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Inspiring female leadership in higher education

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Published on 01 May 2024

Chancellor Leanne Cahill
Chancellor Leanne Cahill

Women from across the University of Sunderland have visited Chancellor Leanne Cahill’s business to empower them as future leaders.

A group of representatives from the University spent the day at Bravissimo’s head office in Leamington Spa to learn from the team about different leadership strategies to help their career development as part of the Aurora Programme.

The Aurora programme is a leadership development initiative for women who work in higher education. This scheme aims to bring together leadership experts and HE institutions to address the under-representations of women in leadership positions in the sector.

Leanne Cahill, Chancellor of the University of Sunderland and CEO of Bravissimo, said: "I get to work with and spend time alongside some really inspirational people in my two roles as Chancellor of the University of Sunderland and as CEO of Bravissimo.

“It was so special to bring those two worlds together, to learn from each other and understand just how much we share both in strengths and challenges as women in leadership. It was such a special day."

Dr Helen DriscollInterim Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) and Aurora Champion at the University of Sunderland, said: “The day spent with the senior team at Bravissimo was outstanding. The Aurora cohort had the opportunity to view approaches to strategy and leadership through the lens of a company in the retail sector.

“There are some very significant and important differences between universities and private companies of course.

“Yet leadership in the Higher Education sector, regardless of whether the primary focus of one’s leadership role is academic or commercial, increasingly requires commercial acumen.

“The presentations and discussions were enlightening and had an interesting focus on the commonalities and transferability of approaches across different sectors.”

Dr Driscoll added: “The obvious overlap in mission and values with our own as a university was striking, and we learned a lot from each other.”

Academics and staff who are taking part in the Aurora programme had the chance to reflect on their visit.

Dr Rachel Collum, Lecturer in Psychology at the University, said: “Hands down one of the most valuable days of my career to date. Seeing how a profit-making company can still maintain a positive work culture and stay true to their values was inspiring.

“It has definitely made me go away and think about what a rewarding work-place should look like and how this might align with my own career aspirations.”

Dr Osarumen Ogbomo, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the University, said: “I absolutely loved every second of the visit to Bravissimo. We were warmly welcomed, interactions were honest, and activities were engaging.

“Their passion for providing life changing service to customers is commendable. I was reminded that with sound values and a clear purpose, success is assured!”

Helyn Snaith, Finance Business Partner at the University, said: “It was a fabulous event. Leanne and her senior team made us feel so welcome, sharing their own career journeys and offering their thoughts when we shared ours. Really inspirational day.”