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Women in HE Conference 2020

Conditions for Change - how can we accelerate change that tackles the treatment and inclusion of women?


Our inaugural Advance HE Women in HE Conference will provide insight into solutions that work to address the barriers we have identified, through our extensive research, knowledge and understanding, in achieving step change across HE in relation to all gender equality issues through practical exploration of the known and hidden challenges across a range of intersectional themes relating to women in HE. The day will build on our expertise in this area drawn from our leadership of the Athena Swan Charter, championing women’s leadership development, including Aurora, equal pay and supporting the extension of women represented on university boards – all to encourage and support change across the sector.


Dates: 23 January 2020
Venue: London Marriott Hotel Regents Park
Who: Individuals who are championing gender quality and women who are seeking to develop their careers in more senior roles within HE institutions

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Conference Theme

The first Advance HE conference focused on women in HE will focus on accelerating change for gender quality. There has been significant progress in all areas of gender equality in the last decade but at times this is slow, and some may say at risk of even going backwards due to the pace of change. The Advance HE annual staff and student statistical report shows us that despite comprising the majority of staff working in UK HEIs (54.4%), women remained under-represented among academic staff, staff in SET subject areas and in senior management roles. A larger proportion of women than men worked in professional and support roles, worked part-time, on fixed-term contracts, and in lower salary bands. Gender pay gaps remain highest among academic staff, though were still evident among professional and support staff. There has been an increase in the proportion of female professors from 24.6% in 2016-17 to 25.5% in 2017-18, but although the direction of change is positive the pace of change is slow. This conference will look at how we can accelerate the pace of change within HE by looking at inspirational leadership, key policies and initiatives and successful examples from within and outside of the HE sector.

The conference will consider all aspects HE relating to gender equality for women, including diversity on boards, gender pay gap and demystifying our understanding of this, sexual harassment and violence, women into leadership roles, the work-life balance and the glass cliff with a focus on intersectional approaches that span multiple aspects of diversity.

Delegates will hear from senior women leaders who have overcome many of these barriers during their career and who are now focused on accelerating change in their organisations and more widely across HE. Our panel discussions will delve more deeply into the barriers and challenges faced in achieving gender equality and our workshops will allow delegates to examine the practicalities of implementing this work, alongside the multiple overlapping barriers faced by those working in this area to accelerate change by learning from each other.


Alison Johns

Alison was appointed chief executive of Advance HE in autumn 2017. Prior to that she was the chief executive of the Leadership Foundation. She has worked in higher education for 25 years. Before becoming chief executive, she was head of policy for leadership, governance and management at the Hefce (now the Office for Students), where she established both the Leadership Foundation and the Equality Challenge Unit. She is a past president of the Association of University Administrators (AUA) and represents the UK on the Association of Commonwealth Universities Human Resources Management Network and has recently joined the British Council’s planning committee for Going Global, the major international higher education conference.


Panel Discussion Chair

Udy Archibong

Uduak Archibong is Professor of Diversity at the University of Bradford and directs the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity which provides strategic oversight for equality, diversity and inclusion across the institution. She was recognised by the British Government and the Queen for services to Higher Education and Equality and was awarded an MBE in the 2015 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

She is a Fellow of the West African College of Nursing and a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and has been recognised as a thought leader in inclusion and diversity. She is currently leading in setting the agenda to drive research, learning and knowledge exchange activities internationally. She recently led to completion a major multi-million European Commission funded action research gender equality project, GENOVATE, across 7 European Universities and is currently leading gender and Inclusion elements of a multi-million Horizon 2020 project, RRING, along with 22 international partners in Europe, China, Africa, India, Japan, North America and South America.

She was also involved in a national research study ‘Cracking the Concrete Ceiling’ which explored the impact of Advance HE’s ‘Diversifying Leadership’ programme on UK Black and Minority Ethnic Academic staff. This study is in collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of East London and Advance HE. A multi-award winner, she was honoured in June 2014 as one of the top 100 Nigerians in the UK to receive a Centenary Award, one of the top 50 Inspirational Women in Healthcare in the UK, and a Distinguished Nurse Leader in 21st century in Nigeria.  She was listed in the Black WHO'S WHO in the Millennium in recognition of her outstanding achievements. She is also an Ecumenical Canon of the Bradford Cathedral in the UK and Obong Ifiok 1 of Onna LGA, Akwa Ibom State.


Panel Discussion Speaker

Margaret Ayers

Margaret has been a Human Resources professional for more than 20 years. She began her HR career in the retail sector and has worked as an HR Director at four universities: Christ Church, Edinburgh, Kent and Queen Mary University of London. Margaret’s main accomplishment in these roles has been in creating meaningful people strategies that support the organisation and the people who work in it.

Margaret has a very broad appreciation of HR, from people development and organisational development to employment law (which she studied for a postgraduate diploma) and reward. Margaret used to teach Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development students reward and employment resourcing at a local college. She is also interested in how the whole organisation works, so enjoys being part of SMT and working beyond the HR function. Margaret is also a member of the UUK Advisory Group on Staff-to-Student Sexual Misconduct.


Panel Discussion Speaker

Jenny Garrett

Jenny Garret is a leadership development consultant, specialising in executive coaching, facilitation and research in the area of leadership and change. She is experienced facilitator of programmes for managers, Directors and CEOs from a variety of organisations, including private and public sector.

Jenny has a Masters degree MA (Management Learning and Leadership) Lancaster University. BA Honours Business, University of Westminster and Coaching Qualifications with Ashridge Business School and Lancaster University. She has the highest honorary award of 'Companion' from the Institute of Leadership and Management.


Conference Programme

Download the draft programme below.

Download Resource

Women in HE Conference Programme


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