The theme for 2021 was #ChooseToChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
We spoke to four Southampton alumnae who choose to challenge in both their personal and professional lives. Read their stories below.
Laura Barr (BA Philosophy and English, 2019)
Policy Fellow, University of Southampton
“As someone with privilege, due to my whiteness, opportunities I have had in life, and the freedom I am granted that comes along with that, the main way I aim to challenge inequality is holding myself and other people around me accountable. I aim to recognise my complicity and I aim to sit with the discomfort that comes with this, in order to reflect and continue to learn to be a better ally. I haven’t always gotten this right, but understanding the why and how to do better is vital in challenging inequalities. For example, I make sure that I am generous with any wealth, as well as making sure I read around topics, have difficult conversations, and reflect on the impact of my behaviour to those around me regardless of its intent.
Further, as a bisexual woman/professional, challenging stereotypes both personally and professionally is really difficult. There are a lot of assumptions that are rooted in sexist attitudes, and it can often feel I don’t fully belong in any community. In my personal life, this means calling out biphobic attitudes and ensuring that whatever space I am given, I pass along to others to share as well.
Professionally, accountability and active participation is vital in this space, in a proactive way. I approached my current workplace about an EDI strategy, which has been well received and engaged with, and I’ve been able to contribute, alongside many others, to putting in some good beginning steps to make this space more accessible and achieve more impact.”
Charlotte von Sicard (BA History, 2014)
CSR Co-ordinator, Womble Bond Dickinson LLP
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“We live in the 21st century, and whilst a lot of progress has been made on gender equality, statistics continue to show women still do not have an equal voice at the table. Throughout my career, I have been inspired by those strong women who have found a way to be the voice for their team, family, business, or community. But, we are not there yet, and that is why I #ChoosetoChallenge
I began a new role at international law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) as CSR Co-ordinator in January 2021. My role is to align our charitable activity with our firm’s goals and objectives, and to ensure that our initiatives are representative of the world in which we live.
At WBD, we have been working hard to make sure that the voices of underrepresented groups are heard, understand their experience of the world, and ensure that our all of our colleagues have the opportunity to be in the rooms where decisions are made. We also recognise as a firm that reducing our gender pay gap is an ongoing, intentional process of change and improvement. One way to address the gap is by having more females supported for and achieving promotion to higher-paying roles.
For me personally, the most important lesson I have learnt in my career, due to an array of strong women who believed in me, is to recognise your own value. This value is your unique story, your unique way of working, and your unique vision on how you see the world.
I try to encourage this within my volunteer role as an Assistant Guide Leader. It’s important to empower girls and young women, and it’s encouraging to see our unit actively engaging in debates around exercising your right to vote, as well as recently on sustainability and buying ethically.
This International Women’s Day, I #ChoosetoChallenge, and I hope you will too.”
Amanda Ovaici (LLB Law, 2016)
Lawyer, Osuji & Smith
“I am a Calgary-based lawyer with the award-winning firm, Osuji and Smith. I have also co-founded a new trendy café called Café Alchemist, and a unique events company where people share their professional failures across the globe.
As a first-generation Canadian with a cultural background in both Egypt and Portugal, I’m a huge advocate for equality and equal rights.
As an employment and business lawyer, I am constantly defending employees’ rights in the workplace and assisting businesses in developing policies and procedures that promote a safe work environment for all individuals irrespective of one’s cultural background or gender.
Through community work and my own entrepreneurial pursuits, I continue to push the boundaries as an advocate of resilience, innovation, and embracing failure, all while bringing local entrepreneurs and businesses together as a community to support one another and Calgary’s economy.”
Heather Black (BA Geography, 2000)
“I am mum of two and founder of Supermums. I champion three important causes that are close to my heart: increasing the number of women in tech, supporting women returners, and tackling the gender pay gap.
Over the years I’ve worked flexibly with Salesforce – even from a camper van in Australia! So when my eldest daughter was born, I continued to work around my family. Then, back in 2016 when my second daughter arrived, I began to think about how Salesforce enabled me to stay working. I realised that Salesforce is an enabler to flexibility. My lightbulb moment happened, and the Supermums Programme was created.
Supermums is a social enterprise, helping parents to realise their potential. By harnessing the power of the Salesforce eco-system, trainees can progress into flexible, well-paid career opportunities.
The team and I have empowered over 400 trainees and volunteers from around the world to join their mission, and graduates leave the programme with confidence, skills, and work experience to pursue a new career.”
Check out this page for some more of the inspirational alumnae we’ve met over the years.