University of Leicester's Wall of Women engages entire community
The University of Leicester understands the importance of valuing women and their achievements, which is why for International Women's Day 2019 the University created Leicester's Wall of Women as a visual showcase of its female staff and students.
Led by the University's Women’s Staff Forum and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team, members of the University were invited to write a message on a plaque explaining why a specific woman inspires them. Each plaque was then placed on the Wall of Women throughout the week of IWD. After the week of IWD, the wall was dissembled and each plaque was returned to the individual nominated for them to keep beyond IWD.
Although the University of Leicester has annual student and staff award ceremonies, it recognises that sometimes everyday staff and students aren't celebrated. After seeing that Nottingham Trent University (NTU) had used this unique approach for International Women's Day in the previous year, the University of Leicester asked NTU if they could expand on their work and it was agreed.
An inclusive University-wide event
The aim of the University's Wall of Women was to be inclusive and unite the University community. Female staff and students across the University could feature on the Wall, thanks to nominations from friends and colleagues.
As part of this inclusive activity, the University promoted the initiative in its marketing material including an impressive brochure, (something this University does each year), an informative webpage and via its social media channels to encourage University-wide participation.
The location of the Wall of Women was also important for inclusion and reach. It was put on central campus in the Student Union building that receives high footfall. The University decorated the Wall with IWD #BalanceForBetter messaging. By locating the Wall centrally, people began meaningful conversations about the purpose of the Wall and IWD in general, and why both are important for the University.
There was also an option for providing messages via email for staff who were located on the University's Hospital campuses where access was less easy.
An overwhelming amount of nominations
As nominations poured in throughout the week, every name was logged and ten names were randomly selected each day to attend a larger IWD closing ceremony celebration. The event included speeches from the University's Vice Chancellor, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and the Chair of the Women’s Forum. Staff were able to enjoy lunch, view IWD material, receive a #BalanceForBetter wristband and enjoy a performance from the Student Gospel Choir.
The impact was much greater than the University expected. As word spread regarding the wall, tweets came in and people were making special trips to look at the Wall and submit a nomination. The Wall received 1,308 plaques and gained attention from the local media, both TV and radio. In response to the University of Leicester's IWD initiative, women commented said they felt inspired, emotional and overwhelmed by seeing the Wall and their own dedicated plaques.