On Wednesday 29 March, the University of Edinburgh hosted the first UK’s Undergraduate Women in Business Summit.
Organised by the University’s Women in Business society, the event included a range of guest speakers, workshops and panel discussions. The aim of the event was to inspire female students to strive for their desired roles in the workplace.
Alice Van Damme, President of the University of Edinburgh’s Women in Business society, said to The Student: “[The] main reasons why we created this was because there is no society like this in Edinburgh and we wanted to organise events that are more laid back, relaxed to network and get to know people in the workforce. Our aim is to be a mentor, where you are inspired to be challenged whilst we are there as a friend too.”
The event started with a welcoming address and a small speech from MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, Jamie Hepburn, followed by a talk from Carolyn Currie, the Chief Operating Officer of Women’s Enterprise Scotland.
Hepburn emphasised his opinion on the importance of “getting more women into the boardroom positions across Scotland. It is critically important to do so, and it is not only this but also getting more women engaged in Parliament and create a broader and fairer media representation of women.”
He elaborated: “This critical start to the event from Currie encouraged young women and men to ‘be bold’ and use talent and ambition to make sure there are no limitations [for them].”
The meaning of gender inequality in the workforce was discussed along with the extent to which this has an impact in workplaces.
Kara Brown from Young Women’s Movement (YWCA) shared her experiences of struggling with mental health issues and her achievements despite dealing with adversity, becoming the youngest Chief Executive Officer – at 28 years old – in over 160 years at YWCA Scotland. During her speech, she stated: “Success is not simply linear as it is always portrayed. It is about balance.”
Alison Clements-Hunt, a former University of Edinburgh student, who now works at the World Health Organisation (WHO), stressed two principles to gain success as a woman. She stated that those principles are beliefs and values, and the way you use them to gain an understanding of the self.
Lesley Stubberfield of Ernst & Young, and an alumnus of the University of Edinburgh, remarked that workplace gender progress has slowed down in the last few years. Stubberfield stated that women hold 24 per cent of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs in the UK. She also claimed that there are more men named John who are CEOs than there are women.
Emma McGuigan, who graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master’s degree in Electronics and is part of Accenture, mentioned the need for more women in technology-related fields.
The event included panel discussions and workshops with prominent companies such as Accenture, Give A Grad A Go, Barclays and KPMG.
Sue Yong, who worked as Student Outreach Executive for Give A Grad A Go, stated her thoughts on the event saying: “I think this event is absolutely brilliant – I am always so impressed by what students are capable of putting together and the Women in Business Summit was no exception.”
She continued: “The Women in Business Summit is so important in bringing together likeminded students and professionals in raising awareness of the gender inequality in the workplace.
“Empowering students with this kind of knowledge and first-hand experience will make headway for positive progress for gender diversity in the commercial environment.”
In conversation with The Student, Alison Clements-Hunt, stated: “It is a very important event because it allows undergraduates, particularly women, to explore their paths towards the future in an excellent context of information, experience and discussion.
“What I liked was the mix of people participating, from the speakers and the people running the workshops, since there is something for everyone and hopefully it is something that will be repeated. We know that we need to do more to close the gender gap and this is exactly the sort of positive initiative that does so in a constructive way for the new generation of business leaders.”
Speaking about the event to The Student, Alicia Baines, English Literature student at the University of Edinburgh, stated: “It has been an interesting day especially because of the varied topics that were discussed, which was pleasantly surprising. The workshops were incredible as we were able to ask questions and it felt very personal.”
Anna Thorne, French and Spanish student at the University of Edinburgh, echoed similar sentiments saying: “Having never attended any summits before this, this has been such a great day. It was incredibly informative and inspiring to see these successful women who also define success in different ways.”
Image: Edinburgh Underraduate Women in Business