Page:Women's History Month

Women's History Month

Wednesday 10-03-2021 - 13:21

This year's theme for International Women’s Day was #ChooseToChallenge.

Every day, we choose to challenge stereotypes, gender bias and inequality in our community! We also provide a space for groups of students with shared experiences to come together to meet new people, be a voice for their community and undertake campaigns or other activities that improve the experiences of students within their community. 

At Leeds Beckett Students' Union, we represent and celebrate ALL women.

Join our women community today

Our Officer Team this year is the first all-woman team to lead our organisation and as we celebrate Women’s History Month, they wanted to share their experience with you, as Officers at LBSU but also as students at Leeds Beckett: 

Barbara Pereira, Union Affairs Officer

Being the first all-woman team at LBSU  

As someone who has studied International Relations and Peace Studies at Leeds Beckett University, I have found my own journey with feminism both within my academic studies and personal life fascinating. I’m so proud of the work we put in day in and day out as Leeds Beckett SU’s officer team to support students. The women I work alongside genuinely make me feel empowered and supported to take on anything. 

Being a woman at university and getting involved 
I have struggled so much to navigate my own internal battle of imposter syndrome and perfectionism during my journey at LBU. ‘Fake it till you make it’ became a constant internal dialogue I had with myself. I am thankful to all the women I have met along the way both as a student and as an officer, who have been so open about navigating their own expectation levels in order to manage everything at once. Looking inwards and noticing my own ways of thinking and triggers has really helped to avoid periods of burnout. 


Advice for LBU students 

I’m not someone that tends to really have regrets in life, but with that there are things I wish I would have done sooner during my experience at LBU. I’ve worked really hard on looking after my own wellbeing over the last few years and learning what works and what doesn’t for me; a big one for me was learning to be present with my thoughts. 

Looking back, if I was to give my first-year self any advice it would be: 

  • If you’re faced with a challenge that’s making you feel anxious, are you making your choice out of love for yourself or out of fear? 
  • Stop sticking to what you know, discover new hobbies and meet new people 
  • Your course staff team wants what’s best for you so be open with them 
  • Learn to lean on others sooner, rather than retreating 
  • No matter what your day looks like have a morning routine to fall on 
  • Exercise because you love what your body can do, not for what it looks like 
  • Don’t avoid society events just because you don’t know anyone attending yet 
  • You never know where a small opportunity or position could take you 
  • LinkedIn only seems intimidating until you get into your groove on it 
  • Planning uni deadlines into your diary is important, but also look up when guest talks will be on, block time to rest and do nothing and keep some weekends free - you never know when new experiences could pop up 

Plans for the future 

To many this won’t come as a surprise, but I see myself still working to support young people. I feel so blessed and grateful for all the experiences I have had that have shaped me and got me to this point, and I want to support other young people, help them realise their potential and find their path into adulthood. In the workplace, I see myself surrounded by inspirational women coming together to do just that – supporting our younger generations so that they thrive and feel driven to be their most authentic selves, and feel supported as they walk into their twenties 

Anna crooks, Activities & Events Officer

Being the first all-woman team at LBSU  

It’s an inspiration that during this time an all-woman officer team represent LBSU. The young female leaders that I work with every day have driven change and led the way in supporting students at what is, without a doubt, the most stressful time to be a student. 

Being a woman at university and getting involved 
I got involved with sports when I first came to uni and it shaped my whole university experience. When I first joined Thai Boxing, I felt a bit intimated. It was a male-dominated team, with only 4 girls on it (including me!), so I felt outnumbered at times - especially at socials. However, I wanted to change this. Women often play less sports than men and that doesn’t sit right with me. 

I plucked up the courage to run for the captain of the team in 2018 and I won... I was pretty surprised that I did! As the first female captain, I made it my aim to increase the number of women getting involved with Thai Boxing. By the end of the year, half of our members identified as women, and the committee of the following year reflected this. This was a big achievement for just under a year, and I was motivated to try and make these changes on a larger scale. I was elected Athletic Union Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity in 2019 and I worked closely with the AU to break down the barriers that women face in sports. We worked on ways to make sports more accessible, less intimating and launched campaigns like This Girl Can. However, I felt like I needed to do more. That’s why I ran in the SU Leadership Elections in 2020. 

I would say that lack of confidence has been the biggest obstacle I’ve faced. However, from feeling a little left out at socials to becoming the first female captain and then social sec of the team, it’s crazy to see how much an experience like this has boosted my confidence. I hope that by encouraging other women to get involved with sports we’ll build a more equitable world, full of women and girls with boundless confidence who #choosetochallenge 
Advice for LBU students 

Just go for it! Whilst you're at uni, go to as many events as you can, join societies, sports teams - anything that might seem scary! My university experience was incredible - but that’s because I had the courage to go to that first training session on my own. It’s so true that, “Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone” (Shannon L. Alder). 

Plans for the future 

In 5 years, above all, I want to be more confident. I have no idea what career I see myself in, though I hope to be inspiring other women, challenging bias and smashing gender-stereotypes. 

