Conferencing & Events blogStrathclyde Women's Week

As part of Strathclyde’s Women’s Week and to recognise International Women’s Day earlier this week, our Conference Operations Co-ordinator, Wendy Brown, tells us a bit more about herself as well as what #BreakTheBias means to her:

What do International Women’s Day, and this year’s #BreakTheBias theme, mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s achievements and a platform for open and honest conversation. For me, #BreakTheBias encourages us to change how we do things, heighten our awareness and break away from negative patterns.

What individual action do you think is most important in tackling gender inequality and/or gender stereotypes?

We must continue to help people understand unconscious bias. Very few people consider themselves as unfair or bias and underestimate the impact their language/actions can have on impressionable minds, especially children. Long-term change is essential to help break the bias.

What challenges have you faced throughout your career and how did you overcome them?

I worked within the construction industry for the first 16 years of my career. In those days (it was 80s/90s) you really did just put up with the stereotypical behaviour and it became the norm. The guys would have called it harmless banter but when I look back I cringe at how inappropriate it all was.

I made a move to hospitality and worked in a number of hotels over a 14-year period.  One of the roles I had was head concierge and as it turned out, I was the first female in Scotland to hold this role; it was and still seems to be a male dominated role within hotels. I was given the task of bringing a fresh approach to a very traditional service and let’s just say it didn’t go down well with some members of the team. I was on the receiving end of some choice phrases such as “What do you expect when you put a woman in the role” and “I won’t be spoken to, especially not by a woman”. It was hard going at times but the rotten apples left, the team settled down and eventually we (me) were judged on performance and not gender. I had a further opportunity for promotion and although being a working mum brought the usual challenges, I managed the balance and enjoyed the additional responsibility. New ownership brought in a new manager who, early on, showed a lack of empathy for working mums. He told me his wife was a stay at home mum as careers and children just didn’t work; he viewed me as less committed to my job based on being a parent ... incredible to think that was just 6 years ago. It’s so true that working mothers are often expected to work as if they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.

However, as it turned out leaving hotels was one of the best decisions I ever made as it led me to the University and my amazing Conferencing & Events team - a welcome and refreshing change!

A group of conference organisers in the Technology and Innovation Centre

What are the moments that have made you proudest so far?

I really had to push myself in terms of my career when I was younger; it didn’t come naturally at all.  Both my parents had passed away by the time I was 18 and my job meant security; I was never keen to mess about with that safety net. Looking back, there were challenging moments, but I donned my big girl pants, stepped up and it paid off; these were proud moments for sure. I’m glad that I didn’t let age or lack of skills hold me back from a fresh challenge … as an older woman (from a certain era) there was that notion of having to convince an employer to take a risk on you instead of believing in yourself and the skills or experience you could bring to a role.

And of course, I am super super proud to be part of our incredible award-winning Conferencing & Events team, it’s genuinely a privilege to get to work with the best human beings.

What can colleagues do to help to achieve equity and inclusion for all?

Improve awareness - find resources to educate themselves. Educational material that includes examples of different types of discrimination, unconscious biases, offensive language. Accept and celebrate everyone for their differences.

TIC staff wearing Christmas jumpers for charity

Name a woman that has inspired you, either professionally or personally.

Has to be Louise from Thelma & Louise.  I was about 21 when I first saw this movie; it was deep and powerful and probably the first time I really understood female empowerment. It wasn’t about man bashing, it had important messages about choices and the life you make for yourself. Louise is sassy, fiercely independent, she’s generous and caring, a friend you can rely on, and importantly she champions other women. We females really need to empower and celebrate each other more.

I would like to know my son has strong female role models growing up and because of this, I would like to think that when I look in the mirror I see the woman I aspire to be looking back at me.

Thanks Wendy, we’re so lucky to have you as part of our team! To find out more about Conferencing and Events, feel free to contact us – we’d love to hear from you!