International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality.
Each year, IWD has a theme, for 2021 the theme is #ChooseToChallenge, which could be anything from challenging our own thoughts and biases to calling out gender bias and inequity from others.
We recognise that this year has been one heck of a challenge. Many of us have faced trials like nothing we’ve experienced before. The terrible loss of loved ones taken too soon, juggling work and caring, anxiety, fear, and loneliness*. Women have been among the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, being more likely to have lost work 1Link opens in a new window, predominantly bearing the brunt of childcare and home schooling (and the resulting impact on careers) 2Link opens in a new window, and experiencing a greater toll on their mental health 3Link opens in a new window.
But, we’ve been overwhelmed by how our community has pulled together, and awed by the resilience, tenacity, and ingenuity of our colleagues in responding to this crisis.
To celebrate the women in the Warwick community we have collated a Warwick Women’s Montage, so that we can recognise inspirational women at Warwick in the context of this year's wider challenges.
We asked women at Warwick to submit an image of themselves for inclusion in the montage and a short description of the challenges they've faced/continue to face and how they're dealing with them. See the images and read people's stories below.
See Mingyi's submission
"When being rejected so many times when applying for jobs, I often feel less confident and I'm not that competitive compared with those who are older and had more working experiences. Recently, I learned an amazing mindset from the Sprint program, which is 'fake it until you make it'. It's not faking something that you are not, but to practice what you want to become. Meanwhile, even if you failed, it's okay, because people may laugh at you at that moment but nobody really takes it seriously, not to mention they may also be caught up in their own problems. The only one who stays up late at night thinking about that stupid scene could be me. So don't be afraid to dream a little bigger and be confident to get started on what you want to do."
See Seley's submission
"As a postdoctoral researcher and mother of two girls, it has been really challenging for me to home school my girls and focus on my work during this pandemic."
See Sharon's submission
"My biggest challenge, and it's not one I've always had, is probably me and my perception of what I can do. I know when I was younger I very rarely felt a lack of confidence, I felt I was capable of pretty much anything that came my way. The confidence of youth? Possibly. The things my younger self was doing had less impact? Probably. That everything seemed simpler and more attainable? Most certainly. But whatever it was something changed and as I took on different roles I became less confident in my abilities, questioning each action and decision, double checking everything just to make sure it was right and that's when I realised I was my own worst critic and very often the only challenge I had was actually myself!
Some of the ways I have overcome this is by working with a mentor and coach to recognise the skills and experience I do have. Usually the things you like to do and give you a real buzz and energy are the ones you're good at - it doesn't mean you can't do other things but recognising the ones you do well is a real confidence booster - it's worked for me.
Another thing I do is try not to think about the whole scale of the role, task, project or whatever is in front of me, break it down into manageable chunks which I know I can achieve one step at a time.
Finally, I look back at the things that have gone well and the things that haven't. What can I learn from each of them and how would I do it differently next time... there will always be a next time....
My challenge is still there, probably always will be, but I do have a way of dealing with it."
See Shirin's submission
"Teaching wonderful students from across the world who had high hopes of learning and networking in person but are now having to do so online has been a challenge but also deeply rewarding. To ensure that mixed ability classes work for all, not just for the more articulate has been made more difficult because of online teaching, but we have managed. And finally, it has been important to support colleagues with school age children in the department during this period of heightened stress and work levels at home and at work."
Siew Wan Hee
See Siew's submission
"Childcare can be rather consuming but everyone can have a bit of quiet me time on a bike ride as we can look at what we like and don't need to keep the conversation going."
See Susan's submission
"The biggest challenge this year has been to reorganize the physics teaching laboratories, to make it a safe space for staff and students alike. Restructuring the spaces, plastic screens, social distancing and a lot of IT have all helped to ensure students could conduct experiments safely; the support of colleagues has been really important, but I'm looking forward to getting back to normal next year!"
See Ting's submission
"Be who I am is easy said than done, especially as the "minority" in various context. I have been discovering my personal identity for the past few years and I find it very challenging to be my true self comfortably all the time because of what others said or expectation from the society. I am still learning to embrace my identity more, with the help of positive thinking, learning and therapy. It is also helpful to connect with people who are similar to you and share experience together. I believe we become strong from our identity journey."
See Vishalakshi's submission
"During the pandemic every day brings challenges, some practical and some more fundamental to our own understanding of ourselves. I deal with them with patience, introspection and sometimes through acceptance."
See Ifunanya's submission
"Adversity, they say is an opportunity. As a single parent, 2020 stretched me. The pandemic resulted in working from home and homeschooling my daughter. In between, I noticed a critical skill gap and enrolled in a 9 months post-graduate course to address that. Then my ageing parents came visiting for 10 weeks and I have to add caring for them to the list of things that I have to do. As if these tasks weren't enough, I started writing a 36-page report titled State of Play: Web acquiring business in Nigeria. It was a struggle writing the report but for my passion for sharing knowledge, I could have dropped it. But by the grace of God, I finished and published it this February 2021. The report is the only document that describes the Nigerian web acquiring industry. It reviewed the past, present and the near future of web acquiring in Nigeria.
Sure, 2020 was a dark year with millions of lives lost to the pandemic (may their souls rest in peace. Amen) but if we put it in perspective, it stretched us beyond our limits. To excel, we had to learn to function in the face of adversity. We built muscles, grew and became stronger."
See Joanna's submission
"Time is always my biggest challenge. Since having a family, I juggle getting the right balance between work and family life, working out the way to be the most productive at work, while raising two children. I've managed this thanks to a very supportive and flexible Unit (Unit of Academic Primary Care) and a fantastic group of colleagues, many of whom are experiencing the same. I'm extremely grateful for this."
See Joanne's submission
"I am a single parent with four children, two of whom are at school, one is working from home and one is on a placement year for their degree and living away from home. Juggling a full-time job whilst supporting my younger two children with home schooling has been challenging, particularly as one is in primary school so needs lots of support and encouragement. My line manager has been incredibly supportive and encouraged me to work flexibly to balance the demands of work and home. My children are great and have relished the opportunity to learn new skills, such as cooking to help them become more independent. There is a lot of guilt around - I should be working more, I should be doing more home-schooling. The biggest challenge for me is to accept that I can't do it all, and that sometimes it is ok to admit you need help, to be kind to yourself. It is hard not living close to my wider family, face-time is not the same, but we will appreciate it all the more when we can finally meet up again. I cope by looking for the positives - I would never normally have got so much time at home with all my children, playing board games is great for bonding the family, I live near some beautiful countryside and can go for walks."
See Olivia's submission
"Every day of being a working class woman, the first in my family at University, feels like a test. I feel like I'm not only exploring higher education for myself, but for my entire family. People like me deserve to be here."
See Olivia's submission
"British Gold Medal at the Indoor Rowing Championships December 2020.
After months of feeling anxious and stressed over our wedding being cancelled last summer and not seeing any family for over a year as they all live abroad, I signed up to the above to give myself some focus. I needed something to get me out of bed in the morning! When I wasn't working I was training. Every day was tough, I was tired of listening to the news or radio, it was all doom and gloom and it made the days challenging. My mental health was hanging on by a thread! Having my training to focus on made me take care of myself as I knew I couldn't do my best unless I was physically and mentally healthy. I achieved something I never thought I could. I'm only a 5'4, 60kg rower, tiny in comparison to world famous rowers! But I decided I would be a 'minibeast' which is now my motto and what I remember when times are tough!
I'm now continuing to challenge myself by training for the World Indoor Rowing Champs at the end of Feb."
Update: Despite lockdown, Olivia won a silver medal at the World Indoor Rowing ChampionshipsLink opens in a new window.
See Penny's submission
"Keeping the Faculty of Arts on the road by supporting Heads of Department and the construction of the new Faculty of Arts building (the FAB)."
See Rachel's submission
"Working from home and juggling the demands of three children home schooling. I'm dealing with this by trying to encourage the children to be as independent as possible and trying to "not sweat the small stuff"!"
See Rachel's submission
"I've managed to submit a fellowship application this year while juggling looking after 6 year old twins and being a part-time GP. Given the pandemic situation I'm feeling proud of myself. My struggles are small compared with some of you - looking forward to reading your inspirational stories."
See Rebecca's submission
"I started working at the University of Warwick, with the Doctoral College in January 2020; within just a couple of months we were in lockdown. Upon starting my role, the main challenges I faced included getting to know my colleagues and new working environment; establish a strong understanding of my duties; and navigate the commute to and from work after having not long moved boroughs! Fast forward a few months and by the time we entered into lockdown, I had been granted extra hours to work and my contract amended accordingly. I had grown accustomed to stagecoach buses, and managed to avoid any train cancellations (en route to work at least)."
See Rachel's submission
"Being a natural extrovert, who gets both energy, ideas and creative sparks from talking to others, I am missing seeing people on both a planned and impromtu basis. I'm trying to deal with that by arranging to talk to people at the end of a work day, go for a walk at the weekend with a friend and pop up on MST team, in the middle of someone's living room, kitchen, wherever to discuss something, rather than do an email exchange."
See Sarah's submission
"I have worked throughout the pandemic on campus managing my team. There were so many constant changes and guidelines to follow that my workload increased immensely in order to ensure the team and the students safety. I felt hugely responsible for the team and their welfare and I spent a lot of time supporting them both in their role, but also mentally. I had a lot of very scared people, and by dealing with that high level of emotion my level of my empathy for others has increased two fold.
Although the last year has been a huge task, the positive aspect is that I have been able to build upon my working relationships with my team members (I have a very large team!) and get to know more about them and their families.
The days I have been able to work from home have been great for my mental wellbeing as although it feels like I don't stop, and there are obstacles with working from home, I am in a "safe" environment. I hope to work from home part time after the pandemic.
I have also been fortunate that as my daughter is of University age I have not had to home school. I really do take my hat off to all the staff that are working from home and home schooling also. What an inspiration they are.
So many things have changed in my role and although I have adapted very well to this, something I am proud of myself for, I do wonder if things will ever be the same after the pandemic. This is probably something we are all currently asking ourselves. Things CAN only get better."
See Sandra's submission
"Personally, the biggest challenge has not being able to see my family and friends on a regular basis and not being able to give them hugs when they have been going through their own difficult situations or just to show that I love them - seeing each other virtually is just not the same. The removal of the freedom we are used to has been upsetting and has tested our resilience to the limit, and I have found keeping cheerful and motivated very challenging."
See Sarah's submission
"As a student with a hidden disability, generalized anxiety disorder, I face challenges every day. It's harder for me to be in crowds, which can make networking complicated. I also tend to have a lot of thoughts whirling around my head. I think for me the issue is that I have always been told "there are people in worse situations". And I agree. But this sentence belittles the struggle or journey being faced. There are two things that I have learnt from this. Its okay to accept help and support, and offer support to others. For me, I have found a network of friends, colleagues, supervisors that are supportive and approachable.
