Aug 17 2015

Acknowledging their awkwardness…

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This article was originally posted on Blue Tulip Training

How do we manage our interactions and experiences with people who are different to us? In a multicultural society in which we are thriving for similar goals of success and development, is awkwardness natural? Sneha Khilay from Blue Tulip Training discusses her personal experiences about the anxieties associated with other peoples differences and the importance of acknowledging and managing these to learn more about each other and build mutual respect.

©Flickr user FutUndBeidl

©Flickr user FutUndBeidl

I used to experience a regular tirade of ‘did you have an arranged marriage?’, ‘I bet you are a good cook’, ‘do you ever wear a sari?’, ‘what does the red spot on Indian women’s forehead mean? etc. Whether these comments were asked out of genuine curiosity or in a provocative manner – to elicit a reaction from me, it left me feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable. My added concern was that the symbolic neon arrow highlighting my difference was flashing again and that I was defined only on the basis of being an Indian woman, my other beliefs and values had casually been put back into the shadow. The sting of these regular slights became quite a burden to carry.

I have noticed that lately these types of questions are not asked of me with the same level of intensity and frequency. What I had not quite taken into consideration is my own internal judgement when colleagues have voiced their feelings of awkwardness when dealing with my difference, that of being an Indian woman.

Over the last couple of years, I have developed a friendly professional relationship with a group of white male colleagues. We share laughter, banter and personal stories whilst maintaining our professional stance. This group of men have their own differences to contend with, around religion, sexual orientation and disability; in this instance not all overtly visible.

Recently a couple of men from this group candidly admitted that when they first met me, they really did not know how to behave towards me and felt awkward. They acknowledged that they had not had any professional involvement with an Indian woman, and had initially placed me in their stereotypical image of being submissive and traditional.

I pretended to be relaxed about their disclosure, but I felt uncomfortable and somehow the sting of those regular slights that had interspersed throughout my life suddenly came to the forefront. I easily got caught up in my own judgement of their lack of understanding and their previous lack of willingness to interact with people who come from different cultural (Asian) background.

It can be argued that perhaps my colleagues did not need to disclose their initial awkwardness, I however recognise that their admission was a disguised compliment and they felt comfortable, enough to voice their initial reservations. However my realisation was more about my reaction to their disclosure. Why was I dismissive and impatient when they brought up their stereotypical notions? On reflection, I became aware and appreciated that in spite of their misguided perceptions, they had always approached me with respect and professional affection. Also they had never highlighted my difference, inadvertently or otherwise and certainly did not put any pressure (or burden) on me, of needing to discuss/explain the complexity related to my race/gender. If they had, our conversations would not have been genuine and would have lacked nuance.  Our discussions instead tended to focus on what we had in common, our professional values and to continue to invest in the work that we were required to do.

Audience_7033It is common knowledge that instinctively we all interact with people who look, behave and dress like us. When we do encounter someone who does not fit our category of ‘sameness’ it is important to acknowledge that we would and do feel awkward. I realise to my chagrin that my colleagues’ awkwardness was their overt conscious effort, to make sure that they did not say the wrong thing or behave in a manner that might cause offence.

I learned through my colleagues’ affirming attitude and behaviour that I should not allow myself to be a prisoner of my past experiences or limit myself to valuing only those who shout from the rooftops of their knowledge of diversity and inclusion.  What these men have taught me was that whilst we all have our anxieties about other people’s differences, it’s how we manage them which is the key, to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know you’ve acted in good conscience.

Sneha Khilay

Sneha Khilay – Blue Tulip Training

Snéha Khilay is a diversity and leadership consultant/trainer. Snéha carries out consultancy and training on Diversity and Inclusion, Managing Diversity and the Law, Cultural Competency, Dignity at Work and Conflict Resolution. Snéha has published articles on diversity and leadership in Management Today, Start Your Business, Simply Business, Professional Manager, Change Board, People and People

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Aug 5 2015

Singapore’s Social Experiment Key To Economic Success

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This article was originally posted on Forbes

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stated of their current diversity policy for housing that “As a result of this policy Singapore has long enjoyed the benefits of an integrated society where citizens of all races live and work together. Citizens are also free to practice their religion and culture without fear of prejudice or persecution.” However are Singapore’s diversity policies too prescriptive? Ruchika Tulshyan discusses the effectiveness of Singapore’s diversity policies in this engaging article.

