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Challenging the status quo

Pat McGrath recounts her career highs at the University of Sheffield, and discusses just how far gender equality in HE has come

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | November 23, 2015 | People

As I am just about to retire I look back on my journey and realise how prevalent sexism was when I started work.

I remember one of my earliest management jobs working in London and sharing an office with my assistant who happened to be male. We would often meet with new clients, suppliers or colleagues in the office, but invariably they presumed I was the secretary and my colleague was my boss.

Throughout my career the predecessors of each job have been male, and I sometimes wonder if it helped calling myself Pat rather than Patricia as people often assumed on applications that I was a man. I once told a senior colleague that I didn’t think I would get a job that I was applying for as I didn’t have grey hair, wear a grey suit or make grey decisions! When I was shortlisted and realised he was on the panel I decided to buy a new grey suit (the irony was lost on him). I was successful in my application.

'We are living in very different times now in HE, and from working at the University of Sheffield I can see the very positive impact of working in an environment that truly recognises the benefits of a diverse workforce'

I do think my rise to the top has been more difficult than my male peers, but no more so than any women starting work 40 years ago. It actually spurred me on to go back to University and study for an MBA and then a postgraduate diploma.

It has made me challenge the status quo more, and also meant that I have formed very strong alliances with other senior female colleagues. It can be very powerful to have a camaraderie of colleagues, all of whom want to help you succeed and then in turn you can help others to achieve their potential.

We are living in very different times now in HE, and from working at the University of Sheffield I can see the very positive impact of working in an environment that truly recognises the benefits of a diverse workforce.

I am very proud of the training that UHS have undertaken for women and we will be hosing further women’s events in 2016.

Pat McGrath is Director of Accommodation and Commercial Services at University of Sheffield, and a director at University Hospitality Seminars (UhS).

Pat's article is part of the University Business Equality in HE series. Read another article from the series here.

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