IWD2020: Director of Commercial & Resources talks gender equality, diversity and action for equality

An equal world is an enabled world - Such is the theme for this year's International Women's Day. We sat down with Director of Commercial & Resources Laina Baftjari to discuss the importance of leading the initiative for an equal and balanced world.


ST ALBANS — An equal world is an enabled world – Such is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. We sat down with Director of Commercial & Resources Laina Baftjari to discuss the importance of leading the initiative for an equal and balanced world. 

Oaklands College is proud to have formed an inclusive workplace, encouraging women of all backgrounds to be innovative, to lead and to uplift other colleagues to a more equal, diverse and inclusive workplace.

Laina has worked at Oaklands College since 2004, during this time she has been fortunate enough to work in a number of different areas. Laina spent eight years as a Co-ordinator in the Supportive Learning department, where she worked with young adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, before moving on to become Head of Quality.

Speaking about her current role, Laina said: “I am passionate about the student experience, in my current role of director of commercial and resources, I am really enjoying working with some fantastic colleagues across a number of different teams, who all share the same passion.”

We sat down with Laina to discuss the importance of equality in the workplace and discussed the missions of this year’s International Women’s Day.

What does this year’s International Women’s Day slogan #EachforEqual mean to you in the workplace?

This year’s International Women’s day slogan #EachforEqual is a powerful reminder to us all that our individual actions- the things we do and say, and how we treat other people- have a huge impact on equality in society as a whole- and this extends to the workplace too.
We each can make a difference and contribute to a fairer, more equal world where women have the same rights, opportunities and access as men. As a working mother, I am very fortunate to work for an organisation that values the contribution of women in the workplace and has family friendly work policies in place that enable working mothers to hold senior leadership roles while balancing other commitments outside of work.

How important do you feel it is that the College embraces this year’s #EachforEqual theme and how has this already been achieved?

I’m incredibly proud to work for an organisation like Oaklands College. Oaklands is committed to ensuring that there is equality of opportunity for all. The Equality and Diversity committee meet regularly to discuss, review and implement initiatives to ensure that staff and students are treated equally and with respect.
Issues related to equality and diversity are promoted through teaching, learning and assessment activities and there is significant focus on identifying and reducing achievement gaps where they exist. It is also an environment which raises aspiration and provides an opportunity for everyone to achieve.

If you had one piece of advice to female students/staff what would it be?

I’ve been very fortunate and growing up I never felt that I couldn’t do something or be anything I wanted to be just because I was a girl. The one piece of advice I would give to female students and staff is this- never feel that you can’t achieve something because of your gender.

Which other women inspire you most and why?

There are many great women and men who have led the way in terms of creating a more equal world for women and girls. Some have worked individually (often in very difficult circumstances), and some as part of larger groups of people, such as employment unions, to challenge stereotypes and to create more equality in the workplace in terms of pay, employment rights and access to the same opportunities that men have. As its International Women’s Day, I’ll focus just on the women who have most inspired me throughout history for the various roles that they have played in overcoming stereotypes and forging a more equal world.

  • Emmeline Pankhurst: while many disagree with her methods, there’s no doubting that she played a hugely important role in women winning the right to vote
  • Hedy Lamarr: Hedy helped design a frequency hopping radio guidance system during World War II and developed techniques that are now used in modern day Bluetooth devices
  • Malala Yousafzai: At great personal cost, Malala reminded the world that girls have a right to receive the same education that boys have access to and continues to inspire girls and women around the world
  • Serena Williams: A fierce advocate for women’s rights and a long-time advocate for equality in the world of sport
  • Michelle Obama: Former first lady, law graduate, author and powerful advocate for women’s rights and equality – there is a lot to admire about Michelle Obama
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