Singapore cityscape by Christopher Chan @Flikr

Singapore cityscape by Christopher Chan @Flikr

The wealthy nation’s Deputy Prime Minister said an intrusive policy to foster diversity drove Singapore’s economic growth

Singapore’s economic achievements are impressive. A nation smaller in size than Manhattan consistently ranks in the top five richest countries in the world. However, the international media rarely focuses on Singapore’s success as an ethnically diverse and inclusive society, particularly in comparison with most other developed nations.

No doubt, it is not perfectly equal, nor claims to be. I have previously written about facing racial prejudice when I was growing up in Singapore. But Singaporeans of all ethnicities have unequivocal access to education and job opportunities. The country operates as a meritocracy where talent and determination is prized above race and connections. As many Western nations tackle the challenge of leveling the playing field for their citizens of all racial and economic backgrounds, Singapore presents a fascinating case study.

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam recently linked the republic’s economic success to its diverse society. This inclusive society was deliberately engineered by the government’s “intrusive” housing policies, he said in an interview at the 45th St. Gallen Symposium. This dialogue starts about eight minutes into the video and resurfaces throughout the presentation.


About 85% of Singaporeans today live in public housing estates and 90% of citizens are homeowners. The public housing estates, managed by the government, have an enforced ethnic quota. Maximum proportions are set for the residents from various ethnic groups in these blocks of apartments. This helps “prevent the formation of racial enclaves and promote ethnic integration,” according to the government’s website. Sales of a new or resale apartment are not approved to a buyer from a particular ethnic group if it would lead to that group’s limit being exceeded.

“When it was first done, I don’t think we knew how important it would be,” Shanmugaratnam, who is also the country’s Finance Minister, told the audience in St. Gallen. “Once people live together, they’re not just walking the same corridors every day, they’re not just taking the same elevators up and down, their kids go to the same schools…and they grow up together.” As a result of this policy Singapore has long enjoyed the benefits of an integrated society where citizens of all races live and work together, he said. Citizens are also free to practice their religion and culture without fear of prejudice or persecution.

The British presenter Stephen Sackur challenged him repeatedly on the “authoritarian” nature of this policy. In turn, Shanmugaratnam pointed to the challenges faced by liberal Western societies today. He cited examples from Baltimore, and the state of Muslim populations in the U.K. and France, stating that without a social strategy to harness diversity, segregation and inequalities often run rampant. “The lessons coming out of all of our societies show that neighborhoods matter…it matters tremendously in the daily influences that shape your life and the traps you fall into,” he said.

Would A Similar Experiment Work In America?

Singapore’s model is not applicable for most countries and has rightfully drawn criticism for being too prescriptive. Shanmugaratnam himself admitted that policies like these will continue to evolve as Singapore faces new challenges of free-flowing information, immigration and rising income inequality.

But maintaining status quo isn’t helping many liberal nations struggling to integrate diverse populations of all socioeconomic backgrounds either. Consider America, which is now the most unequal of all Western nations. The U.S. also lags in social mobility behind Canada and Western Europe. As tragedies like Ferguson are becoming more commonplace, it’s imperative to explore models where inclusion comes from the top-down, rather than left to natural forces.

Christine Lagarde and Tharman Shanmugaratnum

Christine Lagarde and Tharman Shanmugaratnum

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde (L) and Singapore Minister of Finance and International Monetary and Financial Committee chairman Tharman Shanmugaratnam (R) attend the group photo of the day at the 2014 Spring Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group April 12, 2014, in Washington, DC, AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

History shows us that people do not naturally choose inclusiveness – whether at work or home. In fact, without a requirement to foster an inclusive society, the majority often willfully chooses to oppress minorities. Shanmugaratnam, who also serves as Chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee makes a strong case for the responsibility of the government in addressing inclusion through strategic policy.