I am also coming to accept that unfortunately we can't help everyone, and that by putting yourself last, and not getting the support you need, you prevent yourself from supporting the people you wanted to help.
I also struggle with imposter syndrome, like I think most PhD students do. The PhD is a serious undertaking, and has its ups and downs. It can be a challenge on my mental health, especially when experiments continually have bad results, when I keep try and trying, yet do not see any observable progress. With this, I have found that having checklists helps me to see that I have accomplished something. Also, its great having people around to say "You know, I feel that too! There are droughts from good results but there will be good results too".
Currently, everything is more challenging given the pandemic but I refuse to let it stop me. I keep fundraising, I host virtual scavenger hunts so my friends can participate and have some chill time."
See Sarah's submission
"Challenges of juggling a young family, being a clinician and trying to advance a research career, this has been compounded by COVID-19 and the increasing pressures of clinical work load and managing a difficult child care situation and working from home. I am trying my hardest to keep all the balls in the air!"
See Sarah's submission
"I'm missing face to face contact with my students dreadfully. They are so resilient and positive, they keep me going!"
See Jo's submission
"Finding practical ways to help others through this year, whilst juggling those same issues myself, has been the hardest but the most important and rewarding challenge. At times during this pandemic I've felt stretched almost to breaking point, but spontaneous sharing of experience has brought laughter and genuine connection into our virtual workplace."
See Zeina's submission
"During my PhD journey, I have to learn how to weld by myself. So I can print my own components using WAAM technology with my collaborator in London. Thanks to the workshop technicians who helped me! It was scary! And challenging, but I have to do it! This challenge took me forward to collaborate with experts in the AM field in the Netherlands. Keep pushing your own boundaries! And dream big!"
See Joyce's submission
"Falling ill with COVID and then having a slow recovery was a real challenge for me. I learnt to be kinder to myself, giving myself space and time to rest and recovery. Big love to my family, friends and colleagues who have supported me."
See Nuria's submission
- Working from home (research and teaching) and make a career progression.
- Caring 3 children (2, 5 and 9 years old) plus homeschooling.
- Volunteer at UHCW during the first lockdown.
- No family around to get a support bubble.
I am dealing with them making a strong personal effort, getting support for my supervisor and in some way, leaving some mental health in between. But I am feeling optimistic that everything would be better soon!"
See Kate's submission
"Trying to balance work and home life, and keep boundaries as I work from home. Making sure I go out for a walk every day helps me relax. Even when it's cold, dark and raining, it's worth it!"
See Kayleigh's submission
"I don't think its particularly inspiring but I lost my dear nan in the summer of 2020, after she went into care during the first lockdown because my elderly grandad was struggling to cope being her primary carer at home. I joined Warwick in December 2019 which took me over 100 miles from my grandparents in Essex (and care home/hospital visits were banned until end of life care anyway...) so was mostly helpless and still feel so now my grandad is home and struggling with being alone and lonely since she passed. We were lucky enough to attend a funeral for her but no wake to celebrate her life due to restrictions.
Forging relationships virtually with colleagues after just a few short weeks in the office has also proven to be difficult, but I must say the wellbeing services available and the support of my line manager has been fantastic throughout the last 12 months. I'm coping with my grief and the lockdown by keeping to a routine as best I can, with regular exercise and good food, as well as digital contact with loved ones (and physical meetings wherever possible within guidelines). The photo I've shared was taken at TGI Fridays in Solihull, during the late summer when we were all encouraged to eat out. My hubby and I actually had a gift voucher to use from Christmas 2019 so thought we'd make the most of it while the chance was there. Resilience certainly seems to get harder the longer we face these challenges and I can't wait for a return to the job I love and the people I cherish soon."
See Lauren's submission
"As a Security Officer myself and all of my colleges have worked throughout the pandemic and are still going now. COVID-19 has made many of us fear catching it or passing it to our family. However for me my biggest challenge is that I am currently 29 weeks pregnant with my first child, although step Mum to 2. With not being able to show my family, friends my growing bump, adapting to online services for antenatal classes, my partner not being able to be part of some of the appointments/scans and unable to go shopping to buy gifts/nursery ideas. At some points I did feel lonely, I was no longer doing the essential shop and since 28 weeks I began working from home. However this year has brought some real highs those who I have worked with became family, those days in the garden spent with kids splashing in the paddling pool, finding out I was pregnant and how it lifted not just my mood but those around me and even now with working from home the ability the use of Teams or a mobile phone to speak with your team can give you a big lift. I suppose if this year has taught me anything, it is I am stronger than I gave myself credit for, its okay sometimes not to be okay, my body is incredible and to never take for granted what I have. That is how I deal/dealt with my challenges."
See Louise's submission
"The hardest challenge is balancing everything:
- Moving our curriculum online, speedily adapting our 68 CBL small groups to be able to continue to work online whilst supporting our medical students, staff and especially the CBL facilitators.
- Working in new clinical environments; I am Locum GP but since the start of the pandemic I have been working more hours and on the community hospital Covid wards, the work and team were different, though thankfully a great team, our normal communication with patients and their family and friends was not possible with restrictions and PPE as well as dealing with a new and evolving disease.
- Caring for my elderly parents and as a doctor being the one person all my friends and family would ask questions about this pandemic, as well as making sure my university age children were coping (and fed!).
I have found it really hard to balance all this as there were just not enough hours in the day, working long hours and weekends is exhausting, I find it incredibly sad to see patients die without being able to have their loved ones with them, knowing this was happening across the world with so many 100s of 1000s of people intensified the sadness. Feeling frustrated and angry and the poor response and leadership from our government leading to unnecessary deaths and suffering. I dealt with all this by spending time walking or cycling through the countryside and looking in detail at the small changes, focusing my camera on beautiful sights helped calm and revive me."
See Marsha's submission
"In the beginning, having our clinical staff deployed to the Trusts signalled something very big. My boss said see you in 6 weeks and that seemed so daft at the time. Very quickly working as part of a HR team we were dealing with peoples struggles, all of which I could completely understand as I was in the same boat. Home-schooling and working all hours and caring for my Dad with dementia was overwhelming and testing.
I was however determined, no matter what to keep it all going and be on top of it. Living in a beautiful area I took up running for the first time in my life and attended 6 Zumba classes a week. It's paid off as I've lost over 2 stone and feel fitter than ever before. I know that's what I need in order to keep the rest going.
With so many challenges (us HR bods can never say what of course), you really need good people around you and I have good colleagues who I call friends so I'm grateful."
See Maryam's submission
"The biggest challenge so far has been to maintain sanity despite increased workload (shifting to online teaching) and managing home. Home schooling as well as the anxiety of what will happen next did make me very anxious. However, still thankful that I could continue to work and provide care to my family."
See Oyinlola's submission
"Juggling academic life and small children is difficult at the best of times, in the context of the pandemic, it has been **extremely challenging**. I am dealing with this by telling myself that I can only do my best, exchanging moral support with others and remembering how lucky I am to have a family and a job."
See Miriam's submission
"Overcoming challenges is a very positive subject to write on, since it encourages us that we've managed to do just that! Thinking back on the last year I've had to adapt to our challenges of home-schooling, which has involved being tech-support, science tutor, dinner lady and dogsbody, moving PE equipment and instruments around for Teams calls at the right times! The biggest challenge at work has been to support my amazing research group under the strain of labs closing, opening, closing, re-starting again; helping pull people out of quicksand and deal with sandstorms of rules and regulations. Looking after both health and safety but also wellbeing has become even more important than usual - for my research students and our large student cohorts. What has been key? Certainly top is communication - even if I can't promise certainly, I've tried to let people know what the reasoning behind decisions and what might be happening next, and this has been appreciated. On top of all of this I have been crazy enough to start new things, including a WIHEA project across the whole science faculty! The reason this has worked has been because, even in times of difficulty, colleagues and students are passionate about offering the best teaching we can - and this certainly testament to the great capacity of our community for innovation, and for overcoming challenges."
See Nicky's submission
"Recently swapping my role as a research associate in the Warwick Medical School (UAPC) to successfully applying for a PhD within the department amidst a pandemic has come with a few challenges! As a mature student juggling two children aged 9 and 5 as well as a full time studentship can seem pretty daunting, so throwing in some extra home schooling responsibilities and emergency spinal surgery has been like nothing myself or my family have ever experienced before!
These have been trying times for many people, including my son who has autism. The additional challenges of caring for a child with complex needs and supporting his wellbeing have been exhausting, isolating and at times overwhelming. But I am in constant awe of how well he has adapted to these changes, and his technology skills far surpass mine now!
I think if anything during lockdown it has proven how resilient women are, juggling being a researcher, student, mother, wife, teacher, carer and all things in between without being able to see friends and family for support is tough. Many times it has felt like I am constantly chasing my own tail, with no down time or working very late into the evenings to keep up with studies (after a full day of trying to figure out how many Greek mythical gods there are for my child's report!?). Taking the time to reflect, keeping a positive mindset and having faith in your abilities is important. Being lucky enough to work with and be supervised by other inspiring females at Warwick is also something that motivates me daily to keep going on the days when things can feel a lot heavier, which I am very thankful for."
See Ioana's submission
"Not easy to talk about, still struggling..."
See Farah's submission
"Like everyone else, it has been challenging living through the time of Covid. Professionally, it has been hard to not be as supportive as needed to patients and colleagues. It has also been difficult to change well laid academic plans. However, this has also been a great learning opportunity around resilience at individual and community levels; the importance of simple acts of kindness and the value of time spent with loved ones. I'm convinced we will come out of this more holistic practitioners in all our roles!"
See Farzana's submission
"Home-schooling means I have less time to work. And even when my husband is taking on the task of home-schooling, I will still not be able to have large chunks of concentrated time as inevitably my child will run into the room to tell me or show me something! Additionally, working from home means that even when my child is at school I have shorter working days compared to when I used to be in the office. The flip side is that I get to spend more time with my family which I appreciate. But I do try to squeeze in extra working time early in the morning or late at night when my child is asleep."
See Geetha's submission
"I am a Professor in the Physics Department at the University of Warwick."
See Georgina's submission
"Oh la la! Lockdown has meant I have been in my home with 3 men! My late teenage/early twenties sons and my husband. They are all lovely, and, thankfully we have all been well, but the opportunity to really get together with "the girls" is something I have missed and I am the poorer for. Of course we have zoomed, quizzed, crossworded and walked (in pairs) over the last 12 months. But having a good laugh together is something that's rarely been possible.
Since the turn of the year my emotions have also taken a complete nose-dive. It's as if they fell off a cliff and, of course, It's only in hindsight that I can really appreciate this trend. So the menopause has hit... I need to work out what this means for me and how I manage my energies and emotions for the best.
Survival is key, staying standing is vital, being open, transparent and visible in a world of closed doors, screens and cameras is a challenge. So these words are my way of reaching out - appealing for kindness and a smile.
We will come through this, and, girls, we will be together again!"
See Harbinder's submission
"The past year has been challenging in many ways including adapting to working from home and not being able to see family and friends. However throughout the pandemic whilst supporting other people I have invested in self-development, allowing time for selfcare which includes meditation, time for reflection and and ensuring I am consistent with movement and exercise at home. I have started new ways of movement including Pilates and am enjoying this, I hope to continue once lockdown is over."
See Hayley's submission
"My family and I caught Covid in February 2021. Thankfully we've all recovered now but isolating for 17 days with an energetic toddler whilst unwell was definitely a challenge! Warwick were incredibly supportive which allowed me the time I needed to focus on my health and my family. Focusing on the positives that have come from this difficult situation has helped me deal with the challenges. During our isolation we created some really lovely memories as a family that likely wouldn't have happened if we had more freedom to leave the house."
See Helen's submission
"I've been working at home since March 2020 and supporting my elderly mother who lives nearby. During the first lockdown l distracted myself with gardening: I planted a new garden of grasses & perennials; I tended my new greenhouse; I pickled vegetables and made jam. But I have missed my colleagues and the useful corridor-conversations: online meetings are just not the same! I spent so long sat in Teams meetings that my hips became weak and wobbly: so in September I started slowly walking the Camino de Saint James - 480 miles around my local area. In October I caught Covid. I was off for 4 weeks then had a phased return, but the fatigue, muscle wastage and brain fog continued after that. In December I started walking again, making sure to go out around lunchtime. I've gradually built up to 3 miles a day and that has healed me: I've managed 200 miles in total. I've also started making bread by hand to get the strength back in my arms & shoulders - its very rewarding and is delicious."
See Angela's submission
"I always thought I wasn't afraid of death but the pandemic has showed me how terrified I am of it. I missed my siblings so much and after lockdown restrictions were lifted off in December I went home and stayed for two months with my family. It was great to see my parents but even then we were dealing with constant loss of friends and close family members. I have been devoting myself to reading the Bible. Faith allows you to understand life and truth. Some days the pain is raw and I cry a lot but time spent in prayer and singing spiritual hymns has helped a lot. My heart goes out to everyone especially those who have lost loved ones during this difficult time."
See Julie's submission
"Long time separated from elderly parents in Scotland but coping okay with Zoom calls. Amazing resilience from octogenarians (them not me)."
See Jenny's submission
"Having moved to the University of Warwick as a student in 2012 and then stayed on as staff after graduation in 2017, I moved away from my family in Kent and started my new life up here. Before 2020, they never felt far away as they would still come up for regular concerts or if I was down in London for monthly meetings, I would meet with them for dinner before heading back north. I would always return home for Christmas, but I am much more independent than my sister who moved back in with them after graduation. She enjoyed the four years of peace and quiet with my parents whilst I was at uni and she was still at school, so I don't blame her! This year was the first year that I felt far away from home and with no meetings bringing me to London and no concerts bringing them up here, in-person contact with them has been limited. This was especially hard when family bereavement meant that all you wanted to do was hug people, knowing that in normal circumstances the funeral would have been packed to the rafters!
The introduction of more video-based interactions has had its benefits though. At work, I am able to pace myself better without having to rush across campus between meetings and can make myself more comfortable (or even better turn my camera off if necessary!) but still take part and feel connected even if I am unwell. The ability to attend meetings remotely was always listed as a reasonable adjustment for me due to my disability, but not many people were sympathetic to this as an option. Now, everyone's doing it! I am hopeful that everyone's experiences during this time will mean more understanding and willingness to implement reasonable adjustments for disabled people, including more flexible working arrangements such as the ability to work from home or virtual means of communication where appropriate."
See Brenda's submission
"Suddenly having to WFH in March last year was a big challenge as I had never done it before. It meant a change in so many ways, physical, technical and new process to adapt to a new way of working. The one thing that I do that always helps me to relieve stress or tension is to run. Although I am really missing training with my running club friends and taking part in races, I am so happy to have been able to still do the sport I love. It has helped me greatly to deal with lockdown and maintain my physical and mental health. Attached is a photo of me taking part in the Virtual London Marathon on Sunday 4th October 2020 which set a World Record for the most people taking part in a virtual event on the same day."
See Brigitte's submission
"Like many people, the need to work from home over what has become a protracted period of time has brought challenges. For me, the beginning of lockdown saw my husband confined to bed with Covid-19 and the consequential need to care for him whilst continuing to work and look after my younger son who, while in his early twenties is on the Autistic Spectrum and therefore requires more attention than your average 23 year old! I then succumbed to Covid myself although thankfully to nowhere near the same degree.
Beyond the first month, we then settled into our new routine with me continuing to work from home and my husband variously either in the office or also working from home. The challenges this presents with agreeing who is taking which room to conduct their daily activities in cannot be understated although we are eternally grateful that we still have work. We seem now to have settled into a 'one up, one down' office set up and having the flexibility of being able to work either early or later to fit around other 'life' commitments has been incredibly helpful.
The additional complexity and challenge we have faced has been having our son at home with his normal routine completely destroyed and no social interaction except with two middle aged parents who are there but not really 'present' because of our work. Again we are lucky to have not had to manage 'bubbles' - we are all in the same place - but it is amazing how claustrophobic your own home can be after a while. Revisiting board games, family jigsaws and lots of walking have definitely helped.
