In a wide-ranging discussion, Nisreen, Mfon, Lorna and Wendy talked about the defining moments of their careers, the challenges and opportunities that the COVID-19 pandemic presented for women in work, and overcoming societal obstacles to success.
Nisreen (PGCAP, 2018) was awarded an MBE in 2021 for services to health in recognition of her work on COVID-19 and, in particular, in highlighting the impact of long-COVID. Nisreen reflected on the ways that growing up in Iraq, a country at war, has shaped her life and career, juggling clinical work with motherhood and resisting pressure to change who you are to succeed.
When she was asked about her work during the pandemic, Nisreen talked about how her personal experiences had been the starting point for her research. “In the first wave I got ill with COVID, which developed into long-COVID… I had to share my personal story of not recovering and that was difficult for me: to say something professional about measuring long-COVID but also to bring my story and show the impact.”
Mfon (LLM Law, 2011) is a certified human behaviour consultant, two-time recipient of the Golden Quill Award and was voted one of Nigeria’s most influential women in 2017. She spoke about pursuing a career in an unexpected sector after graduation, empowering women to achieve their professional goals and finding the confidence to ‘throw your hat in the ring’.
Speaking about what set her on her career path, Mfon said “In the maritime industry and the entrepreneurial sector there’s a scarcity of women-led projects, and I set out to find out why, because when you sit down with women informally, you know there’s no scarcity of ideas.”
Lorna (BA History, 1978) is a founding member of independent investment bank Numis, and spoke about the difficulty of taking on established players in the finance world, weathering the storms of major world events over a forty year career and choosing where your priorities lie.
As a woman working in the fast-paced world of finance, Lorna talked about how the current moment presents an unprecedented challenge, although she is no stranger to dealing with major upheavals. “I witnessed four economic cycles – from the great crash of 1987 after the storm, to the debacle of the ERM in 1992, the dot com crash of 2000, 911 and terrorism in 2001, the great financial crisis of 2008, the pandemic of 2020 and now the tragedy of Ukraine. The real sadness is that the current situation is all those events rolled up in one.”
For those unable to attend on the day, the event was recorded and is now available to watch on demand.
Elsewhere in the University, the 360 degrees podcast aired a special episode, featuring two incredible alumnae: archaeologist turned computer scientist, Iris Kramer, founder of ArchAI, and Rebecca Self, Director of Sustainable Finance at South Pole.
The University’s Social Impact Lab also held an event for students, featuring alumna and founder of Our Version Media, Veronica Gordon, who spoke about social entrepreneurship, inclusivity and local communities.
Several of the University’s female engineering students also spoke about how important it is to break the bias against women in STEM fields and encourage greater gender parity in traditionally male-dominated sectors.
In the lead up to the day, many of the University’s inspirational female academics shared their stories, including Dr Catherine Pointer, who talked about how her own experiences of leukaemia led her to pursue a career in cancer research, and Professor Lindy Holden-Dye, who spoke about being a woman in an academic leadership role and reflecting on her career journey.
To read more about some of the inspiring women in our Southampton community, check out the University website.