6 strong women inspiring inclusion

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a time to champion the women around us, recognise each other’s achievements and reflect on how we can support gender parity all year round.

At Teesside University, we’re proud to be surrounded by so many incredible women who embody the theme of this year’s celebration – inspiring inclusion. 

So, we spoke to six female lecturers, leaders and researchers who we believe deserve a tip of the hat for everything they do to empower women and drive change (and believe me, it was hard to pick just six).

Robyn Claridge

By day, Robyn is a Marketing, Communication and Events Co-ordinator at Teesside University’s Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre. But a love of reading led her to set up The Open Book Club, a safe space where like-minded women come together and bond over their shared passion, alongside her friend Amy.

Robyn said: “Growing up, I found that women often set aside their passions as they matured, while men continued to pursue their own interests, like sport, without judgement.

“The Open Book Club was born out of an idea to create a space where women could freely indulge in their love for reading, discuss selected reads, connect with others, build lasting friendships and confidently share their perspectives.

“We’re all for creating a space where women feel empowered to express their views without reservation. We’d like to think we’re tackling some of society’s issues surrounding gender in our own small but mighty way.”

Abigail Dennison

Fashion lecturer Abigail’s dream was to launch a magazine covering culture, politics and feminism. It was in a bid to change the status quo when it came to girly mags, breaking away from the typical gossip columns and moving towards ‘intellectual girl talk’.

And Sunday Girl is proud of its community of supportive, ambitious and creative readers, who come together to lift each other up at its popular magazine release parties and events. There’s usually discos, inspirational women panels, local business stalls, art installations and performances – they really are dream nights out.

Abigail said: “IWD is so important to allow us to recognise and champion change and the movements in equality. Even though this should be discussed every day, having a celebrated day allows us to come together globally. At Sunday Girl, we always mark the occasion by having a new magazine release at the same time.

The best thing about the community is how many girls feel comfortable enough to come along to our events by themselves, knowing they will be welcomed and leave with new girls in their girl gang.”

Vikki Rand

Biosciences and healthcare expert Professor Vikki Rand, Director of Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre, is flying the flag for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

She told the Northern Health Science Alliance: “My motivation throughout my career, and particularly as I have moved onto different roles, has been to be a role model for girls and women. Female leaders and role models have been few and far between throughout my career, and there is still a lack of female leaders in STEM. 

“Make your voice heard and go for opportunities. Find out what makes you passionate, and use that to drive yourself forward.”

She added: “We have a supportive community of women at Teesside University, and I feel that we are leading the way in empowering women and advancing gender equality.”

Bev Boden

This International Women’s Day, Bev Boden is helping young girls to discover careers in aviation in bespoke sessions delivered alongside the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

She’s sharing her passion as Head of Department for Aviation, Tourism, Finance and Marketing at Teesside University International Business School. 

“I have a 15-year-old daughter and want her and other girls like her to simply be given equal opportunities and fairness so they can progress in life without facing prejudices or barriers,” said Bev.

There are many roles in aviation that have, in the past, been male-dominated. However this is changing with female pilots and co-pilots, female baggage handlers and ramp agents as well as dispatchers and border force agents.”

Natasha Vall

As well as being Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law and a Professor of History at Teesside University, Natasha Vall is on the board of the Power of Women campaign.

The collective of business leaders in the North East is committed to raising the aspirations of young women across the region and helping them fulfil their potential.

Natasha was inspired to get involved after seeing the Power of Women’s incredible work and wanted to connect the campaign with Teesside University’s resources and support given their shared commitment to transforming lives. 

She said: “International Women’s Day shows all the great work that women, past and present, are doing and is a great way to encourage new projects, make new connections and to get better at what we do to support all communities.”

Tannaz Pak

“The engineering world has changed markedly when it comes to embracing inclusion and diversity since I started my undergraduate course 20 years ago,” said Dr Tannaz Pak, an associate professor specialising in sustainable engineering.

This is very positive for women engineers, whose key contributions to the industry are now recognised.”

Tannaz has been vocal about celebrating women in engineering throughout her career. Her impact on the sector has been highlighted through various accolades, including when she was named among the top 50 women in engineering by the Women’s Engineering Society.

She added: “I see lots of value in women sharing our achievements as well as our struggles and discussing how to overcome difficulties. International Women’s Day provides a fantastic platform for this.”

Which women inspire you most? Let us know in the comments…

Author: Lauren

Since completing her undergraduate studies in Journalism at Teesside University, Lauren has taken on the role of Communications Assistant (Content Production). She knows a thing or two about student life, as she’s currently working towards achieving her master’s degree at the University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *