We have been recently involved in organising the celebration of International Women’s Day at Sheffield Town Hall, together with other organizations, all put together by Councillor Jacqueline Drayton.
The structure of the morning was very simple: firstly we listened to Kathleen Roberts, one of the Women of Steel. She discussed her experience during the Second World War when the men were called up to war and the women had to work in the steel industry. It was a moving story where she explained that there was not a choice, it was hard work and she did not like it. The only bit that she liked was the actual engineering behind her manual work: she loved tearing the machine apart to understand a problem or to change the roll. She fell in love with engineering but she did not have the opportunity to pursue an engineering career as the men retook the women’s places in the steel industry, once the war was finished.
I loved every minute of dismantling a machine, a bit of engineering involved there! I wish I had the chance to do engineering but we didn’t get the change to do it! – Kathleen Roberts
Afterwards, the women present chose specific workshops to attend. As a society, we volunteered to organise a workshop regarding ‘Gender Traps’ in the work place. Attendees read a brief biography of successful business person and then they discussed the likeability and abilities of these characters.
The story was the same but the gender of the main character changed. People who read the story where the main character was male, described him as a nice guy, approachable, skilled and focused. People that read the female version, described her as an opportunist, career-focused and bossy person, not very friendly. Good discussions followed to reflect on the barriers that we, as women, put in front to ourselves in the workplace. Different generations and various work environments present different challenges and the feedback that we received was very mind opening.
The morning was concluded by five amazing women that talked about their journeys from their home countries to Sheffield, UK. Journeys caused by various reasons, from escaping the nazists during the Second World War to seeking political asylum or to start a Master degree. They were inspirational and it was useful to remember how privileged and protected we are to grow up in Europe.
Ultimately, Councillor Drayton auctioned a Jessica Ennis signed poster to raise money to build a statue of the women of steel, just outside Sheffield Town Hall. They are short 20k and need all the help that they can get! Prof. Rodriguez-Falcon won the auction and the poster will be in the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Sheffield.
The prototype of the statue is as the picture:
To help fund the statue,University of Sheffield Enterprise are running a unique fundraising challenge: Can you turn a tenner in to 100 quid? If 200 staff or students in the Faculty can do it, the Women of Steel fund will reach the final twenty thousand pound target for their campaign.
If you think you can do it, test your mettle and find out more about how to sign up and get enterprising here:
If you want to know more about the Women of Steel: