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To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, Eleanor Lee highlights the work and achievements of six inspiring women, all Fellows who joined the RSA in the past year, and reflects on the need to shift the gender balance within the Fellowship.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, as the campaign strives towards a ‘gender-balanced world’ – something we are working towards within the RSA Fellowship.

Looking at the women who became Fellows in the past year, there are many examples of individuals working to close gender and skills gaps, encourage openness and promote diversity in society.

I was keen to highlight some of the incredible accomplishments of our female Fellows in leadership positions, as they endeavour to create a culture where meaningful change can take place.

The women featured below are all trailblazers, as they act to improve inclusivity and equality in a range of communities and sectors.

Marilyn Comrie FRSA: Serial Entrepreneur and Equality & Inclusion Activist

Marilyn was awarded an OBE for services to women’s enterprise in 2009. As director of development at The Blair Project, she works to provide STEM education to disadvantaged young people. Marilyn is interested in closing the gender gap in motorsport and engineering, and will be launching Formula Girl in Autumn 2019, a sports brand where 40% of profits will go towards supporting female talent.

Additionally, Marilyn told me about a new initiative she is developing with other Fellows and leaders in Manchester, called True Diversity. They are working to improve employment outcomes for BAME people, so that the workforce truly reflects the local demographic in Greater Manchester. She passionately believes that ‘purposeful action needs to be taken now, to reverse the tide of growing social inequalities.’

Khadija Coll FRSA: Project Manager of One Community and Diversity Champion of the Year 

Khadija leads One Community, the first project at the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit focussed on working with women. Khadija has over 20 years of experience working with refugees, and campaigned to legislate against FGM in Scotland.

She works with the community champions on the One Community project, who are all women from Glasgow’s African community, helping to support young people and families to overcome different challenges. Khadija was a finalist for Scotswoman of the Year, and recently won Diversity Champion of the Year at the Scottish Diversity Awards.  

Jules Daulby FRSA: National Leader of #WomenEd

Jules has over a decades’ worth of experience in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and literacy. She has previously worked with the local authority, the Department for Education and the Driver Youth Trust, a dyslexia charity.

Jules is currently a consultant and a national leader for #WomenEd, a network connecting female leaders who are active in the education sector. #WomenEd are releasing a book, which will be launched on 9th of March, called 10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education.

She believes the way to a more inclusive education system is by looking for the strengths rather than the deficits of young people, something that can be achieved through flexibility and innovation within our schools.

Aliya Mohammed FRSA: Chief Executive of the Race Equality Council for South Wales

Aliya is CEO of Race Equality First (REF). The organisation campaigns against racial discrimination and hate crime, offering support to those affected and delivering a number of projects to promote equality. Aliya has advised the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and ensured that REF’s research project, which interviewed over 1,800 victims & perpetrators of hate crime, was used by the Welsh Government to create A Framework for Action on Hate Crime.

Aliya informed me that she is currently focussing on issues around mental health and the criminal justice system. REF has secured funding to deliver mental health services which will include peer-support groups and one-to-one counselling for individuals who are struggling with mental health.

Joanne Lockwood FRSA: Transgender Awareness and Inclusion Specialist

Joanne is the Founder and CEO of SEE Change Happen, a consulting firm delivering training and workshops to organisations about transgender awareness, support and inclusion. She works with businesses, public bodies, educators and other organisations to inform people about inclusion policies and promoting the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

The firm maintains that everybody should be able to bring their whole selves to work’. Also, Joanne delivers speeches and writes about transgender awareness, sharing her personal experiences to help support others. She recently featured in a Channel 4 documentary, called The Making of Me.

Samantha Asumadu FRSA: Filmmaker and Founder of Media Diversified

Since 2001, Samantha has actively campaigned on a range of issues including women’s representation, and her first documentary followed three female rally-drivers in Uganda. She went on to work for outlets such as CNN and covered stories of acid attacks, conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the 2010 Kampala bombings.

Samantha is committed to improving UK media, and founded Media Diversified in 2013, a platform for writers and journalists of colour. She also launched an Experts Directory, a database of BAME experts and professionals. In a Time Out article, Samantha reveals that she has secured funding to carry on commissioning new BAME writers and she is writing a book about her experiences as a foreign correspondent. 

Bringing Gender Balance to the RSA Fellowship 

All six of these inspiring women show the ways in which Fellows are improving society throughout the UK and internationally.

However, in keeping with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, it is important to recognise that the Fellowship is not yet gender-balanced. Presently, there is a split of 67% male, to 33% female. It is vital to address this historical disparity.

This is not just because we want to work towards equality in the Fellowship, but also because I believe that female Fellows collaborating and connecting, can lead to bigger changes in wider society.

If you are interested in learning more about the RSA and the Fellowship, please sign up on the form above. The best way to increase female representation, is simply to get more women interested in our global network.

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