International Women’s Day

On 8 March, people all over the world come together to celebrate International Women’s Day. This day highlights the struggles of gender equality and brings people together to help combat this.

It’s a chance to take action, and raise awareness of the economic, political and social achievements of women across the world. 

What is the theme this year? 

Bias and discrimination have been holding women back for centuries. This year’s official theme is #BreakTheBias, which looks at how we can collectively break the bias and misconceptions in the interest of creating a gender-equal and inclusive world. 

You can get involved with the #BreakTheBias campaign by sending in photos of yourself with crossed arms as seen in the below image, or taking a selfie with one of the pledge cards, which you can download here to show your support.


Luminate Education Group is celebrating International Women’s Day by introducing ‘Leaders of Luminate’; a series of talks and interviews with female or non-binary leaders across Luminate Education Group. This will start on International Women’s Day and continue weekly for six weeks. To attend, sign up here.

The group is also launching a Women’s Staff Forum, which is open to anyone who identifies as female or non-binary.

Throughout International Women’s Day, staff across Luminate Education Group are also invited to come along to Leeds Conservatoire’s Café Conversations. These will be hour-long sessions and the conversations will explore a range of topics from navigating a work-life balance, imposter syndrome and authenticity. 

Inspirational women

As part of the celebration, we asked women leaders across the group about who they admire.

Ann-Marie Spry, Group Vice Principal – Curriculum and Adults, said: “My biggest inspiration was my mum, Elieen, who was an amazing forward-thinking woman. She was strong, resilient and exposed me to culture, diversity and social responsibility from an early age. As I get older, I recognise her sacrifices and determination to ensure my brother and I had a well-rounded formal and informal education.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be the modern day Marie Curie; a woman in a male-dominated world in science and medicine. In my earlier career as a teacher in science and health, I had an amazing mentor called Barbara Tindale, who was one of the best teachers I’ve ever known. She had the ability to bring out the best in everyone around her, and was a true diplomat ahead of her time. My career would not have been the same without her patience, time and inspiration.

“I’m also inspired by everyday people who are strong, brave, compassionate and always willing to share their gifts to develop others. I see inspiration in the younger generation too, such as Malala Yousafzai who’s been vocal about education for girls and women, and Greta Thunberg’s unwavering commitment to our environment.”

Gemma Simmons-Blench, Deputy CEO – Curriculum and Quality, added: “My 19 year old step daughter, Molly, is my inspiration. I’ve known her since she was seven and for part of her early life she was extremely unwell, meaning she missed at least 50% of primary school. This meant she had to play catch up all through secondary school. Despite a series of operations and coping with an undiagnosed condition for a long time, Molly achieved amazing GCSE and A level results.

“Molly has now gone on to Northumbria University where she is studying a psychology degree. Even though Covid-19 caused further disruptions to her education, she has made an amazing start, making new friends and fully engaging with uni life. Molly has handled every situation with integrity, showing true strength in character. Myself and our family are so proud of her and in awe of her confident and positive spirit. 

“With a placement during her second year secured, we can’t wait to see what Molly takes on next. She is an inspiration to me and our family.”

How do you think we can break the bias in education?

Gemma: “As females in education, we all need to be very aware of what the issues are with gender biases, so we can always proactively acknowledge and challenge them. As a group of FE colleges, we strive to be inclusive in every aspect of our organisation and as a result have created a working environment that is truly balanced. As a result of this, we have a duty to instil this view amongst our students, staff as well as other sectors.

“One of the ways we can help break the bias is to have more liaison between education and employers. The FE sector is more advanced in terms of gender balance, but we must use this position to help encourage this thinking more broadly. Wherever possible we should use our networks, connections and influence across key sectors to showcase how gender equality can and should operate in the workplace. 

“As a collection of education institutions we take our position as role models for our students and the communities we serve very seriously. Another way we can continue to break down gender bias in education is by ensuring our curriculum and cohort of students remains diverse and inclusive. At Luminate Education Group we’re proud to embed balanced values around gender into our culture and education.”

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