Peter Tufano with students in 'balance for better' pose

International Women’s Day at Oxford Saïd 2019

About the event

The theme of this year's International Women's Day was 'Balance for better.'

To support this year’s International Women’s Day campaign Oxford Saïd created a series of events and initiatives both at the School and online, to bring together a community of men and women, within Oxford, or around the world, to create a climate for change.

Launched on International Women’s Day, the Owning your Own Career module included a reflection tool and downloadable workbook to allow women to assess their current career position and to plan for their future, drawing on research showing that the idea of self-acceptance can hinder career progress. ‘There comes a point in a leader’s life where she acknowledges and accepts that she is a leader, and takes ownership of her career and development accordingly,’ says Kathryn Bishop, Director of Women Transforming Leadership, who developed the free online workshop as a taster of the programme.

The lead up to the day itself drew in every part of the Oxford community, from students to faculty, staff to corporate partners. It started with an event exploring the role that women played in the Shakespearean theatre, then the launch of a Kantar exhibition exploring 100 years of marketing to women. Justine Roberts, Founder and CEO, Mumsnet and Gransnet, and Philippa Snare, EMEA CMO, Facebook joined a high-profile panel to discuss empowerment, objectification, and what women want, noting that brands not only fail to move beyond gender stereotypes, but are also falling short of reaching certain parts of the market.

There comes a point in a leader’s life where she acknowledges and accepts that she is a leader, and takes ownership of her career and development accordingly.

Kathryn Bishop

Director, Women Transforming Leadership


Professor Renée Adams delivered the keynote for the International Women’s Day celebrations and challenged the studies that are typically used to justify policy interventions and targets for women on boards. She examined some of the myths around board diversity and called for more academic research in the area to separate the truth from fiction. Renée also led a Wikipedia-edit-a-thon, a campaign aiming to redress the balance of gender biographies on the platform. 

The student community, along with the Women’s Alliance, brought in two internationally acclaimed filmmakers, Dawn Porter and Lindsey Dryden, who are using film as a tool to shape public conversations and ignite lasting change. Recognising the need for inclusivity, student sessions also focused on gender negotiations and the importance of male allies to advocate for women in business. 

There is still an issue with balance in business said Sara Beck, Oxford’s new COO. But technology has helped liberate women, and enabled everyone to work in the way that they want to. ‘But I feel very strongly that things won’t change without men involved in some of these networks, events and some of the conversations,’ she concluded

Reflecting on the theme of International Women’s Day 2019, Peter Tufano recalled one of the early lessons he remembers – a lesson about balance. ‘It was about work-life balance and then, as an academic, balance in portfolios and diversification. We know that balance makes a great deal of sense when moving forward in our personal lives. The better the balance, the better the world.’