Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Gender and Professional Development

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On the 30th of November, CantaBulgarian in cooperation with the Centre for Gender Rights at the London Centre for International Law Practice (LCILP) held an event on the topic of gender and professional development. Over forty people attended the discussion, followed by a question and answer session and an hour of networking.


The panel consisted of three distinguished speakers. Dr Surabhi Ranganathan is a University Lecturer in International Law, a fellow of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, and a Fellow and Director of Studies in Law (Parts IA & II) at King’s College, University of Cambridge. She is the author of the book Strategically Created Treaty Conflicts and the Politics of International Law (Cambridge University Press 2014) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to International Law (Cambridge University Press 2012).


Dr Megan Donaldson is a Junior Research Fellow at King’s College Cambridge. She has done extensive academic research on the dynamics of secrecy and publicity, in particular, in diplomatic relations and has worked in corporate litigation and as an Associate to Justice Hayne of the High Court of Australia.


Lindsay Sparrow is the Associate Director at the Centre for Gender Rights. She has worked at Randstad Technologies where she managed technology projects and hiring of resources for over 10 Fortune 500 companies. As a woman in the technology industry she has worked for gender equality within the workplace as well as the promotion of STEM careers for young girls.


The speakers discussed the challenges of building in career in a number of spheres that women face. These often involve internalized biases and stereotypes, distributed unevenly across different professional paths. Gender inequality is more prominent in the field of science and technology. With regard to academia and law, the speakers pointed out recent positive developments. They discussed the role of quotas and funding specifically for women and noted that such measures, although not uncontested, could have important impact for achieving equal access to education and work in the long run.


The panelists also underlined important issues that should not be neglected when analyzing gender equality, such as intersectionality. As Dr Ranganathan pointed, people simultaneously hold multiple identities. Gender could hardly be separated from other factors affecting discriminations, such as ethnicity and class. Furthermore, Ms Sparrow noted that the attitude of employers who recruit female candidates solely on the basis of avoiding an image of discrimination is not productive in addressing inequalities. Finally, by sharing her personal experience, Dr Donaldson highlighted that men in the professional environment could also actively support and promote the progress of women.


The question and answer session brought more insights on the topic. The audience and the speakers discussed issues such as the importance of education, the extent to which inequality is observed at different stages of building a career and the possible backlash from certain groups as a result of popular feminist discourse.


Inspired by the vibrant discussion, the CantaBulgarian team is looking forward to organizing more events of the kind and welcomes suggestions for further topics and speakers.

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