Pango Simwaka, Welfare & Community Officer

Being the first all-woman team at LBSU 

It’s been wonderful working with women from different backgrounds, we are all the same yet so different which makes every day interesting. 

Being a woman at university and getting involved 
Contrary to popular belief, I’ve never been the most confident person and I've always struggled to put myself out there - the Imposter Syndrome is real! Overcoming this was a mixture of internal and external support, following people on social media who I wanted to be like, and who I could realistically be like. I made strategic connections on LinkedIn and following people on my Instagram and watched people who share their stories on YouTube.  

Having a strong support system was key to overcoming the voices in my head, my family and friends always kept me accountable, and I was lucky to have been part of the Politics and International Relations department who kept cheering me on every time I wanted to just disappear, which made me feel able to really put myself out there and get people to vote for me. 

Advice for LBU students 

There is beauty in things not going your way or how you expected them to go. Never stop trying just because things get difficult. 

Plans for the future 

In 5 years, I want to work in international development, learning and understanding communities in the global south. 


Sherry Iqbal, Education Officer
My role in particular focusses on the academic experience, anything that impacts a student studying is right up my street! 

My role is a funny one as you have to be elected; so, I went out to the students of Leeds Beckett with promises of delivering an excellent educational experience, and I’ve done just that. Whether it was securing a safety net to support students throughout the pandemic, lobbying not only locally, but nationally for funding, making mitigation easier to access for students, or raising the voices of underrepresented students by creating programmes such as the Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicity Student Ambassador scheme, it’s fair to say that it’s been a busy couple of years! 

Being a woman at university and getting involved 

I’m really proud of the positive changes made throughout my tenure, but if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t easy. We know of the challenges in society that many of us face; the lack of representation, the biases and perceptions placed upon people that are from specific groups, which brings imposter syndrome, the feeling that we don’t belong if there aren’t people like us and that we’re not worthy. Trust me when I say that these feelings are the friends I never asked for. Whenever I walk into a boardroom or attend a conference, I ask myself why I’m there and the doubt in myself settles in. I don’t remember how I got to feeling this way... I never used to, but the microaggressions build that feeling of doubt. This is where I #choosetochallenge. Every time someone looks at me funny, says I ‘speak eloquently’ because they don’t expect a woman, or an Asian to speak so well, I choose to challenge those thoughts.  

I refuse to be unable to call myself a leader, refuse to feel guilty when I need to say no to things in order to support my own mental health, and I refuse to accept the thoughts of people that think badly of me because I’m a woman or because I don’t look like them. I have a wealth of experience under my belt, and I am entitled to take this space, it’s taken me 25 years but I’m here. The thing that got me through was asking myself 'if I don’t tackle those thoughts, who will? If I don’t speak up for myself, who else will?'.

The people who have helped me get to where I am now have always been the women around me. Being in awe of these women has always helped me, we’ve empowered, supported and understood the reasons and need to fight for our spaces. These women have built me up when I’ve needed it, they’ve listened and provided me with ice cream or my folder when I’ve needed it and I’ll forever be grateful to them. They were able to make me see the strength and beauty in me and I hope I’ve been able to convince them of theirs. We understand the challenges we’ve faced and listen to each other. The importance of having strong, supportive people is so important. 

I am so thankful for the experiences I’ve had, because I can reflect and know that I’ve only learnt from them. I also know that there are spaces and experiences I’ve had that hopefully other women who will follow won’t have, and this is down to being able to challenge. Challenging people, spaces, and institutions. The time people thought I was an assistant to a male colleague, the time people doubted the knowledge I’ve had, or my ability to speak English, and the times people thought I was lost and wasn’t meant to be in their spaces. They were wrong, and I chose to challenge them. I chose not to settle for the prejudice, I chose to ask why people had these predispositions, and where they came from. I chose to be strong, to make sure my sisters and siblings that come after me never have to experience what I did. 

Plans for the future  

As many of you will know, I am due to finish my role as your Education officer at Leeds Beckett Students’ Union in June. I look forward to welcoming the new officers, passing down any useful knowledge, supporting and empowering them so they can efficiently represent you, and I promise to cheer along on the side-lines.  

I’m incredibly excited for the future, and I hope I can use the skills and knowledge I’ve gained here to continue representing, advocating and supporting people. If my degree in Speech and Language Therapy doesn’t demonstrate my need to support people, then I don’t know what does. I look forward to challenging roles and learning more about the world and people. Maybe I’ll end up merging Speech and Language Therapy and representation... let’s see! 

Always remember the importance of finding your people, don’t be afraid to be a little weird, and remember that you are incredible. 

For Women’s History Month, our partner Native has teamed up with internationally acclaimed writer, coach and public speaker, Stefanie Sword Williams, to present an exclusive Self Promo Masterclass! Stefanie is the founder and author of F*ck Being Humble. She set up the platform to encourage individuals to be unapologetically proud of their achievements and overcome the fear of self-promotion! 

Join us tonight to learn the best ways to showcase your talent and experience to get noticed for all the right reasons. It's free!!! Book your place here



Related Tags :

More Leeds Beckett Students' Union Articles

More Articles...