Professor Cassie Wilson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) oversees everything related to student experience. Emily Commander, Head of Strategic Governance, is responsible for the smooth running of the governance bodies of the University – Senate, Council and all their committees. Professor Sarah Hainsworth Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) provides leadership for the University in delivering the research strategy. Professor Rajani Naidoo is Vice-President (Community and Inclusion), UNESCO Chair and Co-director of the International Centre for Higher Education Management (ICHEM) in the School for Management. As Vice-President, she is responsible for driving forward change to enhance equality, diversity and inclusion.
Who is a woman you admire and why?
Cassie Wilson: Helen Sharman - the first British person in space. I was 13 at the time of her mission and I remember thinking how amazing it was that she was doing something that many people expected to be achieved by a man. It was this that made me realise anything was possible.
Emily Commander: If I have to pick one, I’d probably go with Angela Merkel. I don’t agree with her policies in many areas, but I do admire her tenacity and her ability to operate so calmly and effectively in a male-dominated world. Whether or not you like her politics, she is a woman of great integrity who has helped hold Europe together during a time of considerable turmoil.
Sarah Hainsworth: It is hard to pick one single woman! Katherine Johnson is in the list: she was one of NASA’s first African-American women scientists, and made the innovative orbital mechanics calculations for the first US manned space flights. But there are many more inspiring women out there that I could happily include in the list!
Rajani Naidoo: I admire Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. She revealed to the world that people can organise themselves beyond government and the market to share and sustain, rather than compete and deplete. Her insights have relevance for how we respond to the climate emergency and for the renewal of civil society.
What do you consider to be the greatest achievement during your career?
Cassie Wilson: Being appointed into my current role!
Emily Commander: I don’t know about greatest, but my most public achievement was responding calmly and sensibly to an incident in a select committee I was in charge of in Parliament, during which Rupert Murdoch got a custard pie to the face. Looking back, I am quite surprised that my mouth didn’t remain agape for any longer than the five seconds it took for me to spring into action.
Sarah Hainsworth: The project that has been really special was using advanced engineering and materials characterisation tools to work on analysing the weapon marks on the skeleton of Richard III: a project which had truly global reach. It was really exciting to see how the history and the science together made a fantastically compelling story.
Rajani Naidoo: Being appointed to a UNESCO Chair in Higher Education Management was significant. I developed a multi-level and interdisciplinary programme linking research, doctoral and leadership programmes to focus on how universities can contribute to inclusive development and the global good. This programme has enabled us to join forces with UNESCO centres worldwide to build capacity and share knowledge and innovation.
What obstacles have you faced during your career?
Cassie Wilson: I have been very lucky and have not faced many obstacles in my career. Instead, I feel I have been given many opportunities and a great amount of support which I have taken advantage of.
Emily Commander: I chose to begin my career working in a very traditional and male-dominated environment. As a young woman, I found it incredibly challenging to make my voice heard – I can’t tell you the number of times I would be overlooked and put outside the room. I had to develop strategies for overcoming that, which was sometimes frustratingly time-consuming.
Sarah Hainsworth: I think I am very lucky, I have had challenges in my career but have usually found a way to deal with them. I have an incredibly supportive husband and we have had good teamwork in jointly caring for our children and juggling being away at various times for conferences and other work commitments. We have also benefited from having a supportive network in the village where we live. Not everything has always been straightforward but hard work and persistence has paid off.
Rajani Naidoo: In the apartheid era in South Africa, I worked in a higher education institution which attracted students with high academic potential from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to study first year courses in innovative ways. These students excelled and completed their degrees at the most elite universities. However, it was illegal for students that were classified by the government into different ‘race’ groups to study together; universities were often occupied by the army; democracy was destroyed and violence was unleashed on citizens.
What is the one thing you most hope to achieve in your role this year?
Cassie Wilson: This year I would like us to fully launch our ‘Be The Change’ initiative which aims to tackle harassment and ensure an inclusive university community.
Emily Commander: I have been developing a new and improved Scheme of Delegation for the University. It’s a huge project with potentially wide-reaching benefits for efficiency, effectiveness and transparency – I’d like to have broken the back of it by the end of the year.
Sarah Hainsworth: Really getting to know colleagues at Bath and delivering against the research KPIs whilst enjoying the experience.
Rajani Naidoo: I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and commitment of colleagues and students working to enhance equality and wellbeing across our University. I feel fortunate to work with a brilliant core Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group and a supportive senior leadership team. I wish to steer us forward in eliminating barriers to diversity and inclusion by engaging in a simultaneous bottom-up and top-down process, and by providing support to those working at grass-roots level to co-construct solutions.