Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
To celebrate and support International Women's Day 2023, Portobello Institute is sharing inspiring insights from women who follow their passion to fulfil their potential as they share their experiences with embracing equity.
Introducing Dr Ron Cambridge
Dr Ron Cambridge (DBA, UTF, SFHEA, MEd, MSc, BA) is the Head of Partnerships at the Guildhall School of Business and Law, at London Metropolitan University overseeing the School’s development and operations of its national and international partnerships, in over twenty countries, including Australia, Dubai, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, North Macedonia, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Spain, Vietnam and the UK. Ron is also a Senior Fellow of Advance Higher Education (formally Higher Education Academy) and a University Teaching Fellow.
Ron came from a humble background. She is a daughter of immigrants who never attended formal education and were therefore never taught how to read or write. After immigrating herself to the UK, equipped only with the knowledge of the vital importance of education, Ron enrolled on the undergraduate Accounting and Finance degree. Graduating with first-class honours, she was awarded the national medal of the Institute of Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) award.
After graduation, Ron worked as the Head of Finance for the Institute of the Legal Accounts in London. She has developed her academic career after graduating from the MSc Financial Services Management, and her academic interests were further enriched by her Master of Education: Policy, Research and Professional Practice.
As a fresh multidisciplinary academic talent, she worked closely with State Street Bank and the ADAB Trust to develop students’ employability skills and thus advance social mobility and social justice. Her doctorate research in Business Administration examines a corporate social responsibility (CSR) vision in a modern London university as a business entity, and she has coined the term ‘invisible stakeholders’.
It is through her research and her role as Personal Academic Adviser (PAA) that Ron developed a less linear acceptance of both management concepts and social theories. Her academic focus is on management and social ideas such as culture, human capital, international organisational management, transnational education, as well as affect theories and social justice.
She also developed a strong interest in student affairs, social mobility, widening participation and corporate social responsibility in higher education and transnational education. Ron participates in many conferences as well as advising and lecturing at other universities in the UK and internationally.
What does International Women’s Day mean for you?
International Women's Day for me represents two aspects of women’s life. First, is the day’s recognition of women all around the world and their contribution in all walks of life, professionally as well as in the domestic sphere; The second is the celebration that women themselves are now international. Both aspects of International Women’s Day represent the positive force that women hold and the contribution that women make to society, in building today's world and our future societies, as mothers, workers, managers, housewives, strategists, financiers, educators… the list is endless.
What does embracing equity mean to you?
The notion of equity, or rather the lack of it, was the main criticism that was held against first-wave feminism. This is because whilst feminists were fighting for equality in the workplace, there was not an equivalency of equality in the domestic sphere. This has put women in an even more disadvantaged position, whereby, whilst developing their careers, they still carried the sole domestic responsibilities.
It is indisputable that for all the advancement in thriving for gender equality, mothers today are still the main carers for the children and the family, and still today, many women quit their careers after having their second (if not their first) child. These matters are not served by ideas of equality. Therefore, feminism was accused of becoming a double-edged sword for many women. However, providing women with the tools to be able to make their own choice in an equitable manner, with a true commitment to equity is what will bring about fairness. In other words, it is equity first that will bring equality.
How do you think embracing equity can support women?
Equity is the means of being fair. Without equity, and under the guise of equality, women struggled and any failure to overcome structural barriers were attributed to the women themselves. For women to succeed and thus benefit the societies in which we all live, strategies and measures must be provided to ensure this fairness, and to compensate for women's historical and social disadvantages that prevented women from operating on a level playing field.
My own doctoral research engages with the experiences of migrant student mothers in higher education. These women provide great role model examples to their children about the importance of education in bettering lives. Yet my study reveals the invisible position and the lack of voice of these incredible women, who wrestle with the obligations of their studies, with domestic duties and caring responsibilities, and with work. What is paradoxical, is whilst over the past thirty years, the UK higher education industry has celebrated notions of widening participation and welcomed students from non-traditional backgrounds, including student mothers, there have been very small steps in accommodating the needs of these student mothers. My studies and research have found that ultimately, providing equity to women will benefit all, whether in current or future societies.
Have you ever faced a situation in your life or career that was not fair, impartial or unjust? How did you overcome the challenge of this?
This is a very personal story from when I was a young mother, and a male senior manager would not provide to support the fine balance of managing my career and motherhood. In fact, he said: ‘Having children is your own personal choice, and it has nothing to do with me’. I felt betrayed because I worked conscientiously and diligently for many years, yet I was expected to keep my parental situation invisible at the workplace. Another female manager advised me not to apply for the flexible working offer, because, in the long run, it will jeopardise my career development, as others frown upon it and see it as if the woman is being lazy and taking advantage. I realised that whilst on paper the legal position may thrive to accommodate women’s needs, in practice, there is a lot more to be done to modify some of the old fashion attitudes towards women at work.
Luckily, my own line manager was a progressive and kind man, and together we established a solution on the personal local level, that was both satisfactory and suitable. Thus, I also know that whilst there were and are still barriers for women to overcome, there are also good people, regardless of gender, without whom society will not be able to move forward.
In the context of your career, how do you embrace equity to fulfil your potential?
I feel that I owe my success to London Metropolitan University, the good people who educated me and those who I have had the pleasure to work with. I was able to gain academic success and career development, studying at a university where I felt a sense of belonging, which encouraged me to thrive forward positively and successfully. I am therefore particularly thankful and proud of London Metropolitan University, where I have worked for over two decades, for its ethos, mission, and vision to change and better the lives of its students, staff and their respective families.
