International Women's Day: Shanara Hibbert Q&A

What is your job at the University and how long have you worked here? 


I have two different jobs at the University and have worked as the Sustainability and Workplace Wellbeing Engagement Officer in the Health, Safety and Sustainability team since February 2020, looking after the Wellbeing Champion Network. I have also worked as the Student Success Officer (Equality) in the Widening Access and Student Success team since April 2020, leading projects such as Black History Month and looking after the BAME Student Advocates. However, prior to this I worked as the Marketing Manager at the SU. So although I still haven’t met a lot of my team due to lockdown, luckily I did meet some people while working in my previous role! 


What is your greatest achievement? This can be personal or related to your professional career 


Without a doubt, my greatest achievement so far is winning the silver medal at the Spar Indoor British Championships in Glasgow in February 2020. In the final round, I finally jumped a new personal best for the first time in years and broke the 13m barrier for the first time. I will always remember how the stadium celebrated with me as the distance was called out. It was also televised live so it meant that family and friends were able to share the moment with me. It was such an incredible moment for me because since October 2019 I had made a lot of big changes to enable this to happen, but didn’t think the effects would show up so quickly. I changed my coach, training schedule and training group. I also completely changed my diet after a diagnosis of IBS and worked consistently on sports psychology. I also changed my job, career path and the club I compete for to enable me to compete at a higher level more regularly. 



Are there any women in your life who have been a role model? 


There are countless women who have inspired me throughout my life! My Mum is an inspiration as she is always so organised, caring and considerate. Although the youngest of 10 siblings, she is always bringing the wider family together and I admire her perseverance, especially considering some of the things she has faced in life. She is also a true fan of Athletics and is often more aware of how my competitors are performing than I am! I am often inspired by women who are driven, say things as they see them, know their worth and are unapologetic about it. One person I have always looked up to at the University in particular is Ann Campbell as she is very driven, honest and supportive. It’s so important to see women from different backgrounds achieving their goals in a variety of roles, because it makes you realise that you can also achieve great things. 


Have you ever experienced a barrier or a struggle due to your gender? If you overcame this, how did you do it? 


Personally, as a black woman it is difficult to separate whether any barriers or struggles have been put in place due to your race, gender, or something else. There is the stereotype of the “angry black women” and I have noticed times where people may be treated differently for saying or doing the same thing I may have. Rightly or wrongly, my general approach is to work to the best of my ability, try and recognise my own value and celebrate the small wins. I am learning to listen to my gut more and have also built a great network of support around me both personally and professionally. 


What do you think society can do to advance gender equality? 


I think gender equality is everyone’s responsibility. As with all areas of equality, I believe the first thing to do is to listen and educate yourself on the key issues. The second is to actively do something about what you have learned - Understand that other people’s experiences are different to yours and try not to get defensive if their reality challenges yours. Give those people who don’t always have a platform the chance to be visible and to speak for themselves about their own experiences - let people know that they are more than enough. A degree of transparency is also important and having the uncomfortable conversations with a view to expand your worldview, rather than defend it is key. Also, recognising that everyone has bias and being aware of your own so that you can challenge it. 

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