An Inclusive Society Doesn’t Happen Naturally

Defending the Singaporean government’s social micro-management, Shanmugaratnam said: “If we believe in social inclusion, if we believe in opportunities for all, we have to accept it doesn’t happen automatically because of the invisible hand of the market or the invisible hand of society.” He went on to highlight how in many societies, “you’ve got policies that went in the other direction and they trap people…where they started. If you’re black, if you’re low-income, you end up where you started.”

The self-segregation by race we see all over America or prohibitions on individual expression such as France’s burqa ban, are not sustainable solutions for countries looking to foster thriving diverse societies. Singapore’s housing policy would hardly be palatable to Western voters, but it has nonetheless managed to create a nonviolent and inclusive society. Citizens that live harmoniously in multiethnic neighborhoods are often more indicative of inclusiveness than diverse populations that remain segregated along class and race lines. It’s akin to corporations with diverse employees but where influence is concentrated in the hands of few white men.

The rest of the interview is also worth a watch. Shanmugaratnam discusses welfare, the role of the government in shaping the economy and the dichotomy between liberty and political constraints.
Ruchika TulshyanRuchika Tulshyan is a financial reporter, with a specialised interest in covering women’s leadership. She has been published in Forbes, CNN, Time, Bloomberg and the Huffington Post, among others. Ruchika holds a Bachelor’s in political science and history from the London School of Economics and Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. Follow her on Twitter: @rtulshyan.

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Jul 28 2015

Racial Biases in Recruitment

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Many organisations are promoting diversity throughout their workforce to create a competitive edge in the market. However, there are questions as to how bias in the recruitment and selection process hinders an organisation’s efforts. Snéha Khilay discusses bias in the recruitment and selection process, and its effect on organisations who are trying to achieve a competitive edge with reference to some thought provoking cases. 

Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.

Victor Hugo

Latest research conducted by McKinsey indicates that organisations in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians*.

@ Flickr Alan Cleaver

@ Flickr Alan Cleaver

Other research has shown that teams with a wide spread of diversity outperform homogeneous teams.  Too many similarities within the team members can lead to teams being complacent resulting in poor decision making process, whereas allowing for multiple perspectives lead to innovation and more consideration being given to potential risks.

In spite of general acknowledgement of a sound business case for implementing diversity in organisations, concerns about the low percentage of black and minority ethnic colleagues at middle to senior management levels continue.  One of the roots of this gap could be on the recruitment processes. Are these processes robust in monitoring and evaluating whether the outcomes are reasonable and fair? Recent research conducted by Race for Opportunity found that only 29% of Black and Minority Ethnic candidates, applying through a recruitment agency, were successful in securing jobs compared to 54% of their white counterparts. A colleague from a recruitment agency mentioned that her agency is hesitant about putting forward CVs with unusual or ‘foreign’ names as these CVs are often rejected by their clients. Furthermore recruiting managers seem to be spend more time in evaluating positive information on white candidates’ CVs and dismiss relevant and positive information on CVs of non-white applicants.

Bob** Founder and Managing Director of an IT company (300 employees) recently indicated that he would only appoint someone who thinks, acts and talks like him. He added that during the interview process, he assesses whether the candidate has the potential to be a Director of his company. In essence Bob is actively seeking candidates whom he considers to be a ‘good fit’ to the organisation.

Using Bob as an archetypical panel member in an interview process, he would most likely align himself with those who are like him and thereby subconsciously reject candidates who he considers not to be a good fit. Malcolm Gladwell claims that within the first 7 seconds of meeting someone, we make eleven judgements about the person and subconsciously we gather data to justify and maintain these judgements.

