challenge in every aspect of my life.
"Every body is a beautiful body and every body should be loved. Loving yourself is empowering. Here I am, powerful with and my confidence is growing daily!”
Nitya Rao, Prof of Gender and Development, School of International Development
"I have chosen to challenge gender inequality across different spheres of life. Rural women, in particular, in the global south, work very hard, on their farms or at home, yet their work remains invisible and unpaid.
"They are often responsible for household food security, for the wellbeing of their children and families, yet have little support. They face discrimination in the labour markets, in access to quality education and health services, or in inheriting wealth. They are often undernourished and subject to violence. I challenge these inequalities through my teaching, research and practice.
"Women need to be recognised and valued for their contributions and for who they are. This is an ongoing struggle, both individual and collective.”
Mirela Costache, Engineering student
"Every day I choose to challenge my own thinking, especially now during lockdown, when motivation is scarce and human connection remains distant.
I continue to progress and pursue my way to becoming an engineer and challenge the stereotype that women are too delicate for engineering.
"I feel driven to challenge all misconceptions about women, myself, and people in general. Societies should remain diverse and open, and strengthened by everyone that challenge misconceptions.
"As a community, we’re stronger together!"
Prof Sarah Barrow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Arts and Humanities
"I choose to challenge prejudice of all types through access to high quality, inclusive, diversified and decolonised education for all.”
Jumara Stone, Wellbeing Training Manager
"I choose to challenge the inequality, and lack of representation, of women of colour in our spaces.
"We often forget that when supporting women, it’s not just about focussing on gender disparities, but the additional barriers we endure – our skin colour, for example.
"In a world where Black women are still atrociously stereotyped, Muslim women of colour are targeted due to religious beliefs, and Trans women of colour are excluded, it is more important than ever that I am an active ally for my sisters.
"I will continue to use my privilege as a cisgender, light-skinned brown woman to raise the platforms, raise the voices and raise the opportunities for the women we don’t do justice.
"This International Women’s Day, I choose to challenge ALL of us, to do more for women of colour by giving them the space to maintain consistent power, have a voice which has weight and to be represented fairly on all levels and platforms.”
Tory Selwyn, Medical student
"As President of Headucate: UEA for almost two years now, opening up the conversations around mental health has been a large part of my life outside of medical school.
Choosing to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health is important because we all have mental health, just like we all have physical health, similarly anyone can have a mental health disorder.
"I choose to challenge the notion that doctors speaking about their own mental ill-health somehow makes them appear weak, and less equipped to do their job.”
Georgina Breeze, Administrative Assistant, Faculty of Science
"Every day I choose to challenge the stigma of mental health in the workplace. Living with an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression I know how much of a disservice this stigma does to all of us.
"My aim is to raise awareness to how mental health affects each one us and is just as important to look after as our physical health.
"I run a monthly mental health and wellbeing newsletter within the Schools of Chemistry and Pharmacy, sharing information about common problems such as burnout and stress, and highlighting simple ways to help such as mini meditations that can fit easily into the work day.
"I hope to make it easier for people to talk openly about their experiences, hosting mental health chats in a safe space online, utilising the skills I have learned as a Mental Health First Aider."
Helen Wiseman, Director of People and Culture
"My challenge is to build inclusive workplaces that help women to thrive."
Sophie Thomas, Student Performance Sport Manager
"I choose to challenge the opportunities and stereotypes of women in sport. Championing women in sport is essential to health, fitness, equality and opportunity.”
The University’s career service Careers’ Central are running a series of #SheCan workshops on 8 March - International Women’s Day. The events, which are open to all students and aim to inspire those who attend, cover topics such as Women in Finance and Women in Entrepreneurship, and will feature industry leading experts.
UEA is proud to be part of the Women’s Higher Education Network (WHEN), a network which helps women working in higher education achieve their ambitions and remove systemic and cultural barriers. UEA staff and students are entitled to a free pink WHEN membership.
UEA is also part of WISE, an organisation which aims to improve female involvement in Engineering, Science, Technology and Construction.
The University has been engaged with the Athena SWAN Charter since 2012. It's currently a Silver award holder. Athena SWAN is an international framework to support and transform gender equality within higher education and research.