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Celebrating Women in Social & Historical Sciences at UCL and beyond

20 March 2019

"The Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences is full of amazing women." Sasha Roseneil

SHS Dean

March is all about celebrating and empowering women. Not only does International Women’s Day take place, in America March is annually declared as Women’s History Month, highlighting the contributions of women to events in history and today’s society. To mark the occasion, Sasha Roseneil, Dean of Social & Historical Sciences, kindly took some time to share her journey to leadership as a woman, female role models and her proudest achievements.

How do women across the Faculty inspire you?

The Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences (SHS) Is full of amazing women, at all stages of their careers and doing a wide range of jobs. Quite often I find myself in awe of colleagues who are coping with high pressured working lives alongside raising children and/ or caring for elderly relatives, and who still manage to be warm, enthusiastic and good-humoured.

Do you have any female role models? Who are they and how do they inspire you?

Probably the biggest inspiration in my life is Noor Inayat Khan, who was a wireless operator in the Special Operations Executive, sent from Britain to support the Resistance in occupied France during World War II. She was captured by the Nazis and executed at Dachau. From when I first learnt about Noor from my step-father – she was his aunt – I have held her memory close. Her bravery in standing up against fascism is inspirational. There is a memorial statue of Noor in Gordon Square, and I often stop by and spend a moment there as I walk between UCL buildings. She gives me courage!

Tell us a bit about your journey to leadership as a woman...

For me leadership is about taking responsibility for instigating and organising collective action to make the world a better place. I suppose that I began on this path when I got together with friends to set up a Youth CND group in Northampton in the early 1980s. The excitement of filling a coach full of young people to go to London to a rally and concert gave me a taste for what I might now call “leadership”. Many years later, initiating the establishment of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at the University of Leeds -, because I saw how many feminist researchers there were across the university who didn’t know each other, marked the start my forays into academic leadership.

What is your proudest achievement?

Most recently, being appointed Dean of SHS at UCL! Before that, being alongside my mother during her long hospitalisation at Stoke Mandeville after she had sustained a spinal injury. I found strengths I didn’t know I had during those two years, and I learnt so much about what really matters in life.