©Flickr user FutUndBeidl

©Flickr user FutUndBeidl

Let’s take this further. We have two candidates for the same job, Mike who is white and male and Sukhdev who is male and Sikh, wearing a turban. During the interview, Bob, identifying more with Mike would inadvertently give Mike the ‘benefit of doubt’, if Mike stumbled or was hesitant in response to a question. Bob would put him at ease and show patience. By contrast, Bob might not be so tolerant/patient of Sukhdev’s hesitation. Bob’s conclusion would be Sukhdev is not confident or articulate and therefore will not fit into our organisation’.  Bob’s perceptions about the interviews would constitute his reality.  Bob might feel that he had conducted all interviews similarly, but not recognise that his decision of appointing Mike was subconsciously driven by his alliance to  and feeling comfortable with Mike. ‘It’s like going on a date, you just know when you are compatible’ Quote from a recruiting manager

Often there is the concept of social awkwardness, a process of trying to build rapport with Black and Minority Ethnic candidates. I call these the ‘Are you sure?’ moments all linked to perceptions of personal norms. In a recent interview, a candidate, again wearing a turban introduced himself as ‘Philip Singh’. He was asked, ‘are you sure that is your name’. Philip responded with a yes to which the interviewer asked whether he was christened with the name. Philip’s parents simply liked the name. In another interview, a black male candidate asked about support networks for LGBT staff. He was met with the response of ‘Are you sure you are gay, I don’t think I have met anyone who is Black and Gay’. In another situation, a black man on appointment was told by our archetypical Bob, ‘I have never had a black man in my team, are you sure you will teach me how to behave myself so that I don’t make mistakes on race issues? Although we can argue with a vehement ‘surely not in this day and age!’ the reality highlights a different truth. Incidentally in the latter two scenarios, both candidates with their wealth of knowledge, skills and experience turned down the job offers.

At the same time, there is the flip side, do the rapport building questions from the interview panel members highlight differences? In one situation during the social pleasantries exchange stage of an interview, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab was asked whether she would be fasting during Ramadan. She subsequently raised a formal complaint against the interview panel members, convinced that she was not offered a job because she was Muslim.

Fundamentally if organisations want to have a competitive business edge, considerable care needs to be given during the recruitment and selection process to ensure that relevant, valid and reliable information is taken into consideration.  There should be a process in place that provides justification or explanation when distinguishing potential candidates from those who are considered as not suitable. There needs to be some form of accountability on attitudes and behaviours. The quote from Victor Hugo (1802) sums it well “Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.”

*While correlation does not equal causation (greater gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership doesn’t automatically translate into more profit), the correlation does indicate that when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful. Mackenzie Report

** Names have been changed

SnehaSnéha Khilay is a diversity and leadership consultant/trainer. Snéha carries out consultancy and training on Diversity and Inclusion, Managing Diversity and the Law, Cultural Competency, Dignity at Work and Conflict Resolution. Snéha has published articles on diversity and leadership in Management Today, Start Your Business, Simply Business, Professional Manager, Change Board, People and People Management. Visit Snéha’s website at

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Jul 20 2015

Women’s Library@LSE archive – women and the Miners’ Strike

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This article was originally posted on the LSE History blog

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Archivist Kate Higgins uses the Women’s Library@LSE archive to look back at women’s response to the Miners’ Strike 1984-85, on its 30th anniversary.

Thirty years ago this month the miners’ strike of 1984-85 – called nationally by Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on 12 March 1984 following National Coal Board announcements of pit closures – ended and miners began to return to work. It had been the longest major period of industrial action in British history.

Miners' Strike rally, London 1984

While women in mining communities had not participated actively in earlier miners’ strikes, this strike was different because the proposed closures threatened the communities’ entire way of life –affecting whole families, villages and towns as well as individuals. Spurred by this and by early press reports that miners’ wives were not supporting their striking husbands, women formed local groups to organise community kitchens, fundraising events, demonstrations and other supportive activities. These community groups coalesced into a national body called Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC), founded in Barnsley by local women including a Women’s Studies lecturer at Northern College, Jean McCrindle.

The papers of Jean McCrindle and WAPC are now available on the Women’s Library@LSE online catalogue. These include national WAPC and Barnsley branch minutes, financial records, correspondence, conference papers and administrative records; ephemera; Jean McCrindle’s personal campaign-related records including diary entries; the WAPC newsletter ‘Coalfield Woman’; and objects such as photographs, postcards and badges.

