Empowering the Future: The Women's Leadership Programme

by Lorika Shkreli (2019, Psychiatry) – 20 March 2024
As we eagerly anticipate the Women Leadership Programme (WLP) 2024, we are proud and excited to introduce this beloved programme to the wider Women’s Network. For over four decades, our alumnae have ascended to various peaks of leadership - effecting positive change, becoming inspiring activists, witty commentators, and formidable forerunners in their fields. The WLP stands as a tribute to their journeys, offering us the unparalleled opportunity to learn from their wealth of experience directly.

About the Women Leadership Programme

Developed and nurtured by women graduate students of St John’s, in collaboration with the Women’s Network, the WLP serves as a crucial bridge connecting generations of women. Our mission is to strengthen the ties between our esteemed alumnae and our current students. Through this programme we aim to foster a supportive environment that champions the empowerment of women and facilitates a supportive community that extends well beyond College life.

The essence of the WLP is to invite inspiring alumnae of St John’s College to share their journeys, insights, and wisdom. The focus is on the myriad paths to leadership, the unique challenges faced by women in senior positions, and the sharing of practical advice, peppered with personal anecdotes that resonate and inspire.

Reflecting on the Journey So Far

By hosting workshops led by our distinguished alumnae, the programme has delved into various leadership topics. Each session is an intimate blend of personal storytelling and practical advice, fostering a vibrant environment of learning and connection.

In the past two years, the WLP hosted an array of remarkable speakers.

In 2023, the general theme of the WLP was ‘embracing non-linear career paths with confidence and curiosity’. The sessions uncovered the essence of following your passion, the dynamics of mentorship, balancing family and career, as well as a crucial reflection on what you genuinely wish to pursue in life.

Our speakers included, Dr Lydia Syson, a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow, critically acclaimed historical novelist, biographer and ghost writer. Dr Kate Molesworth joined to speak on her experiences as the Health and Social Development Adviser at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the Co-Lead of the Rapid Review of the World Bank support of the global COVID-19 response. From within the College, Zoe Hancock, who is the first Principal Bursar at St John's College, responsible for the College's assets, investment portfolio, and HR for non-academic staff. Professor Dame Sue Black our new College president and a world-renowned forensic scientist with a distinguished career in academia and forensic anthropology also spoke to the WLP.

In 2022, the programme featured a dynamic panel discussion on the underrepresentation of women in academia including current St John’s Fellows Dr Mishka Sinha, Research Associate and Co-Director of the St John's Colonial Past Project, Prof Rebeccah Slater, Professor of Paediatric Neuroscience and Senior Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, as well as Prof Maggie Snowling, our former and first female president. This was complemented by a session with Dr Tamsyn Barton, Chief Commissioner on Aid Impact and Board Member at the Institute of Developmental Studies, on careers in international development and aid with a particular focus on how to develop negotiation and leadership skills. Joanne Harrison Gross, Head of Marketing at BNP Paribas Securities Services, led a session on navigating sexism in the workplace. Professor Linda McDowell, Fellow Emerita of St John’s, shared her insights on academic careers in the social sciences and publishing. These gatherings underscored the diverse challenges and achievements of women in leadership and offered candid reflections on the progress and ongoing challenges in achieving gender equality.

What makes the WLP special is not just the rich content of its sessions but the personal connections. Each session, lasting two hours over a weekend, is more than a learning opportunity—it's a chance to connect. Whether it's a dinner in the hall or a brunch that follows, these gatherings are where conversations sparked by speakers' stories continue, where mentorships can begin, and where the sense of community deepens. Students frequently express how the WLP has transformed their outlook.

"The WLP gave me the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics ranging from further career prospects and academic skills, to wellbeing in an empowering environment. I will cherish these wonderful Sunday afternoons long past my time at Johns” - – Alaa Baazaoui, DPhil student in Biochemistry
"The WLP not only provided valuable insights into working environments for women, but also a safe space to discuss difficult topics and how to navigate them. I’m so glad to be part of this growing network" - – Charlotte Hand, DPhil student in American Literature

Join Us in Making a Difference

The WLP is more than a series of events; it's a vibrant community committed to the empowerment and success of women leaders.

If you are passionate about fostering leadership, empowering the next generation of women, and sharing your unique journey, we warmly invite you to consider speaking at the WLP – either this year or anytime in the future! We are aiming to build a database of interested alumnae that are happy to be approached by us, or who express their interest to speak about a specific topic! Your contribution could be the beacon that guides our students on their own paths to success.

The Essence of Participation

Participating in the WLP means engaging with a small, dynamic group of current graduate students in a setting that fosters open dialogue and connection. Speakers will present their career path and background in a 30-minute talk, followed by an interactive discussion/workshop for 1 hr and meal in hall. The programme offers a unique opportunity to impact the lives of future women leaders, providing guidance, encouragement, and practical advice borne out of personal experience. Expenses for travel within the UK and accommodation will be reimbursed.

Together, we rise

To express your interest for the WLP either in 2024 or future years, please visit this form https://forms.office.com/e/iFAtjmBd4X

If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to the WLP directors, Archana Ramesh (archana.ramesh@sjc.ox.ac.uk) and Lorika Shkreli (lorika.shkreli@sjc.ox.ac.uk).

Your voice can empower, your story can inspire, and your guidance can illuminate the paths for promising leaders of tomorrow.


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