Salford 360: International Women's Day special

Categories: Salford 360

To mark International Women’s Day (IWD), four Salford academics, all experts in their fields, discuss how different industries are embracing equity. The theme for IWD this year is Inspire Inclusion. Our construction, law, healthcare leadership and journalism industry insiders tell us about the strides made in their sectors, what more needs to be done and how we can encourage young women to consider a career path in their chosen fields.

Women in construction

Nicky Harris, Programme Leader in Construction Project Management in the School of Science, Engineering and Environment, tells us how instrumental universities are for getting women into construction:

“Construction is a traditionally male dominated industry but Salford is doing its part to redress that balance through our apprenticeship programme, which features many talented female students.

We are extremely proud of all our female students that have shown their talents in this industry. Across the University we work hard to increase opportunities for women in what are traditionally male dominated industries.

The numbers of women on the programmes is growing. I feel the main reason for this is due to the huge push that has been taking place with the professional bodies, the industry as a whole and certainly the university has been instrumental in encouraging and inspiring young people, particularly girls in an exciting and challenging career that is varied, well paid and has good career progression.”

Women in law 

Louise HallSenior Lecturer in Law and SILKS Clinic Lead at Salford Business School, talks to us about her experience of working in the legal industry for over 30 years:

“I have worked in the legal industry for over 30 years as a solicitor, working in both the private and public sector, and now academia. The challenges I’ve faced have differed across my career. A pinch point for me was after having children, where I found myself trying to balance keeping my career on track with bringing up a young family. This was difficult; though some parts of the industry are far more supportive, particularly with the advent of flexible working post-pandemic, there is still a long way to go.

Seeing women in leadership roles within the sector is crucial. Over half of the people who enter the legal profession are women, but this is not reflected in the higher ranks. Students entering the profession have to know, see and believe it’s possible to rise to the very top of the legal profession if they wish to do so.

We have seen positive change in the industry in recent years. For example, there is the ‘Women in Law’ event which as a University we are involved in this week, which enables women to network, obtain advice and support from other women across the legal profession and legal education. Flexible working has also become more commonplace, allowing women with caring responsibilities or young children to continue their career around this other priorities.

However, more can be done within the sector to embrace equity. There are still some firms and organisations who only pay lip service to the idea of equity: there needs to be more of a drive across the industry for these firms and organisations to make changes. They also need to realise that this would also benefit them, as they could maximise the full pool of talent available to them across the sector. We see some fantastic students from a really diverse range of backgrounds entering the legal profession, and it’s important that these voices are heard and supported to reach their potential."

Women in healthcare leadership

Dr Naomi Sharples, Associate Dean in our School of Health and Society, explains how growing up in a feminist household impacted her career later in life:

"I work with our Directors and Senior Team in the School of Health and Society to ensure we deliver a wide range of programmes. I also develop and deliver our international programme, so inclusivity is at the heart of my work. In addition, I lead a wonderful project with NHS England and the World Health Organisation to facilitate healthcare improvements in low to middle income countries including Malawi, Kenya and Georgia. Working with their health workforce leaders, we address some of the wicked problems they face in delivering systemic improvements to meet the needs of their populations.

I was brought up in a vibrantly feminist household so have had a very clear understanding of the inequity faced by women throughout my life. Working in a school where women’s rights and the power of women is applauded and celebrated is absolutely wonderful. I feel very able to call out misogyny if I see it – to highlight the power imbalance where it raises its head.

My mum Eileen Ansbro-Sharples – she set up a women’s liberation group in Blackburn Lancashire in the 1970s, she campaigned for women’s rights, equal pay, and access to education opportunities. Despite her very traditional upbringing she had the passion to introduce me and my brother to many different cultures and countries. She created a fearless daughter and for that I am so very thankful.

The sector still needs to change – the pay gap in universities remains stubbornly unequal. In our School women are in all levels of roles – but there is a lack of minoritized women in leadership roles generally and this is very evident. So whilst we are doing well – we are not there yet. There are definitely more women in leadership positions in the health sector now. But research shows that women in HE still have to balance their roles as carers with opportunities to progress. Across the globe women outnumber men in higher education but men outnumber women in leadership positions – so there is still a way to go to have equal rights, pay, opportunity. We need to be constantly aware of women in the world who are barred from education once they are in their teens, or who face horrendous poverty, violence, and discrimination because they are girls or women."

Women in journalism

Michelle Eagleton, Lecturer in Journalism and Public Relations, tells us how she's paying it forward by mentoring the next generation of women in media after a successful career in the industry: 

"Resilience is one thing that stands out when I when I think about the industry. You know the ones that are successful that make it do not give up and that's what I say to students now - just don't give up. I think the people that succeed are the ones that don't let any kind of form of failure stop them. Most successful in the business of showbiz have had their own failures and had doors shut in their face, but what sets them apart is they've picked themselves up again and gone.

We need to talk openly about the challenges women face in their careers, from balancing motherhood to overcoming gender bias. Together, we can drive meaningful change and create a more inclusive world. There's room for everybody in this industry, we shouldn't be afraid to share our knowledge and help others succeed. Keep pushing, keep trying, and never give up, together, we can forge a better world where every woman feels empowered to pursue her dreams.

PR and Digital Communications student, Debbie Mezeh-Ekisowei interviewed Michelle for IWD. You can read this in full here: Salford celebrates the achievement of a remarkable alumna on International Women's Day | University of Salford


What is Salford 360?

Our Salford 360 series takes one hot topic and gives it a Salford spin, incorporating opinions from experts in different fields across the University.

If you liked this article, why not check out or Salford 360 on Artificial Intelligence? Salford 360: Four experts, four takes, how 2023 was the year of AI (sharepoint.com)

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.