These papers illuminate the story of female involvement in the miners’ strike, and in particular illustrate not only the strike itself but also the revolutionary effect it had on women’s lives and their role in local communities. Previously mining communities had a traditional structure with women expected to centre their lives around their homes and families, but their involvement in WAPC and related miners’ support groups enabled them to learn new skills, explore new fields and develop talents in a way not previously possible.

Further LSE study resources relating to women and the Miners’ Strike

External web resources

External archival resources

Contributed by Kate Higgins (Assistant Archivist, LSE)

March is Women’s History Month and Sunday 8 March is International Women’s History Day #IWD2015



LSE 120th anniversary



Find out more about LSE’s history and join in the 120th anniversary celebrations at

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Jul 7 2015

‘Brilliant rhetoric’ – Malcolm X at LSE, 11 February 1965

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This article was originally posted on the LSE History blog

On 11 February 1965 LSE’s Old Theatre was packed to listen to Malcolm X; on 21 February he was murdered while preparing to address a meeting of the Organisation for Afro-American Unity in New York.

The Beaver, 18 February 1965

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska. After a difficult and disrupted childhood Malcolm X joined the controversial black supremacist movement the Nation of Islam while he was in prison for larceny and breaking and entering. At the same time he began to use the name Malcolm X, explaining that the X represented the African family name he would never know.

Despite much searching in the LSE archives the only record of Malcolm X’s visit to come to light is a report in The Beaver published 18 February 1965. Malcolm X was invited to speak by LSE’s Africa Society although the background to the invitation is unknown. Tim Gopsill was the 20-year-old editor of The Beaver in 1965. In an interview Gopsill remembered meeting Malcolm X but not the content of the speech. He did recall that: ‘He was quite intimidating. It had something to do with his charisma. He had strength – just his presence.’

By the time Malcolm X visited LSE he had left the Nation of Islam and established a new religious movement, Muslim Mosque Inc, and a secular group, the Organisation for African-American Unity, to fight for the human rights of African Americans. A highly controversial figure, his visit to LSE has been the subject of great interest, coming so closely to his murder. According to The Beaver the speech received ‘prolonged applause’ and was well received, by many students. You can read The Beaver report on the LSE Digital Library.

The following day Malcom X visited Smethwick in Birmingham where the Conservative MP had won the seat in the previous year’s general election on a strong anti-immigration ticket. Prior to his LSE visit, in 1964 Malcolm X had taken part in a debate at the Oxford Union, losing the vote but getting a great deal of publicity. The theme of the speech was the relationship between the newly independent African states and the Black Moslem movement. You can read the surviving text of the speech.

Following Malcolm X’s death The Beaver followed up with an editorial on Malcolm X and his legacy reporting that: ‘’There is no doubt that Malcolm X was an orator and political leader of genius.” Though there would be many views on the nature and impact of his views and campaigns. The full editorial is available online.

If anyone reading this can remember the visit it would be great to hear your comments.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

Read the Beaver’s own commemoration here.

LSE 120th anniversaryFind out more about LSE’s history and join in the 120th anniversary celebrations at

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Jun 1 2015

Exciting events in June by LSE POWER for LSE staff

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Friday 5th June:  Professional Networking Skills –  Sue Tonks


This event will be run in two parts.  Part 1 will run from 12.30pm to 14.00pm (with lunch) and Part 2 from 14.00pm until 16.00pm.  PLEASE NOTE:  those attending Part 2 must have attended Part 1)

Networking event (part 1), including lunch (12.30pm-14.00pm)
This consists of a ‘working the room’ practical session on arrival, as the delegates come in and have lunch. This will be a standing session of about 20 minutes as the delegates are doing what is natural, standing and chatting. This is a fun and highly informative session on how groups work, group formations, joining groups, leaving groups, joining and leaving the single person, offloading the boring person!! We will then go into to more formal part of the session, which consists of: What is Networking, Building Relationships, Creating Immediate Rapport, Asking Ice Breaker and Small Talk questions. Answering the question “What do you Do?”

Networking event (part 2) (14.00pm-16.00pm) [NB: those attending the second session must have been to part 1]
The longer session will consist of: The Networking Structure, Asking Business Related Questions, Developing the Current supplier and User Questions, Spotting the Opportunity (Ah Ha Moment), Creating the Link To Contact them, Avoiding the Gollum Moment, Preparing the Follow Up Call.

How do I book:

Part 1:

Part 2:

 Wednesday 10th June:  Social Media Workshop – Amy Mollett and Sonja Grussendorf

This will be held from 12.30pm to 13.30pm, but no lunch will be provided.

We will explore the opportunities for using social media in professional networking and effective communication; learn how to use social media to its fullest extent when hunting for jobs; explore how to maximise conference experiences, and consider the pros and cons of creating a “personal brand”. The workshop format will be discursive and explorative. The aim is to provide participants with the skills to make intelligent choices about a variety of platforms now and in the future, as social media brands have ‘short shelf lives’. We recommend that participants bring some mobile device to the workshop (laptop, tablet, smartphone), though it is not entirely necessary and laptops and ipads can be made available for loan for the workshop if needed.

How do I book:

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Mar 20 2015

Women at the front – pioneering LSE teachers

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This article was originally posted on the LSE History blog.

LSE accepted women students from its earliest days. For Women’s History Month we take a look at the women who stood at the front of the classroom during the early years of the School.

Gertrude Tuckwell

Gertrude Tuckwell

The first woman to appear in the list of teachers in the LSE Calendar is Gertrude Tuckwell in the School’s second year. Gertrude Tuckwell (1861-1951) gave six lectures in the Lent term on factory legislation. Gertrude (1861-1951) initially trained as a teacher but through the influence of her aunt Emilia Francis, wife of the liberal politician Charles Dilke, from 1893 she had become deeply committed to women’s trade unionism and employment rights. In 1905 Tuckwell would become President of the Women’s Trade Union League and also sat on the executive committee of the International Association for Labour Legislation, founding the British section along with Sidney Webb.

 Ellen MacArthur

In 1897-1898 two women appeared as teachers who were both linked with Girton College, Cambridge. In Lent Term Miss E A MacArthur, Head Lecturer, Girton College, lectured on The Development of the Office of Justice of the Peace, with special reference to its Economic Functions. Ellen MacArthur took a first class honours in the Cambridge History Tripos in 1885 and taught history at Girton from 1886 becoming principal history teacher from 1896-1907. From 1907-1911 she was also Head of the History Department at Westfield College, standing in for another Girton College and LSE student, Caroline Skeel. MacArthur was an active supporter of women’s suffrage sitting on the executive committee of National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1910.

Lilian Knowles (nee Tomn)

Lilian Knowles

Less well-known at the time was Lilian Tomn, then a research student at LSE, who gave three lectures on The Referendum. She had recently edited a translation of a book by Simon Deploige, The Referendum in Switzerland, about the use of the referendum in Swiss democracy. Lilian Tomn reappears in the Calendar as a Lecturer in Economic History in 1903. She married a fellow LSE student Charles Knowles and they had a son. At LSE this did not prevent her becoming the first female Professor of Economic History in the country in 1921. Lilian Knowles was an advocate of equal pay and employment rights and waged a long campaign with the LSE administration about her own pay and conditions. It is likely that Knowles and MacArthur were recommended to the LSE Director by the economic historian William Cunningham, an early supporter of Cambridge education for women and an intermittent occasional lecturer at LSE from 1895-1915.

Beatrice Hewart

In 1898-1899 only Ellen MacArthur is listed as a teacher but in 1899-1900 two new names appeared. Miss A Hewart gave three lectures on Friday evenings at 7pm from 20 October. The Regulation of Industry in the North of England covered the growth of the textile trade during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the imposition and enforcement of legislation. Sadly little is known of Beatrice Hewart who had been an undergraduate at Aberystwyth University and in 1898 published The Wages of London Vestry Employees in the Economic Journal, but she is also listed as the recipient of a research studentship.

