Celebrating International Women’s Day 2020

In the run-up to International Women’s Day (IWD) the University of Leicester has been celebrating with a range of events across campus, join us over the weekend for more events.

Celebrated on 8 March each year, this year's IWD theme is #EachforEqual.

As part of the University’s plans to officially mark the day this year, the popular library Reading Room has been renamed after our first female student, Rhoda Bennett, who graduated in 1925. In 1931, Rhoda became our first professional librarian and became University Librarian in 1957.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Henrietta O’Connor commented in her blog: “Representation across university buildings and monuments – as well as in other prominent sectors – is a widely debated issue. We’ve begun a cultural change to work towards a more inclusive campus. Renaming the Reading Room forms part of a wider university commitment to diversifying our visual landscape.

“To better reflect the true roots of the university, in 2015 we renamed the Manorcroft at Oadby Student Village the Olive Banks Building. Olive Banks was the first female professor at the University. In 2018, alongside colleagues from Attenborough Arts, we revealed three portraits of females, painted by female artists, as part of the IWD celebrations, these are now located in the Council Suite Rooms.

Female portraits decorating the university walls is a significant historic change. This project proudly celebrated the diversity of our staff, students and wider contributors and we are keen to continue this way. The portraits of Esuantsiwa Jane Goldsmith, Olive Banks and Wendy Hickling mark a place on our journey towards embedding a culture of equality, diversity and inclusivity throughout the university.”

The new portrait of Rhoda Bennett was painted by Derbyshire-based artist Elizabeth Tooth, who also painted Olive Banks' portrait. It was unveiled by the President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, and Michaela Butter, Director of Attenborough Arts.