There is at least now light at the end of the tunnel; the vaccination programme is now rapidly bringing us all closer to that glimmer of hope and we are all still healthy."
See Christelle's submission
"The pandemic has affected us all, for different reasons. The year 2019 was a difficult year on a personal level due to the breakdown of my relationship. In November 2019, I moved into my new home on my own and the same week started a different role at the University. In December 2019, my dad was hospitalised due to mental health problems, leaving mum on her own back in my home country. I had put in place lots of strategies to help me cope with the grief and healing process of the relationship breakdown including going to the gym six times a week, volunteering, socialising, seeing my friends, meeting new people, learning my new role and focusing on my CIPD qualification. Needless to say, all of this literally stopped overnight in March 2020 when the pandemic struck. Suddenly my new house, which didn't quite feel like a home yet, became my place of work and gym. I could not see my friends, particularly my best friend, whom I missed terribly. While I am fortunate that I have carried on working throughout the pandemic, the sudden shift to working at home on a permanent basis meant that I had lost the connections with colleagues. I felt isolated, alone and lonely, except for the company of my cat (!), a rescue I adopted in December 2019. I found myself having meltdowns unexpectedly as well as anxieties which I managed with medication.
As restrictions were being lifted, and living on my own, I was able to go out and see a friend for socially distanced walks. I started running with a friend and the impact this had on my mental wellbeing was huge. Now I never enjoyed running and surprised myself at how good it felt as we were pounding the pavements and pushing each other. I managed a 10km run after just doing four runs; off-road runs through fields was incredibly uplifting.
The gyms reopened in July 2020 and needless to say I was there on the first day! Being back felt so good and it was great being with like-minded people who share the same passion for working out. I started to notice that I was feeling better in myself, I was getting physically and mentally stronger and my confidence started to grow again. I no longer felt the need to take medication to help me cope with the anxieties.
And then came lockdown 2.0 and 3.0. I realised that I was in a much better place. I am aware many have struggled in particular during the most recent lockdown. And whilst I have had some off days, I have felt mostly okay. The dark nights of December are behind us and we are a step closer to spring and now closer to resuming what will feel more like a normal life.
I am a firm believer that there are always positives that come out of difficult situation. So, what have I learnt over the last 12 months? I am fortunate to have some wonderful and genuine friends. I have made new friends and my social network has expanded despite the lockdowns! I have learnt that I am resourceful and can face challenges on my own. I have learnt to process my emotions and the lockdowns have enabled me to take some time to reflect and get to understand and know myself. I have realised that I am resilient and have become so much more confident. I am fitter than I have ever been and physically and mentally stronger (bring on those burpees tuck jumps and one-handed burpees!). I still have off days, but that's okay. I believe that these new-found strengths will offer me richer and more meaningful personal and professional relationships moving forward."
See Christine's submission
"I'm probaby rather lucky! I think lockdown has been easier for me than for many colleagues. But there are the many challenges associated with keeping all those plates spinning, trying to support others and trying to get the right balance between dealing with urgent short term issues while not loosing sight of the need to continue to work towards our longer term ambitions and agendas. And my solution to all of that - well, its always trying to keep smiling, making time to get out and walk the dogs, spending time in the garden and making sure I keep in touch with as many people as I can!"
See Christine's submission
"Stress and worry for my family, getting used to working from home, looking after my elderly father, reassuring and supporting others that things will get better and offering advice on keeping well, keeping in touch with people, focussing on positive elements of my life, watching less news."
See Claire's submission
"I have always been a positive, glass-half-full person but I have found the last twelve months an emotional rollercoaster. My partner has been laid off from work twice, so I found myself trying to keep him positive, keep family members positive, provide care for my mum, while not always realising how much I was struggling. Not being able to hug my daughters and see my family daily has by far been the hardest.
There is much I will take away from this experience though, I have made sure I go for a walk daily and take notice of things around me instead of 'just walking', I enjoy home working but miss colleagues and the buzz of campus, I have learnt so many new things, and my main take away will be never to take anything or anyone for granted and always be kind - you never know what someone else is dealing with!"
See Hollie's submission
"Like many others, almost everything about 2020 (and 2021 so far) feels like it has been a challenge.
I was lucky to welcome my awesome (third!!) baby girl and so maintaining involvement with Warwick Med school UG development while on maternity leave, engaging with professional body committee work and keeping up my clinical continuing education requirement has felt like an uphill battle at times. I can't say that all of my coping mechanisms have been entirely healthy... however, I have found that talking to others to help me 'keep perspective' has been incredibly important. I have also found that the flexibility offered by video chat has been amazing, it has widened my professional and support networks, and has also given me more 'time'. I hope that this provision for work, education and communication is here to stay, not for everything, but for where it makes sense, it is perfect."
See Idil's submission
"2nd year PhD Student HetSys CDT.
I think one of the persistent challenges we face as women, particularly in the STEM field is a general lack of representation. I think it really comes down to women feeling that they are welcome in all sectors. This past year we've seen three great women win the Nobel prize in STEM, which in no doubt is a great leap forward, reassuring us that women's contributions to science can and will be acknowledged, as they should. I have to say that I've been privileged to have had great male and female mentors supporting me in my PhD journey."
