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Aurora case study: Professor Helen Newall

03 Jun 2018 | Edge Hill University

Before Aurora, I wanted to progress but I wasn’t sure how. I thought I had reached as far as I could go and was considering leaving higher education and going back into theatre. I didn’t have any desire to become head of a department, and I didn’t think I would ever be good enough anyway.

Aurora was recommended to me by the university’s Aurora champion and I thought: what do I have to lose?

Before Aurora, my line manager had suggested I apply for a promotion. I remember feeling terror inside because I would have to put my head above the parapet and admit I wanted that. So, I just brushed it off. But, partly because of Aurora, I started to talk to him and another professor and they began to mentor me through the process.

Then Aurora finished and I was still going through the promotion process – and I was telling everyone I was doing it. I just thought, if I don’t get it, it’s not a disaster and I’ll get feedback to help me the next time.

Aurora helped me to see failure not as a personal attribute but a way to help identify something I need to improve and do better next time. Aurora is very good at making you less scared of failure. If you don’t try, you’ve failed before you’ve even applied.

I also started another MA (I already had one and a PhD). I was always told not to go to art school, but Aurora started to change that narrative in my head. So, I applied to do illustration at the University of Hertfordshire and I passed with a distinction.

The sector needs more initiatives like Aurora, where women can discuss the issues. We’re taught to be tidy and not take up too much space but women need space to have their confidence nurtured. So, I think, a safe space for such discussions makes people of any gender realise they are not alone.

Leadership is not about getting people promoted – it’s about giving them the options for them and allowing them to know what they want.

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