Women in Leadership – EHSU Women’s Week!

noNJh1MFAs a part of EHSU’s Women in Leadership campaign, & to celebrate Women’s Week, we asked some senior members of university staff about their experiences of being a woman in their positions.

Next up is Fay Sherrington who is the Director of Student Services.

 

I feel like I have been very fortunate in my career as I have rarely faced barriers due to my gender.  I have been inspired by both male and female leaders that I have worked for and I owe thanks to a number of people who have motivated and encouraged me on my career path.  I believe that one of the barriers faced by me and others in terms of leadership is a lack of self-belief or self-confidence.  Although this will apply to individual men and women differently, studies have suggested that generally this is a more significant factor for women than for men.  Making full use of my mentors, development opportunities, feedback, and support has really helped me to recognise my abilities and take the next step. 

When I look back over history I realise how different things would have been for me if I had lived during earlier generations.  I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a family that is open minded and without prejudice and at a time when gender inequality had significantly reduced.  I was encouraged by my parents to work hard, be what I wanted to be, go to University and aim for the top.  I really hope that the further progress that has since been made to reduce inequality across the board means that the generation of young people behind me will face even fewer barriers to success. 

My mum has always been the women I most admire.  She was from a generation when women were not encouraged to go to University.  In fact we lived in York where Rowntrees Chocolate factory were previously a major employer.  My mum always told me that her mother hoped she might gain employment at the chocolate factory.  However her mother’s aspiration was that if she was good enough, she might be able to work in the offices rather than on the factory floor.  That was really the most she expected from her daughter and her highest aspiration for her career.  When my sister and I were young my mum decided to study for a degree via the Open University while bringing up 2 kids looking after the household and working full time.  I always admire her grit and determination and her success in getting her degree followed by a postgraduate qualification.  I can’t help thinking how different it has been for me. 

Working in HE is a privilege and I really love my job leading a Student Service department.  I am sure that this positive environment has helped me in my leadership path.  The various Universities I have worked in and my managers have all supported my leadership development and I have made the most of many opportunities to try new things.  I attended the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) Aurora programme for Women in Leadership in 2012 and was inspired and motivated to take the next step in my career.  This was the point when I recognised my aspiration to become a Director of Service and the programme gave me the confidence and support to apply for the role I hold today. 

2 inspirational female authors hold significance for me.  Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth were books I read as a teenager that moved me and changed my outlook on the world.  Their experiences in their time and culture paint such an emotive picture of the inequality and injustice of the world but also show the power and resilience of the women themselves.  I feel indebted to women like Maya and Vera but also all other female leaders who have gone before me for making it possible for me to be who I am today. 

 

 

We know that women have a hard time smashing the glass ceiling and getting into senior positions or leadership roles. That is why it’s important to talk about the disadvantages that women face, and work on ways to overcome them. Having women in positions of leadership is important, because it’s difficult to be what you cannot see.

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Women in Leadership – EHSU Women’s Week!

EHU351-Lynda-Brady-Lynda004

As a part of EHSU’s Women in Leadership campaign, & to celebrate Women’s Week, we asked some senior members of university staff about their experiences of being a woman in their positions.

First up is Lynda Brady, the only woman member of Edge Hill’s directorate team. She is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) & University Secretary.

 

  1. What are the biggest differences noticed in being a woman in leadership compared to the male colleagues?

Obviously I’ve only ever experienced it from one perspective so it’s difficult to know. I would always advocate having leadership teams comprised of different skills and preferences and teams made up of both genders are likely to have a more diverse skills set but it doesn’t always divide on gender lines. I’ve worked with some incredibly sensitive and supportive men and with some very tough, task-focused, insensitive women so I’m wary of stereotyping. Generally speaking though, I’d say women encourage greater reflection and consideration of the broader impacts of decisions, especially how they may impact on colleagues. 

  1. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? 

The most significant barrier is still likely to be the practical one: that it’s difficult to be a woman in leadership whilst also being the primary carer for children or other dependents and there is still an expectation that the role of carer is predominately a female one. For me, the solution is two-fold: on a very practical level, we need to improve childcare and social care provision, making it financially accessible for all (this isn’t only about women in leadership but about enabling women in general to remain in employment, thereby sustaining financial independence); at a more fundamental level, we need to address the assumptions that are made about gender roles at a very early age so children don’t grow up with preconceptions about what is and is not possible as a result of gender – but this is a very long term solution. I also think it’s crucial to engage men in this debate as they are as much a key to solving it as are women. 

  1. What women inspire you and why?

Women like my wonderful Mum inspire me: bringing up 7 children;  holding down 2 cleaning jobs, one in the morning and one in the evening, to ensure she was at home to have tea on the table every day when we got home from school. There are millions of such women, making enormous sacrifices in their own lives, in the hope that the next generation will have different opportunities and a better life – rarely a day goes by when I don’t count my own blessings because of the sacrifices my Mum made in her life. 

  1. What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you 

I’m more concerned about class divides than gender divides. Women & men from wealthy backgrounds, with access to University educations and good connections will be fine. But I worry about the growing economic divide; this includes the increase in tuition fees and the fact that this may deter those from poorer backgrounds thinking University is a real option for them. Without any doubt, going to University transformed my life and opened up a whole world of opportunity for me – enabling everyone to reach their potential in this way is vital, not only for personal fulfillment but also to ensure a fully functioning society which is equipped to compete in a global economy.

 

We know that women have a hard time smashing the glass ceiling and getting into senior positions or leadership roles. That is why it’s important to talk about the disadvantages that women face, and work on ways to overcome them. Having women in positions of leadership is important, because it’s difficult to be what you cannot see.