8 March was International Women’s Day and we are keeping the celebration of women alive here at The Student Room. You can read the next installment of our “inspiring women in business” interviews today. Many of you know her from our recent education webinars, or from the amazing work she delivers with such passion across the education sector, it’s Lorna Greville:
Hey Lorna. Thanks for sharing for our “inspiring women in business” interviews. Can you tell me a bit about what you do at The Student Room?
As Education Account Director, I’m lucky enough to manage a fantastic team of people and oversee their professional development. I also have strategic oversight on the ways we look after the universities and education providers we work with.
My journey to The Student Room was a long and winding one, so I won’t go into the detail, but ultimately every move I’ve made has brought me closer to young people.
I started as a teacher in a private language school, teaching classes of just nine children, and now I work with almost all HE151s in the UK and I’m part of the largest student community in the UK.
Early in my career those moves were unconscious, but a few years ago there was a switch that went on in my head and I realised my ultimate goal is to support as many young people around the world as possible.
Who knows where that vision will take me, but if anyone shares it then let’s change the world together!
Who is your favourite female role model and why?
I have two really, one close to home and one a little more nebulous.
A role model I found in my early twenties is author Toni Morrison. Both her non-fiction and fiction writing changed the way I think about the world.
Her first novel was called The Bluest Eye, and she wrote it because she wanted to put a spotlight one the most invisible and downtrodden people in America; a black, female child.
She cared about unheard voices and retold history with honest and raw truth.
I try really hard to listen to quiet voices and seek out different points of view. As a white woman, I’m acutely aware of my privilege and perhaps I don’t always do as much about it as I could, but if I can share even the tiniest shard of wisdom and empathy from what Toni Morrison has put into the world then I’ll have done well.
My first role model in life was my grandmother. She arrived in London as an immigrant when she was a teenager because she wanted to improve her English.
She met someone, got married, had kids and very quickly got divorced.
What astounds me about her is that despite getting divorced and having a supportive family in her home country that she could have returned to, she chose to stay. I really admire here strength and stoicism.
She wanted to make sure her children grew up close to their father and prioritised their relationship over her own feelings.
My grandmother worked until she was in her late 70s and had an attitude that meant she just kept going.
Aside from that, she also had the best sense of humour. Everything was funny to her and through that she built incredible friendships that lasted a lifetime.
That’s the kind of person I always want to be; someone that works hard, loves well and laughs constantly.
The theme of International Women’s Day 2020 highlighted that women’s issues and business and leadership issues are one and the same. What do you think about that? Do you feel your working environment benefits from having female leaders?
I am enormously lucky because I have always had truly incredible female leaders. In all environments, when you have leaders that you can see yourself in, it’s really empowering.
In my first marketing role, my direct manager was just like me but with ten years more experience. Lou was a fellow runner, she loved traveling, she was a grafter, and she was also incredibly empathic.
I learned so much from her about what it means to be a leader by experiencing her ambition, energy, and patience, and I make a conscious effort to share those lessons with my team.
People like that demonstrate why having diversity in the Senior Management Team and at board level makes such a difference.
When you identify with someone, you feel more comfortable confiding in them, and it’s by being open and connected that we all ultimately improve and grow into our potential.
That’s not just limited to female leadership, but leadership of all kinds.
Where do you feel we have the most work to do when it comes to improving the position of women in leadership, and in the workplace generally?
You know this is a really difficult question because I do think that The Student Room and the Higher Education marketing sector is already very empowering for women.
In my view though, the biggest thing that has held women back from leadership roles is the assumption that women will always be primary caregivers. There’s still an expectation that women will take more time off from work to have children.
In lots of ways the right changes are happening: more and more men are taking up the opportunity to use paternity leave, there’s more shared parenting generally and far better parental leave policies.
If we continue to shift towards parental responsibilities being shared equally, I believe the position of women in work and in leadership will vastly improve.
If workplaces put a framework in place that includes fair parental leave policies and flexibility for parents returning to work, then I’m confident more mothers will return to work and step up into leadership roles. This can only benefit organisations by widening the talent pool.
How have you collaborated with and boosted other women at work?
I have two main wonderful female collaborators at The Student Room.
Firstly, my fellow Education Account Director, Aimee, who was promoted into the role a few months ago.
Aimee and I have complementary skillsets, underpinned by a very similar view of management and success, which makes us an excellent team. She’s very detail-oriented and conscientious, whereas I’m fast-paced with lots of big ideas.
I really encouraged Aimee to apply for the role, and have tried to support her as she’s settled in – although she really doesn’t need much support!
Secondly, I work very closely with our B2B Marketing Manager, Marissa, on The Student Room’s content and communications.
It has been invigorating having another assertive, creative and ambitious woman around who has the same goals as me and a similar professional background.
Marissa and I spend a lot of time bouncing ideas off one another and then putting them into action and it’s been a great partnership so far.
What I value so much about both Aimee and Marissa is that they make me better at my job, and I hope our interactions do the same for them.
Tell me about how female leadership in the Higher Education sector inspires you.
I feel so lucky to work in the Higher education sector, particularly with my focus on marketing and student recruitment.
Not only are the vast majority of my university partners women, they are also fierce, strategic, empathic and driven. That’s the sort of people I just love to surround myself with.
I’m also inspired by our UK campuses because they are so inclusive and embracing of LGBTQ+, even in small things like everyone wearing rainbow lanyards.
Having said this, senior leadership and executive boards in universities could absolutely stand to be more diverse, not least by including more women and POC in decision-making. And I’d love to see more black senior academics in visible roles. Representation matters.
What are your hopes for women in the future – both at your organisation and globally?
I hope we continue to make the best use of the talents and energies of all people. I would also love to see our workforce continue to become more diverse in all ways.
My hopes for women the world over are for them to be able to live without fear of persecution, without fearing for their safety, and with the ability to learn, grow and thrive unhindered by prejudice.
As I’m sure almost all readers will know, currently women are far more likely to be murdered by men than vice-versa.
Women are also more likely to be the victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence rates are through the roof.
It’s also predominantly male members of state who decide on the reproductive rights of women (which are often barbaric).
At work, we still earn less than men, both in actual and equivalent terms, and we are far more likely to do unpaid work or be undervalued for the caregiving of family members.
Looking at the other side of the coin, men are also suffering in our status quo. UK unemployment is higher among men than women, men are far less likely to go to university than women, globally almost all murdered people are men, almost all casualties of war are men, and the biggest killer of young men is suicide.
Women are currently leading the way to improve equality, but they shouldn’t have to do it alone. Men have a key role to play in transforming the way they interact with the world and with one another. Nothing worth having comes easy, but this is worth having.
What do you love about being a woman?
Having never been a man, I’ll just have to answer what I love about being alive.
I really love my female friendships; they are lifelong, constant, supportive, emotional and deep.
I have a wonderful group of women that I can rely on to have fun with and to have some of those life-changing deep conversations.
I’m grateful that I’ve been raised to always be open about my feelings.
Something I really value, that I feel sad many men don’t have, is the freedom to flex between “male” and “female” traits; it’s easier for women to wear traditionally masculine clothes or take up masculine hobbies than it is for men to do the same in reverse.
I wear trousers more often than skirts or dresses, and yet I very rarely see men in traditionally female clothing.
Similarly, Rugby – as a physically aggressive sport – is seen as very masculine and yet women’s rugby is the fastest-growing participation sport in the UK.
I wonder what the growth is for men taking up Netball?
The ability to enjoy both masculine and feminine things without retribution is something I really love!
We’ll be back soon with more from our inspiring women series. So keep an eye on this blog over the next few days.
B2B Marketing Manager
The Student Room