In order to shed light on their mission, events, and goals, The Saint sat down to talk with the committee of Women in Work, a fairly new society in St Andrews hoping to relaunch its founders’ initial efforts this year.
Women in Work was founded in 2014 under the name Women in Office by two St Andrews students, Zara Thacker and Zara Evans. In 2017, the society was taken over by Veronica Farah and Alexandra Holker, the current President and Vice President. By transitioning away from large, speaker-based conferences to focusing on talks breaking down socioeconomic and gender barriers, the two are rebranding and transforming the career and female focused society.
The society employs a three-pronged approach through their focus on networking and speaker based events, dinners and workshops, and general relationship building guidance.
Ms Farah and Ms Holker, who are leading the rebranding effort, served together for a year under the previous committee of Women in Office. Their familiarity with one another and other committee members has helped to streamline the transition.
Although the society was officially founded in 2014, this year it became affiliated with the union for the first time, a process that took a few years of trial and error. Both Ms Farah and Ms Holker credit this process with teaching them valuable lessons and being of overall benefit to the current society.
As the semester continues on, Ms Farah and Ms Holker feel confident that the committee is now fully formed with a focused aim, brand, and direction. Women in Work currently has a 9 person committee and forty members, a number that will surely continue to grow throughout the coming semesters.
As Ms Holker and Ms Farah stated, due to their very recent affiliation with the union, all forty members joined the society just this past September. To acquire such a large number of members as a newer society is a testament to how important and relevant their mission statement. Ms Holker said, “It is definitely an amazing feeling to know how relevant our work can be for so many students, and how much attention people are paying attention to these issues now.”
Despite their recent successes, they are not content to sit back and relax. In fact, Women in Work is aggressively seeking to up their membership and expand as a society. The more students that they reach and who become involved, the more likely they will be to fulfill their goals: breaking gender and socioeconomic barriers.
As Ms Holker and Ms Farah reiterate, these goals are especially important in our current political and cultural climate. Less than a year ago, millions of women around the world took part in the Women’s March. Taking place around the world on 21st of January, 2017, the Women’s March was a protest against the unequal treatment of women and called for legislative action, female empowerment, and equality. There is still a great wage gap imbalance between men and women.
Having a society in St Andrews aimed at tackling such an imbalance is truly a necessity. As a university whose population is over 50 per cent female, it makes sense that issues of female equality, especially in the workplace and in terms of career development, are at the forefront.
One way in which the society is trying to recruit new members is through increasing their social media presence. Over the summer, the team placed an emphasis on building their social media platforms: increasing content, visibility, impact, and reach. Through spreading their message and actively promoting their agenda, they are helping to shed light on an issue of extreme relevance to St Andrews students potentially joining the workforce in the next year or two.
The Women in Work committee also relied heavily on the Freshers’ Fayre for new recruits. They sought to create a real presence, and make their society stand out from the myriads of others packed into the union. Ms Farah said, “By trying to be personable and passionate, we can attract many new members.
The main aim of breaking down socioeconomic and gender biases also taps directly into the founders’ own ethoses. They believe that while we have such a large population of talented, ambitious, young women, these young women face distinctive challenges after university. Ms Holkner and Ms Farah both said, “It is clear that many of them feel slightly lost when it comes to applying for jobs, and creating a career. Although we are in a position of privilege in St Andrews, that doesn’t mean that the glass ceiling doesn’t exist.”
Women in Work will be hosting monthly speakers ranging from professionals to humanitarians. There will be a speaker for nearly every career and academic field, so make sure you come along! While specific speakers are yet to be announced, Ms Holkner and Ms Farah stated their speaker event in April was successful, and included journalists, politicians, policewomen, and business women’. Women in Work will also be running several networking dinners and drinks, but also one large conference each year, details of which will be forthcoming. They also plan to release a series of workshops alongside and with support from their current sponsor Accenture.
One such workshop that Women in Work hopes to host in conjunction with Accenture is a CV and resume writing tutorial. As the only women’s based society in St Andrews which focuses on the practical logistics of being a woman in the workforce they can provide specific advice by catering specifically to female students. Plans are in the works for an internship prep guide workshop too, which could give students the opportunity to learn what employers are looking for in an interview as they address body language and confident speaking posture.
Alongside these workshops, Women in Work hope to connect with female students on a personal level through a mentorship scheme. Ideally, this scheme would pair up female alumnae with current St Andrews students based on interests, majors, and ideal careers. The opportunity to have a direct line of access with women already succeeding in your chosen career could be extremely beneficial. It could have unparalleled benefits for current students and truly be a once in a lifetime learning experience. Alumnae in the scheme receive a chance to give back to the St Andrews community from which they gained so much, and feel reconnected with their uni days. Furthermore, they could get the satisfaction of inspiring a future generation of female professionals.
Ms Farah stated, “We actively seek to provide practical answers and skills for those in need.” As a result, these events and ideas are not only tailored for the student body here at university. Women in Work is an all-inclusive society with aims to not just improve the career prospects and break down socioeconomic and gender norms of students, but also the town community at large. The society plans on inviting sixth formers from the local schools to attend various speaker events as well as the annual conference.
Indeed, opening up speaker events to younger girls could inspire them to continue to work hard. By running workshops on empowerment, breaking down gender norms and leadership for the young individuals, Women in Work hopes to introduce younger generations to a future full of possibilities.
In order to take advantage of all the events, workshops, and talks that Women in Work will be hosting this year, it is recommended to buy the £3 membership. Membership grants you access to subsidized tickets to events such as the larger conferences, dinners, and speaker talks. Tickets for these events can be found through Fixr and Tilt.
Meanwhile, the workshops and networking events that Women in Work will host are completely free. With or without membership, all students are invited and encouraged to attend any and all events that interest them. For students whom the Women in Work mission resonated with becoming a member is a must.
While committee applications closed early this month, even without a committee role, students can get involved in the society. By simply attending general and public meetings and any of their networking events, you come in direct contact with the guest speakers!
To get on the mailing list send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or message the Women in Work Facebook page.