See Debra's submission
"Many of the clinical trials we were working on were paused during the first wave of the pandemic, and it was a challenge to figure how we could 'COVID' proof our studies going forward (which we've done!). I was also acutely aware of how hard maternity service colleagues were working to ensure women giving birth during the pandemic got the support they needed. My WCTU colleagues have been amazing and have worked flat out to support new grant bids going in, keep studies running and ensure their colleagues feel supported. We've kept in touch with our maternity theme group at Monday morning meetings which provide a chance to update on work progress, celebrate milestones achieved and ensure everyone is OK.
A big challenge personally was concern about close family members providing frontline NHS services, worrying about their health and well-being, and knowing how difficult it was for them. It was also the challenge we've all faced, of not being able to see close family and friends during the lockdown. I'm incredibly lucky in that I have access to the beautiful Warwickshire countryside - going out for a walk every day and trying to take different routes has been a great way to get to know the local neighbourhood!"
See Deema's submission
"The main challenge I faced during the COVID 19 pandemic has been loneliness. As an international student in the UK living in student accommodation during the first lockdown which started in March 2020, it was extremely hard to socialize and speak to other people through non-virtual means, some days would pass where I hadn't exchanged a word with anyone, and this was hard to adapt to. The second biggest challenge was my PhD research, PhD students are under extreme pressure to complete their research and submit their thesis in time, my research is experimental and suffered great delays of about 3-4 months due to school and university shutdown. I have been intensifying efforts to catch up on the experimental work to ensure I complete my research by my funding deadline. I volunteered with the Royal Voluntary service through the GOODSam app to respond to emergency and help requests in my neighborhood, this has been a useful activity through which I managed to give back to the community and help the more vulnerable members of our society through this difficult time."
Professor Janet Dunn
See Janet's submission
"The picture I have chosen was the last time I was at an international conference in November 2019 with my African colleagues from Cameroon and Tanzania ( I kind of feel their photos should be displayed rather than mine!). The lack of travel and showcasing of work is one of the consequences of COVID-19. We have managed to continue with the collaborative work thanks to Warwick global funding but it has been slower than normal and I worry about colleagues who live in lower income countries. I feel lucky to be in the UK and grateful for being part of the collaborative clinical trials which we hope will help the children with Burkett's lymphoma in Africa."
See Emma's submission
"Balancing an extremely overwhelming workload with taking my Mum for regular on-going medical appointments, whilst dealing with anxiety/worries around the fragility of my Mum, Auntie, 101 year old Grandma, and my sister who has lost all her work (she is a singer/entertainer) as that industry has ground to a halt, and was forced to relocate back 'home'.
I'm dealing with all this with the kind support of family, friends and colleagues, and mindfulness meditation, and exercise."
See Emma's submission
"Like most mothers one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic was managing to continue my studies whilst providing full time childcare. I have two children aged 2&4 who were both at nursery when the first major lockdown happened. My husband is the Detective Sergeant for the Domestic Abuse Team in South Warks and therefore was busier than ever with few opportunities for working from home. I completed block 4 and did block 5 outside of his working hours doing late nights and weekends or studying with a child on my lap and Paw Patrol on the ipad!! I am sure my children know far more about medicine than they need to! For my phase 1 exam revision with lockdown eased my parents helped out with childcare but I struggled to find anywhere quiet to study with campus remaining closed, often hiding out in local coffee shops.
Its safe to say even without the pandemic 2020 would have been a terrible year as late in the summer my own mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer following an emergency operation and commended chemotherapy. In addition running was my solace during the lockdown - as can be seen from my submitted picture. I have a double running buggy so I was able to load my children into and clocked up miles pushing them round Warwickshire and exploring the local area stopping for picnics or to climb trees. But after clocking up over 600 miles in the first lockdown I myself was hospitalised and after several months of intermittent ill health during which I was largely unable to run or exercise much at all I was diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia.
But as I look to 2021 I believe it will bring happier times. My mother has almost finished her chemotherapy and a recent scan showed she was cancer free and now I have a diagnosis my cardiologist is confident I can get back to running the distances I used to and I am in the process of building back up slowly with the Leamington Half Marathon booked for July to give me something to aim for. And despite all the challenges I continue my studies and most importantly I continue to enjoy them. I have learnt to be more flexible about when and where I study and to be more accepting about doing the best I possibly can and it being enough."
See Abi's submission
"Keeping an even keel in stormy waters."
See Aileen's submission
"Our challenges are how to work well during COVID - how to feel part of a team and how to support each other - we deal with them collectively by meeting talking and thinking through things together."
Alison Ribeiro de Menezes
See Alison's submission
"I count myself extremely lucky, because I'm not home schooling small children or in a major caring role, and so I don't have to juggle several time-consuming roles. Even so, there have been professional and personal challenges. As Vice-President of Women in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (WISPS), I recently found myself chairing a debate about inclusivity in our discipline - ranging widely over matters of equality and diversity. WISPS was formed at a time when female and early career researchers were less visible at conferences and within academia and needed a space to showcase their research, but that has changed radically, prompting the question as to which issues of inclusion and exclusion need urgent address today, and what truly meaningful gains have been achieved. It was challenging to reflect on the work still to be done but rewarding to find that the conversation engaged colleagues from across the career spectrum and enabled us to think about ensuring that high-profile successes are not co-opted to conceal deeper lack of structural change. I'm not sure there are any easy solutions, but opening up a conversation was an important step.
Personally, the biggest challenge at the moment is missing family and friends. From trying to support and keep up the spirits of the elderly generation (none of whom live even remotely close), to motivating a couple of normally very active teenagers (who miss their circles of friends terribly), I have felt the emotional responsibility of being the so-called 'sandwich generation' keenly. The best solution I've found so far is simply to be generous with myself and to accept what's possible and what's not. And also to tell myself to stop worrying about everyone all the time, because they are mostly doing really well and showing enormous resilience."
