To round off our IWD special, Chiara Vivaldi, women’s contributor shared the stories of some of the brilliant women of UCL. Enjoy!!
Hannah and Karin
Hannah Wei, Economics
Women in finance is a very large society here in UCL: its central purpose is to promote women’s rights in the financial field and, more broadly, in the workplace. I think the fact that such a society not only exists, but is also incredibly popular and influential is a great sign of success for the women’s rights movement.
Karin So, Economics
In the couple of career events that I have been to recently it was so palpable that inequalities have improved: there didn’t seem to be a stereotype of male dominance. I think this shows women our age that there is so much hope.
Grace Lawrence, Arts and Sciences: year 2
I have had the fortune to be able to travel a lot in my life. I lived in Hawaii during my gap year and travelled to Japan a few times. Along the way I lived with the people I met, and by doing so ended up getting to know some really incredible women and making amazing friends. The ones that stick out most are perhaps the women who had very troubling experiences but managed to make a life for themselves nonetheless. For example, this girl I met in Hawaii, Ashley, had a very tough upbringing and is now supporting both her parents, who are dependent on drugs and alcohol. I was 18 when we met, so I was very much in the midst of coming to know what it means to be a woman and to live away from home. She let me stay with her while I was there, and taught me what it means to be responsible; she showed me that you can take control of your life and be happy despite all the hardships. Women like her have inspired and influenced me immensely.
Jenn Vassiliadi, Arts and Sciences: year 2
I admire academics like my Game Theory lecturer, Dr. Manuela dal Borgo. She teaches in so many fields: she did her PhD in the classics department, teaches game theory, but also mathematics and economics. She teaches both here at UCL and in Cambridge. And, on top of that, she does so many other non-teaching related things. She’s such a dynamic and acknowledged woman; qualities that I aspire to have. It’s very inspiring to see women like her be so influential and empowered by their knowledge and their willpower. It really shows that nowadays, when you have energy and love what you do you can achieve so much.
Giulia Ferraro, Affiliate student: Arts and Sciences
When I was 7, upon not finishing my timetable exercises, a teacher at school told me that I was stupid and would never be able to study sciences. Obviously, as a 7-year-old, this hit me to the core, and it took a lot of convincing from my parents to overcome it. I was very lucky to have such motivating parents; they would tell me, “no, Giulia, you CAN do it.” Now I’m studying physics at university and I am enjoying it tremendously. The fact that I could overcome comments like that one teacher’s makes me feel powerful and confident in myself. Ultimately, the fact that people like my parents exist gives me hope for humanity and for the future, because it’s the encouragement and the belief that I could do whatever I want that ended up actually taking me where I am now.
Christina Athanasiadou, Psychology: year 3
I feel deeply inspired by Claire Fox. She is a clinical psychologist who, aside from the incredible impact that she has made in the fields of neuroscience and clinical psychology, has also really focused on talking about how women can succeed in science and, more specifically, psychology research. She has a very large team made of up only women, and together they have contributed to the scope of knowledge in topics such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Because I also want to have a career in psychology, I really admire and respect her. She makes me believe that women working all together can really achieve a lot of things in scientific research.
Devora Khafi, International relations: year 2
Knowing what my family has gone through really empowers me as a person and as a woman. My grandparents left Afghanistan to go to the US after WW2 in search of a better future, but in the end, after many travels, ended up settling in Singapore. Because of this I’ve grown up to the stories of women not being allowed to do certain things, like go to school or walk around without their husband. Knowing that I have the ability to do all this, as well as having the certainty that I can decide my own future and do the things that I love makes me feel incredibly empowered. The simple contrast between what my family has gone through and where I am now gives me so much hope for what more we can achieve in the future.
Khulan Davaajavl, International relations and Hebrew: year 1
I’ve been positively surprised to see that a lot of presidents and vice presidents of UK university societies are female. Contrary to the role of president (in the ‘head of state’ sense of the word), which is typically a male-dominated one, so many females, like myself, take up leadership roles in universities. This makes me so excited because I just want everyone to be involved in this general movement towards a more equal society, where anyone can have whatever role they please, and where women are not confined to living a domestic house wife lifestyle.
There’s a lot of people out there that make me really hopeful about the future of women’s rights. Take Ivanka Trump: she’s a working mother, and works daily to promote women’s rights in the workplace and on campuses. However she does so in a way that I think is very important. She’s very composed and dedicates her time to be the kind of feminist that I would like to be. I would much rather be like Ivanka than run around with my tits out and have people think I am crazy. This is why I try to do well in my course and get involved in a lot of activities: so that people know me in a positive way as someone they can understand and admire.
Lea Malinur, Law and French Law: year 2
All my life I felt like I needed straight hair to be pretty, because that’s what has always been imposed upon me. The other morning I left the house after having straightened my hair, but whilst I was walking outside it started raining, making my fringe go all curly again. I walked into a café and this guy of color comes up to me and says, “oh my God, your hair looks beautiful.” It made my day! Now, I’m not saying that you need a guy’s approval to feel pretty. But the simple acknowledgment – especially from anther person of color – that my natural hair was beautiful made me feel so strong and comfortable with myself. It reminded me that my natural, messy, Afro fringe is part of who I am, making it gorgeous despite any trends and ideals of beauty I have grown up with.
Louise Sala, Arts and Sciences: year 2
I’m very close with my grandmother. While I was talking to her recently I started realizing that at 20, the age I am now, she was about to get married and have kids. At the time she was not allowed to work or open a bank account without her husband’s permission. I thought, here I am, alone in a city away from my family, in my second year of university, thinking ahead about what I will do for my masters degree and even already considering a PhD. This parallel between her life and mine makes me feel really lucky and confident in the tangibility of the progress we’ve had. What’s more is that now my grandmother is 80 and as modern as ever: she lives life as a divorcee, lives on her own, goes to the movies almost every day, goes on holiday with her friends, and is the most open minded person I know. She is all these things despite her past, meaning that there must be something right in society – there must be some powerful force that I hope will propel us even further forward and become ubiquitous in all societies. My grandmother is the living proof that you can build your own life, and the ultimate manifestation that progress is real.