Herlene Benjamin, a professional in the oil and gas industry and an aspiring female leader, discusses combatting prejudices and creating space as a strong female leader.
Sophie Thompson is the CEO and Co-Founder of VirtualSpeech, an award winning VR soft skills training platform that combines e-learning with practice in virtual reality. Sophie is an MSc International Business Alumna and is also an Advisory Board Member for The Academy of International Extended Reality. Sophie was also invited to the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list event in 2019 alongside the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Prince Harry and Jimmy Wales.
Why do we need more women in leadership/educational roles?
We need more women in leadership because we’re 50% of the population and our voices, needs and insights should be heard and represented as such. How can we support and elevate education and business if we ignore the experiences and input of 50% of the population?
We need women’s voices, experiences and expertise to foster truly inclusive work environments. We need diverse voices and the wealth of knowledge that comes with that so that businesses can operate from a place of equality, where everyone can thrive – and that starts with us.
We need women to have a seat at the table at every level. We don’t want the future of education, business, new tech products, and even digital worlds, to be built and decided on just by men, for men.
Have you ever had to challenge gender inequality or stereotypes / take action against bias within your educational journey?
I’ve been fortunate not to experience many gender stereotypes that could be harmful. I’ve had people talk over me because I’m a young woman in tech, where they have spoken to my male business partner of a similar age in a very different way than they have to me.
I’ve been told before that I smile too much to be taken seriously and that I should tie my blonde hair up for meetings to look more professional. It’s sad because there is an underlying element of having to prove yourself more as a woman. But I believe this is shifting with more and more women in the workplace, and on the occasions I do experience gender inequalities, I just remind myself that I’m in the room for a reason. A man talking over me or someone choosing to stereotype me doesn’t take away my knowledge, expertise and achievements.
What inspirational message can you give to young women reading this?
What would you do if you were a man? If gender bias and experiences didn’t exist, who would you be? Have the courage to be her - to unashamedly be yourself and go for what you want.
Learn more about our MSc in International Business.
Find out about other Inspiring Women at WBS.