See Anna's submission
"I have recently moved countries. It would have been challenging without the pandemic but in this situation, it is incredibly difficult. I am trying to find my place in this new situation. I am staying positive and strong as much as I can. I found it really helpful to focus on my work."
See Anne's submission
"One of the challenges I faced was finding that Lockdown 1 took place just before the final day of the inaugural 'Springboard' 4-day development programme for women which I'd been leading. I'd so much enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of working with a group of 18 fabulous female staff within the Education Group - and had really been looking forward to hearing how everyone had been developing. Sadly that didn't happen and after several months desperately hoping we could meet up again in person I had to accept that that wasn't going to be possible, so arranged with the majority to meet virtually over two half days in order to complete the programme. Depending on how you measure impact and outcomes we have, since last year had two births, a number of marriages, a grandchild and two career progressions- so it's been a busy time! I hope to run the programme in the next financial year as participant feedback has been overwhelmingly positive."
See Antonia's submission
"Work-life balance and dealing with work and parental responsibilities. I try to organize my time effectively and to prioritize my everyday tasks carefully. I also deal with my everyday tasks on a daily basis, so as not to get overwhelmed with the amount of tasks that I have to do for e.g. during the whole week. I take one day at the time and I am not over planning too much ahead, to avoid stressing out myself too much."
See Ayunita's submission
"Pursuing a master's degree during this challenging time is one of my hardest choices, especially coming to the UK by myself and face with months of lockdown. The hard times almost got me down, but I'm not willing to give up. I change my entire lifestyle and mindset by studying in the UK. I felt that I'm more empowered and able to do anything. I started to socialize more with the right people, exercise, maintain a diary, and try to motivate myself by attending seminars or listening to podcasts. I guess you can conquer anything in front of you as long you set your mind for it."
See Beatriz's submission
"This year has been difficult, for me, I have faced despair, deception and divorce. I have had to to re-plan my own life from top to bottom and I have decided to focus less on others and focus more on me and my child! Something I am doing for me is to exercise. I started running (something I had never done before) and I signed up for a running challenge in January where I completed 50 miles and recruited money for cancer patient support. I am now running a second challenge to run 56 miles in February! For my child, I plan quality time with him: we play, we go out to the forest, to the Nature Reserves we have nearby and I talk to him about everything. He is teaching me lots of things and showing me the way to become a better mother and a better person overall. It is a great challenge to deal with parent guilt as well - it's everywhere! - you feel it if you work too much, if you miss deadlines, if your project is not advancing enough, etc... However, I am proud of the supporting community I have surrounded myself with since I came to Warwick: my supervisor and great friend Miriam, my Warwick friends Daniela, Ana, Susan, Emily, Beth, Luke, Kate and and my closest friends from abroad Julia, Sara, Marimar and Raquel, they - and my Spanish family - have all been essential to me on this process and I am glad that - every now and then - I can give them back a little bit as well."
See Bethany's submission
"In the past I have felt the need to prove myself in a male dominated industry, however being at WMG and Warwick I no longer feel this is the case and have felt I can now progress at my own pace and feel more confident in what I can do and achieve."
See Michelle's submission
"As a parent and PhD student I found it challenging to establish a good work life balance during the first lockdown and I have felt my 'researcher' identity slipping away over time. I have come to accept that there are many versions of me and ultimately the separate aspects are all a part of what makes me who I am. I am not 'researcher' or 'mother', I am both and many other things in-between!"
See Muskan's submission
"Well it was a difficult time for everyone out there but for me it became tough when I had to go back home due to lockdown. I am someone who is full of energy, very out going, do not stay at one place and I rarely have a dull moment in my day to day life. But with restrictions on movement I felt like I was just stranded. I wanted to go out and make most of each day in my life but it was a tough time.
I had my offer letter from the university before Covid hit my country. However, towards July, when the situation didn't improve, it became difficult to convince my family to let me come to Warwick. I had a series of conversations with my parents giving them logical reasoning as to why they should let me go. They were finally convinced but then there were my relatives questioning my decisions. I asked my father 'What is more important - What people say or my happiness?' He obviously chose the latter and here I am today.
I just want to put it out there, everyday everyone is fighting a million battles. But it will eventually get better- Have faith in the universe and keep moving forward."
See Angela's submission
"Juggling motherhood and pregnancy with full-time work.
Trying to stay calm and manage each day at a time."
See Erica's submission
"Just generally being a mum who is the focus of the child most of the time."
Professor Sandra Catherine Chapman
See Sandra's submission
"I have had a long career in Physics, enjoying it more than ever. As a woman in Physics one is often the 'outlier' with all that this implies. Just keep going, doing what you love, and dont stand for any nonsense!"
See Karen's submission
"In my mid twenties i attended a book launch held at the Top of the Nat West Tower hosted by senior Natwest Bank officials and the publisher. A senior executive wandered over to me and said in a very dismissive pat you on the head sort of way "so what are you doing here, my dear?" I just responded "Well I wrote the book we are launching tonight and you?". His jaw dropped quite markedly and he was suddenly very apologetic (I never quite knew what he thought I was doing there). I hope he learned not to judge a book by its cover. I learned that my challenge in life was to make sure I am judged for my brain not the way I looked. (That was many years ago now and I am thankful my brain is still hopefully going strong :)"