How many of you recognise yourselves as talented women? This was the powerful question with which Mia Forbes Pirie opened her compelling talk at the launch of The Queen’s Women’s Network on 8 March 2018.
It was nearly 40 years ago, in 1979, that women were admitted to The Queen’s College, Oxford. Queenswomen from all four decades have joined with the College to create a series of events and initiatives throughout 2018 - 2020 to mark and celebrate this 40th anniversary. One of the initiatives is The Queen’s Women’s Network. The Network, which is open to all Old Members, aims to celebrate success, promote equality and inclusion, and champion change. We were incredibly fortunate to have Mia, an international mediator and executive coach whose clients have ranged from the US and Mongolian governments to the Church of England, as our keynote speaker at the Network’s launch.
In response to Mia’s opening question, a little over half of the 100 or so people in the room raised their hands. Surprising, perhaps, or perhaps less so to those of us who struggle – as I do – with confidence. The hands, raised or not, were an important reflection of the most important relationship we have: our relationship with ourselves. Mia spoke of cultivating the quality of quiet confidence: of finding and appreciating our unique talent and then fitting out (not in). It is a solid platform from which we can greet the inescapable constant in our lives: change.
Mia also spoke about the tendency – to which many of us might relate – of trying to “do it all” and our reluctance to ask for support. With that tendency in mind, Mia invited us all to think about what each of us would really like from the Network and, in turn, what each of us might be able to offer. All of us need support and it is a myth that we can do it all alone.
There was acknowledgement of all the progress which has been achieved regarding equality, and also an awareness – as Mia memorably described - that there continue to be “sticky doors” which we need help to push through and to then re-open for those who come after us. And as we do so, we should keep in clear sight, as Mia emphasised, the important contribution of diversity which has been identified in research: when a diverse group of people make decisions, the decisions are better. Mia spoke of walking towards prejudice, from a solid foundation of quiet confidence and humility, and of getting really kind and curious in order to find out what is really going on.
Mia’s talk has given us all much to think about, and to do. In particular, the concept of “fitting out” is one which seems particularly relevant to our young Network. From a collective platform of independent but interdependent minds, we have much to contribute as we look outwards to champion change.
The launch event was made possible thanks to the generosity of JOSEPH, the international fashion house. Our thanks go to Old Member, Catherine Palmer, Legal Director at JOSEPH.
Photo: Ander McIntyre
Anna Howard, Modern Languages (1995)