March 2024

Celebrating International Women’s Day with award-winning food and a host of award winners

By Anna Fawcett

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Professionals from across the city were welcomed to the Restaurant at University College Birmingham on Thursday 7th March as they enjoyed a special afternoon to celebrate International Women’s Day.

With over 60 in attendance, women and allies across a range of sectors, both locally and nationally, enjoyed networking over arrival drinks before joining themed tables to discuss in greater detail their own experiences of being a female professional in their sector.  

Dr Helen Poole, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching, Learning and Digital), welcomed guests to the lunch, expressing her wishes that the event would offer the opportunity to discuss the challenges still facing women professionally, as well as celebrating the advancements of gender parity both in the education sector and across the wider sectors represented by attendees.

Themed tables across women in Leadership, STEM, Sport, Business, Education, Technology, Health and Hospitality gave a breadth of conversations around shared experiences.

Dr Helen Poole said as part of her speech:

"This year’s International Women’s Day is all about ‘Inspiring Inclusion’ and ‘Investing in women’ which we champion here at University College Birmingham. As an institution we never stand still in our drive to develop course programmes that tackle real-world issues that, in turn, lead to graduates who impact far beyond our region."

Dr Helen Poole Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching, Learning and Digital),

This year’s International Women’s Day is all about ‘Inspiring Inclusion’ and ‘Investing in women’ which we champion here at University College Birmingham. As an institution we never stand still in our drive to develop course programmes that tackle real-world issues that, in turn, lead to graduates who impact far beyond our region.”

The University has a longstanding history of delivering high-quality education for students from increasingly diverse backgrounds. Their focus on listening to students, using data to understand learner engagement and behaviours and one to one support has seen acknowledgement from students in the Whatuni Awards wins in recent years. Beyond this, the University has a strong focus on equity and has made concentrated efforts to close awarding gaps and ensure that, no matter their background, students are closer to achieving parity of achievement in their studies.

In recent years, University College Birmingham has launched its School of Engineering, Digital and Sustainable Construction. Led by Rosa Wells, Dean of STEM, who has spent much of her professional career in both education and engineering championing diversity in a challenged sector and working with employers, policy makers and sector charities to provide insights into ways to encourage and retain women in engineering. Rosa leads a strong leadership team within the school, with Deborah Bunce leading Sustainable Construction and Kanwal Rauf leading on Digital.

Kanwal Rauf, Head of Digital, said: “Coming together with other women in tech to network, support and talk across our shared experiences is invaluable. It’s a sector that is growing rapidly and encouraging women into the sector to add the diversity of thought, approach and impact that it needs is vital. I’ve reinforced existing connections as well as made new ones at this event and I feel proud to be a woman in technology and a woman of University College Birmingham”

Amongst those in attendance were Inez Brown, West Midlands Chair of the Institute of Directors; Denise Morris, TAG Network Midlands founder; Rosie Ginday, CEO of Miss Macaroon (and University alumni), Professor Jackie Dunne, Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham Newman University; and invited as allies of women in industry were Professor Paul Cadman, Chair of Steps to Work and the University’s Strategic Employer Advisory Board; and José Lopes, Pro-Vice Chancellor for External Affairs. Guests included the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Natwest, Goldman Sachs, The Active Wellbeing Society, University Hospitals Birmingham, Enginuity, partners from the University of Warwick and many more ensuring broad and insightful conversations.

"As a member of the University’s Strategic Employer Advisory Board it was a pleasure to join them for their International Women’s Day lunch, along with many fantastic women from across the region. Our conversations shone a light on the knowledge, skills and passion in the room and on our collective ability to do things even better. I came away feeling very grateful to be in such inspiring company, and with refreshed hope that we are moving towards a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive."

Anna Bright Chief Executive of Sustainability West Midlands

Professor Kali Davidson, Head of Further Education in the Birmingham College of Food at University College Birmingham, had curated the menu, offering an exceptional level of quality for which the College of Food’s restaurant is renowned. After lunch, guests were able to join a campus tour to see the facilities on offer alongside the Summer Row campus.

Ioana Axinte, an alumnus of University College Birmingham, who has built a flourishing tech business said of the celebration:

“Reflecting on my journey from a student to a business leader, I realise the invaluable role the University has played in shaping my path. This celebration not only symbolises the empowerment of women worldwide but also reinforces the support and belief in our potential to lead, innovate, and inspire. I'm immensely grateful for the opportunities my education has afforded me, and today, I stand proud as both an alumnus and supporter of aspiring female entrepreneurs. Together, we can break barriers, pursue excellence, and make a difference, one step at a time.”

Happy International Women’s Day.

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