Women coming together to inspire

Women Leaders and Aspiring Women Leaders came together at the University to take part in a conference jointly hosted by the University of Sunderland, WomenEd and Women Leading in Education.  The theme of the conference was: 'New Challenges 2019: Preparing for a Leadership Role.'

Delegates were able to find out about the ways in which WomenEd and Women Leading in Education can support them at all points on their leadership journey.  

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The Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, Dr Lynne McKenna, is a regional leader of WomenEd, supporting their “10% Braver” motto and encouraging women to pursue leadership opportunities.  She conceptualised the conference, recognising the regional importance of hosting it at the University of Sunderland – an organisation which prides itself on supporting women leaders and aspiring women leaders.

The conference was opened by Melanie Bear (WomenEd North East Leader) and Nikki Smith (from DfE Women Leading in Education) who gave excellent presentations on the work of their organisations and the ways in which leaders and aspiring leaders can become involved and get support – including through being linked with experienced leadership coaches to support their journey.  

Delegates were very enthused by inspiring presentations given by Sarah Dixon- Jones (Executive Head of Mill Hill and Houghton Community nursery Schools), Helen Mather (Assistant Principal of Southmoor Multi Academy Trust) and Monica Shepherd (Principal of St Anthony’s Catholic Academy for Girls and director of Schools North East).  

Sarah talked passionately about her route into leadership and the ways in which her leadership roles have progressed.  She shared the challenges she had faced along the way and how she was able to overcome them in order to reach her goals.  

Helen talked about her leadership journey and future aspirations.  She discussed finding paths into leadership and knowing what she wanted from her career.  In giving delegates a flavour of her own work since she qualified, Helen (a former University of Sunderland trainee) was able to demonstrate a very different leadership path to Sarah and show how it is possible to progress in one MAT if you have a passion for it.

Monica gave some invaluable advice to delegates about how to identify and apply for suitable leadership roles and the ways in which aspiring leaders can plot their career aspirations and follow them.  She identified where challenges may lie, but also the ways they can be overcome if you are passionate about what you want to achieve for yourself. 

Closing the event, Dr. Lynne McKenna drew the inspiring messages of the other speakers together and re-emphasised the “10% Braver” message.  She spoke about her own passion to develop leaders within the Faculty of Education and Society and the importance of supporting her staff in their own career and academic development.

The conference was exceptionally well received and opportunties for delegates to network led to them being able to make new connections to support them in their future goals.  Comments about the inspirational nature of the event were received through feedback and via the WomenEd hashtag (#WomenEd), such as:

“…congratulations on a great event. I certainly left feeling inspired by the speakers.”

“Such a great event this evening!  Thank you to the wonderful speakers…”

WomenEd NE and Women Leading in Education run a range of events regionally and nationally which can be booked free of charge via EventBrite.  



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