Embracing Equity in our Student Activities – International Women’s Day 2023

Posted on: 8 March 2023

We’re excited to be celebrating another #InternationalWomensDay2023 at Student Hubs. Over the past two years we have recognised #IWD through reflecting on our all-female management team and how we empower young women through our activities.  

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #EmbracingEquity,  and this year we wanted to put the focus on our student-facing activities and how we approach equity in our work. 

Why embrace equity?

Equity is really important to us, and in the past year we have shifted referring to our inclusion work as ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ to ‘Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’. Why the move from equality to equity? 

At work, equity recognises that we all have differences and that’s what makes us great. Whilst equality looks like taking a one-size-fits all approach to make sure everyone has the same support and resources, equity takes into account our unique needs. On an organisational level this looks like adapting structures to account for systemic disadvantages faced by certain groups. 

Equity ultimately involves a person-based approach, which is something we are huge advocates for here at Student Hubs. 

Thinking about the relation to International Women’s Day, we know that each year we engage more women in our activities than men. Across the sector this is a challenge, and women are a huge part of the impact we’re able to have on the communities our Hubs and Projects serve across the country. Our Winchester Hub dove into the subject of gender gaps in our activities back in 2020. So across all of our work, recognising how we can #EmbraceEquity for female, male and non-binary student participants is vital. 

How we embrace equity in our student-facing activities

There are several ways in which we look to create an equitable environment and opportunity in our activities for students. 

Some examples of this in practice include:

  • Speaking to volunteers about reasonable adjustments, to ensure that they can be supported to participate and have their needs met; 
  • Creating a diverse range of activities engaging with a wide portfolio of community groups and individuals, plus designing both long-term and short-term opportunities for volunteers;
  • Having clear policies on creating safe spaces in our programmes, against bullying and harassment, on safeguarding, and on making complaints to ensure all incidents are taken seriously; 
  • Improving our programmes’ accessibility and inclusion practices over the past few years, such as changing our presentation slides, our guidelines for materials and graphics, training our staff in accessible communications, and using our platform to highlight inclusion topics such as Disability History Month;
  • Through having activities designed and delivered in collaboration with student leaders; 
  • Through blinding our applications in our recruitment processes and being a disability confident employer, ensuring the staff we recruit to support students aren’t subjected to biassed approaches and have the support they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

What our student leaders have to say

As mentioned above, our student leaders are a key part of our strategy in making our activities equitable and accessible for other students. We asked our student committee leaders from across our Hubs to share their perspectives on International Women’s Day, and the role women play in our student-facing activities. 

Nicki Ashworth, our Southampton Hub President said:

“I’m honoured to have worked with so many wonderful women during my time with Southampton Hub. Women make up the majority of our volunteers and I’ve seen the wonderful impact they make first-hand, as well as their enthusiasm and genuine love for making a difference. Catherine and Sapthi, our staff team, are strong, kind and capable and I’m thankful to have them to guide me. They’re excellent role models. Happy International Women’s Day to everyone at Student Hubs!”

Haley Huang, our Cambridge Hub President said: 

“I believe that it’s very important that we have proper representation of women in leading positions of social action! Many historic women in the past have been highly influential in encouraging more younger women and members from other marginalised genders to stand up and it’s very important to continue this legacy. Increased diversity in campaigns in social action ultimately leads to a society that better serves everyone, not just the people whose voices are elevated by outdated norms and traditions. At the end of the day, building an equitable platform for everyone to share their talents and opinions benefits everyone.”

How we’ll continue embracing equity at Student Hubs

In October 2022 we launched our inclusion statements, which reflected on our values as an organisation and how our inclusion work could take these values forward and be even more embedded in our work. Equity is an area we speak to our staff team regularly about through our monthly team time sessions, through reviewing our equal opportunities data from student applications and participation, and which our focus groups this term will look to address.

Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team will continue to engage our team with these practices, but as the International Women’s Day website puts so succinctly, ‘we can all play a part. Each one of us can actively support and embrace equity within our own sphere of influence.’

So we encourage you to consider your own sphere of influence this International Women’s Day as we consider our own, and ‘share the passion and excitement that comes from valuing and supporting difference.’

Fiona Walsh

Fiona is Student Hubs' Partnerships and Development Director. She leads on university sales, alumni and corporate fundraising, marketing strategy and external relations. Fiona started her social action journey as a student volunteer with Southampton Hub.

Tags: News, Social Action, Student Voice, Third Sector

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