Women's Leadership Network host national conference

Over 80 women from colleges around the country came together on International Women’s Day to network and develop their leadership capabilities, reports Samantha King

To incubate strategic leaders within an organisation, it’s necessary to push power downwards, share more information, allow people to try their hand at decision-making and make it safe to fail, according to keynote speaker Jessica Leitch, the principal and joint head of design at Adaptive Lab.

The most common reason for leaving an organisation is one’s manager, and Ms Leitch advised organisations to create alternative routes for employees to submit innovative ideas that might circumnavigate their line manager.

Jessica Leitch

The audience of women in FE were gathered at London’s Morley College – founded in 1889 as the first institution of its kind to admit both men and women on an equal footing – for the annual Women’s Leadership Network conference, where they were welcomed by college principal Andrew Gower and WLN’s director of operations Kathryn James.

FE Week’s very own head of digital, Cath Murray, gave attendees advice on using social media to boost their professional profile, and coached some delegates through setting up a Twitter profile and penning their first ever tweets, using the conference hashtag #WLNFE2018.

A workshop on flexible working, led by Helen Wright, the founder of flexible working agency 9-2-3 Jobs, invited delegates to brainstorm ideas of how FE could be more accommodating of those who work part-time – whether due to caring responsibilities or personal choice.

Sally Dicketts, the chief executive of Activate Learning, suggested shifting the focus from the “unimaginative” approach of measuring time spent in the office each week, to monitoring outcomes instead.

“We have to be really clear as managers about what outcomes we expect at the end of the month,” she said.

Dr Carole Edmond, a researcher in female attainment, advised delegates to stay “in touch with the big picture” and know what’s going on both inside one’s organisation and in the sector at large.

“If we work head-down, bum up, we’ll miss opportunities for career advancement,” she quipped.

Speaking after the event, delegate Jas Sondhi, the director for learner experience at Westminster Kingsway College, said: “We want to make a difference and believe we can lead change, however this can only be achieved by having a strong voice that’s heard by all – the conference reinforced this again and again.”

The WLN is encouraging women across FE to fill in their survey, which aims to gather views on the future of the network.