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New network for women in senior leadership roles

08 Mar 2021 | Advance HE Advance HE’s Senior Women’s Leadership Network has first meeting on International Women’s Day.

A new network for women in senior leadership roles in higher education has its inaugural meeting today, on International Women’s Day (8 March).

The exclusive women-only group launched at Advance HE’s Women in HE Conference on 25 February with this first meeting timed to take place on International Women’s Day, the global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In 2021, the theme is #ChooseToChallenge by calling out gender bias and inequality, seeking out and celebrating women's achievements and helping to create an inclusive world.

Advance HE Chief Executive Alison Johns will Chair the network with Advance HE Board member Professor Helen Higson as co-Chair. Shirley Malcom, senior advisor and director of SEA Change at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the first guest speaker in conversation with Alison to discuss what #ChooseToChallenge means to her personally and her work around advancing equality in US higher education. 

In her more than 40-year tenure at the AAAS, Shirley has worked to improve the quality and increase access to education and careers in STEM as well as to enhance public science literacy. She is a former member of the National Science Board, the policymaking body of the U.S. National Science Foundation, and served on President Clinton’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Shirley Malcom said, “I am honored to have been invited to participate in this important conversation. The theme #ChooseToChallenge not only resonates in the UK, but also in the US.

"As women, many of us have been socialized to be more laid back and accepting, especially in fields dominated by men. It is very difficult to be ‘the only’ or ‘the first’, or ‘among the few.’ When we find ourselves in these roles we have to decide how we will engage moving forward. This has especially been my case as a woman of color in the sciences.”

Tracy Bell-Reeves, Director of Programmes & Events at Advance HE, said, “This is a unique forum for women working in senior roles within higher education with a shared interest in advancing gender equality, supporting women and exploring relevant leadership issues with their peers.

“We are delighted to welcome Shirley to our inaugural meeting and look forward to hearing about her wealth of experience in US HE.

“The aim of our new network is to offer access to a mutually supportive peer community, providing an opportunity to explore leadership issues relevant to women in higher education. Members of the group will be encouraged to help shape the network going forward by sharing what is important to them to support women in HE leadership roles.”


Advance HE’s Senior Women’s Leadership Network will take place quarterly. Find out more about the inaugural meeting and register your interest here. 


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