The Meaning of Success

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profiles 26 women at Cambridge – from world-leading academics, to key administrative staff – and features contributions from another 100. 

Professor Dame Athene Donald, Gender Equality Champion at University of Cambridge, says in the preface to the book: “As I read the stories these women reveal, I was moved and I was excited. Within an academic environment, too often the individual stories and voices are lost. Here we can reclaim a few of these and profit from what we hear.

Women featured are from across the spectrum of staff within the University and include masters of Colleges, senior scientists, office managers, an educational outreach officer and administrative staff.

Interviews with leading female figures within the University include a section on Professor Mary Beard, famous for her popular TV programmes on Roman history.

Famed for her stance against Twitter trolls, the academic is equally strident in ideas of what defines success: “I find that people who are most talented in helping me to rethink my ideas often don’t measure up to the more usual marks of success.”

Working at the Judge Business School as a Research and Teaching Fellow, Dr Shima Barakat started her career as a construction engineer. Her approach to situations is revealed in the book: “My starting point is that I have the power to change something and I go from there.”

Her attitude helped her deal with many situations, including being the only women in a Cairo construction workforce of 400, but she details how there is still a need to do more than expect the individual to change to fit a situation: “Our systems are inconsistent and based on a masculine world view. We need to question them because they determine who gets recognised as successful.”

Each in-depth interview is accompanied by portrait photographs by Pari Naderi – images that will feature in a special Success: Women at Cambridge exhibition to be held next week at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The book will be launched at a special event on Wednesday, 5 March – at the West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge.

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