Rosemary French OBE, inspires staff and students on International Women’s Day
Awarded an OBE in 2014 for services to women in business, the 2017 Sussex Business Woman of the Year in 2017 began with positive words about the University when she said: “It is such a privilege to be invited to be talking to Brighton – a university strongly led by a Female Vice Chancellor and with such an ethical, sustainable, and inclusive vision.”
Rosemary highlighted how the pandemic had intensified multiple demands that many women have always faced, describing the role of women at home during lockdown. “They were teachers, cooks, cleaners, keep fit instructors, counsellors, babysitters, entertainers and economists while doing their best to hold down their job or keep their business running…. Of course, so many of these multi-tasking women still had to do their own 9 to 5 job, and in many cases run their own businesses.”
She also drew attention to the particular difficulties faced by many women, whether caused by poverty or the significant increase in domestic abuse – an issue being studied in current research projects at Brighton.
Rosemary also revealed how the past year has emphasised the importance of women’s contribution – actual and potential – to society. She cited the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship that last year calculated the untapped potential of women-led businesses represented the equivalent to more than one million small businesses and £250 billion of additional value for the UK economy – a situation the latest update of the Review showed had worsened significantly in the pandemic through increasing obstacles faced by so many women in starting, continuing, and scaling their business.
Rosemary also highlighted the world-changing impact of work carried out by two women in response to the pandemic.
Professor Sarah Catherine Gilbert was celebrated as the woman whose far-sighted insights into vaccine creation were crucial to the speedy development of the Oxford Astra Zeneca Vaccine
The second was Kate Bingham – a trained bio chemist who became a venture capitalist businesswoman focused on biochemical companies. This combination made her appointment as Head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce the incredible success we are witnessing today as the roll out of the vaccine promises a brighter future for all – one in which the contribution of women needs to be highlighted and celebrated every day, not just on one day.