International Women's Day

How we celebrated International Women's Day at Heriot-Watt

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International Women’s Day 2023 was a fantastic day of learning and celebration.

We kicked off the day with a free celebratory breakfast, in which staff and students left messages for the women in their lives that they appreciate:

My mom and sister for being the strongest people I know!

There are too many fantastic women in my world – I am truly blessed – and I would feel uncomfortable singling one out, so let me acknowledge all those women, and thank them for their thoughtfulness.

My mam! Queen fr


After breakfast, we held a Coffee & Mythbusting session with the University’s Equality & Diversity department.


At this event, we heard from some of our international students who described their experiences of not being able to sing or laugh loudly in their home country and being asked at job interviews whether they were planning to have children soon. We were also actively challenging and re-writing common misconceptions about women.

At the Music Cottage, staff and students attended a ‘Singing for Fun’ event in which they sang an empowering song of acceptance and bravery.

Our Chaplain, Jane Howitt, told us about a fantastic evening event at the Chaplaincy:

A good group gathered after our Wednesday evening meal to listen to our University Secretary, Ruth Moir, share some of her experiences as a woman in senior leadership. Ruth spoke about the importance of having someone take a professional interest in you and mentor you and how she tries to do that for women here. She had been fortunate to have a good experience of that personally and it had been of help to her, especially at certain stages in her career.

She shared some stories of often being the only woman around a meeting table and despite being the person who probably knew the most about the item being discussed not always being given the space to speak. It was great to pick up some tips on how to overcome such situations and make your voice heard.

Students were asking questions and were really encouraged to hear that there are many possibilities for women to hold positions of influence and senior leadership.

Finally, in a project led by our Student Life MP, Suvathika Tamizh Selvam, we collected answers on the topic of #EmbraceEquity. The following are the responses to the question ‘What is equity?’:

I always think of this word in comparison to equality and every time, I think about the standing-on-the-box analogy. If you imagine that you and a few others are trying to peer over a fence…some of you will have more luck than others based on your natural height. Equality would mean giving you all exactly the same box to stand on, so that you could all see a little more, whereas equity would be giving you different sized boxes that are proportional to your needs. So, one of you might look like you’re getting more in the moment, but that is only because you need more in order to level the playing field.’

Provision on the basis of need, as opposed to equality which is provision equally regardless of circumstance.’

For me it is about treating people differently to give them the same opportunities and experience. That can be when working with young people with additional needs: they may need different levels of support (both less or more), to achieve the same objective. My children need different levels of support depending on their needs - they are not all the same, and as new parent it did take me some time to realise and change my parenting 'skills'. One is fiercely "I'll do it myself", another needs support to know how talented they are, and that they can do it. I love them both but help them in different ways. The same at work, my colleagues have different needs, emotions, talents, and skills. We all have blind spots so it's being able to dial up/down how conversations about the same subject are handled. It's treating everyone, men, or women with the mindset of "What can I do to ensure this is appropriate - and helpful for YOU?”’


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