March 8, 2022

On 8 March, people all over the world come together to celebrate International Women’s Day. This day highlights the struggles of gender equality and brings people together to help combat this.

It’s a chance to take action, and raise awareness of the economic, political and social achievements of women across the world. 

What is the theme this year? 

Bias and discrimination have been holding women back for centuries. This year’s official theme is #BreakTheBias, which looks at how we can collectively break the bias and misconceptions in the interest of creating a gender-equal and inclusive world. 

Inspirational women

As part of the celebration, we spoke with women at University Centre Leeds to discover who they admire.

Who inspires you and why?

Sarah Cook, Deputy Head of Business at University Centre Leeds: “My indomitable grandmother, who lived to age 99. She was one of the strongest and most powerful women I know. Had she been born at a different time, she would have probably been Prime Minister. 

“I also admire Rosa Parks, who was an American activist and civil rights campaigner. My imagination was captured when reading about her at school. I particularly admire her bravery and steadfastness – she was a great symbol of the civil rights movement, and motivated me in my political career.

“Amazing academic and feminist, ‘bell hooks’, inspired me to move from business into education and to improve access to higher education for women who have not had equality of opportunity.”

Jo Tyssen, Head of WP, Outreach and Projects: “I’m inspired by our female higher education students. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much these students deal with pressure, manage hectic lives, work in challenging roles and study for a degree. 

“Many of these students are parents who work alongside their studies. Students who were working were hit hard by the pandemic and faced additional financial pressures. Despite this, they are all committed and motivated to do the best for themselves and their families. Their energy, passion and commitment inspires me every day.”

Emma Brice, Higher Education and Promotions Officer: “The support network created by the women in my family has inspired me to pursue education and work hard in my career. My grandma, who came from a working-class background and a generation that demanded women to prioritise marriage and family over a career, decided to return to education whilst working as a lunchtime supervisor.

“After mourning the early death of her husband in 1997, my grandma continued to work hard as a teaching assistant and school governor until the age of 67. I believe if the social gender norms would have permitted, she would have continued her studies to become a fantastic teacher. Still keen for educational discussions, she’s currently attending poetry, crime and women in history classes.”

How can we help to break the bias in education?

Sarah: “For me, this is about challenging the barriers which we come up against every day. It is also about not judging women because of their background, lack of education and circumstances.”

Jo: “Through active celebration of diversity and recognition of bias, both conscious and unconscious, and make it common practice to call out the bias, stereotyping and discrimination. We should support one another and show solidarity.”

Emma: “We can break the bias in education by encouraging everyone, no matter their age, to gain qualifications, make friends and seek support throughout their education.”

Take a look at the International Women’s Day resources here.