The article “Female academics told image more important than quality of work” (News, 25 January) rightly highlighted that women in higher education (like men) will be judged in a certain way in the workplace. At the Leadership Foundation, we devised our flagship Aurora leadership programme for women in both academic and professional services roles.
Rather than see women as the problem, as one commentator in the article suggests, Aurora aims to empower women to improve opportunities for themselves and others in the university – men as well as women. Aurora, which runs over four development days, covers themes such as power and politics, identity, voice, and core and adaptive leadership skills. We work with universities to create Aurora champions (who can be men or women) who are also responsible for providing each Aurora participant with a mentor. This ensures that participants continue their development beyond the programme with a senior member of staff supporting them in their institution, as well as with a new network of contacts that they have acquired from Aurora. All this gives women confidence and encouragement to take on roles within their universities for which they might otherwise be overlooked.
Our longitudinal study, Onwards and Upwards (independently researched by Loughborough University), demonstrates that Aurora participants are more likely to go for promotions and have an increasing chance of being successful in securing new roles.
No development programme is perfect, but as the almost 3,500 participants who have completed Aurora in the first four years of the programme will testify, a lot of good work is being done to break down such outdated perceptions of women in the workplace.
Director of leadership development
Leadership Foundation for Higher Education