Has a person or organisation ever embraced equity to support you? What did they do and how did it support you?
Earlier, I mentioned that there are also good people, women and men without whom society will not be able to positively make progress, and I shared one example of when a kind line manager provided the equitable settings for me to succeed. Whilst this was a historical localised example, I also noted that I am proud of London Metropolitan University for its widening participation position, changing lives and creating social mobility. These are all anchored in the University’s Education for Social Justice Framework, which reaffirms the University’s position and commitment to social justice and social mobility. London Metropolitan University is an institution with a deep social purpose, and I am proud of the diversity of our students and of their positive contribution.
In your work environment, what do you think can be done to embrace equity to allow people to follow their passion and fulfil their potential?
I believe that there is no ‘one size fits all’. As I work in a University, I think that there may be different practical tools that may provide an equitable environment. This may include examples of flexible working or working from home, the possibility for on-campus as well as synchronised online classes, or additional resources for those who require support on the academic and pastoral levels.
The most important thing is to start with bringing the visibility of people and their needs to the forefront and providing a voice to these individuals, which will help in creating a work and study environment that accommodates needs and embraces equity.
What do you think you can do as an individual to embrace equity to support people to follow their passion and fulfil their potential? Why do you think this is important?
As a manager and as an academic, my focus is always on developing people through work and study.
My colleagues tell me that I have very high emotional intelligence. I also continuously reflect on my experiences and try to learn from my successes and well as mistakes. Emotional intelligence and reflexivity provide that, now that I am a manager, I am able to respond in a more equitable way to others and their needs.
I believe that the first step in embracing equity is creating visibility. This needs to be accompanied by providing the space and platform for other people’s voice, so we are able to understand their needs and cater for these in a meaningful way.
What are you passionate about?
I love my children and my family, and I also love my work and the people I work with.
I am passionate about my work and motherhood – both are equally as important, and both are interlinked. One cannot separate either from the other, because life does not operate in distinct or isolated categories. One cannot stop being a mother even whilst at work, and conversely, in my career, my work often enters my home life. For example, given that my work is international, across geographical time zones, sometimes my meetings may take place at times outside the UK time zone working hours and are online from my own living room.
Because I am passionate about people, I also continuously seek to motivate and develop the people I work with. I mentor many colleagues on an individual level and I also introduce many training and development sessions to colleagues at the University as well as at its collaborative partnerships. I draw great satisfaction when I witness the success of others and am proud that my own support was part of their success.
On a personal level, I also love creating, and there are also some hobbies that I would like to pursue. Sometimes, I manage to dedicate a little time to at least one of my hobbies. Some examples are sewing, painting, drawing, upholstery, carpentry, architectural design, writing, cooking, dancing and even organising parties.
How do you follow your passion?
It is a balancing act. There are only so many hours in the day, and I try to immerse myself fully in everything I do, especially at work and as a mother. It can be stressful and demanding, but it is always immensely rewarding.
As for my hobbies, I find that I am mostly able to pursue these when I incorporate them into both my work and my home life, so for me, they become a necessity for excelling in my work. Thus, I feel that I must make time for both. For example, I design electronic cards for my colleagues to send well wishes on the different international days or holy festivals: only last week, on the 2nd March, it was International Book Day, and I designed a card using the University logo, which I sent to all my colleagues in the UK and internationally. I also incorporate my creative skills into creating a monthly newsletter about the amazing work of the great team of people who I work with. Another example of incorporating my passion into everyday life was when I enjoyed organising the Christmas Party for the Guildhall School of Business and Law: I was able to draw on my creative skills to benefit my colleagues’ experience, and I even managed to sew my own party dress – the event was a great success. These creative initiatives not only provide a space for my own creativity but also create a platform to celebrate the work of others and highlight great successes, which then enthuses motivation in others.
What challenges have you faced while following your passion or what has ever held you back from following it?
The main challenge is time. As I noted earlier, there are only a few hours in the day but there is plenty that I need and want to do.
I would really like to be able to write more on the academic level, but this requires a certain ‘headspace’ that is scarce within a hectic life. Naturally, necessities take precedence, and I often neglect my own needs and self-care. I also know that there are many women in this position, putting others’ needs and wants, above their own.
How do you overcome these challenges?
I try to draw support from my wonderful family, good friends, and my amazing colleagues to be able to achieve everything that I do, as a mother and at work.
On the academic level, I do a lot of writing in the small hours of the morning, which is how I managed to write my doctorate thesis. Whilst I may not always find the time to write full papers, I find that I present my work in conferences and seminars, which brings my research to an international audience.
How do you believe we can encourage and support more people to follow their passion and fulfil their potential?
From my own personal viewpoint, I think it is important to lead by example and at the same time to motivate others, foster self-belief and facilitate their opportunities for them to achieve even more.
I would like to finish with a quote from Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, which I read whilst working in Dubai: “life has taught me that if someone asks for help, help them. If the oppressed come to you, stand by them. If people have an idea, support them. If young people come to you, pave their way towards the future. We do not grow on our own, we grow as people supporting each other.”
International Women's Day Webinar with Portobello Institute
Portobello Institute is delighted to celebrate International Women's Day 2023 and support this year's theme of #EmbraceEquity
The webinar took place on Wednesday, 8th March '23 from 7 pm - 8.30 pm. You can rewatch it on YouTube here.