Beatrice Webb

Beatrice Webb, c1900

The second name was that of LSE founder Beatrice Webb, or as she was listed, Mrs Sidney Webb. For the next two years Thursdays at 5pm were Beatrice’s regular teaching slot. In 1898-1899 she taught on Problems of Trade Unionism and Factory Legislation and in 1899-1900 delivered a course on free competition in the labour market. Both courses were inspired by the Webbs’ research into the history of trade unionism and the text course books included their History of Trade Unionism andIndustrial Democracy copies of which were placed in the Student Lending Library for the special use of students on the course. Beatrice who had received little formal education and certainly no degree must have been happy to lecture and prove her expertise. After the lecture Beatrice and Sidney would go up to the top floor flat occupied by Charlotte and Bernard Shaw for dinner.

On October 30 1899 she wrote in her diary:

“I enjoy lecturing every Thursday: the preparation of my lecture takes the best part of two mornings either in actual preparation or in resting so that my brain may be clear. The weekly class brings us into close connection with the work of the School: I see some half dozen students every week and talk over their work with them.”

In time these women were joined by others including Mrs HAL (Lettice) Fisher in Social Science and Administration and the Fabian Mabel Atkinson, lecturing on public administration.

For many years women were only a small percentage of the teaching staff and often concentrated in particular departments including Economic History and Social Science and Administration. However LSE was progressive in allowing married women and mothers to continue to teach and undertake research.

There are more stories to be told about these pioneering women.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist) 

LSE 120th anniversary

Find out more about LSE’s history and join in the 120th anniversary celebrations at


Gertude Mary Tuckwell by Bassano Ltd from

Lilian Knowles from LSE archives

Beatrice Webb from LSE Library Flickr

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Mar 12 2015

The Audacity of Race: How colour-blind are our ‘seats of learning’?

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Monday 16 March, 12.30pm
Book a place here –

Following on from our discussion last term where we explored the lived experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) academic and professional services staff in Higher Education, the second part of our conversation series will focus on the discourses of identity related to the career trajectories of BME academics in the UK. We will also take a closer look at the impact of the lack of the ‘visible minority’ on the BME student experience. Our confirmed panel of speakers for this event includes:

  • Dr Kalwant Bhopal, Reader in Education at Southampton University and author of the Leadership Foundation report ‘The experience of BME academics in higher education: aspirations in the face of inequality.’
  • Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Head of Research for the Runnymede Trust.  The Trust has recently produced the report ‘Aiming Higher: Race, Inequality and Diversity in the Academy’.

The session will be facilitated by Carolyn Solomon-Pryce, Equality and Diversity Manager and Dr Ohemaa Nkansa-Dwamena, Student Counsellor.

We would find it helpful if attendees considered the following reports and formulated questions in advance of the session: and

There will be a sandwich lunch provided prior to a prompt start at 12.30.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Mar 2 2015

Beatrice Webb – the early years

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March is Women’s History Month. Let’s take this opportunity to find out more about Beatrice Webb – the only woman among the four co-founders of LSE.

This post was originally published on the LSE History blog.

“The early spring months have always been sweet at Standish and the loveliest memories of my childhood gather round the first long days, when the dreary walks along the muddy roads directly after the midday meal, were replaced by the scramble among hyacinths and ferns, the gathering of primroses and violets and the building of grottoes in the hours of sunset and dusk.”

Beatrice Webb c1875

In 1884 Beatrice recalled her childhood at Standish House, Gloucestershire, where she was born on 22 January 1858. It was a period of her life about which she had decidedly mixed feelings.

Beatrice was the eighth daughter of Richard and Lawrencina Potter. Richard was a businessman,  involved in the delivery of prefabricated huts to the army during the Crimean War and in 1849 he joined the board of the Great Western Railway and later the West Midland Railway. He also had interests in railways in North America. His father, Richard Potter, was a wealthy businessman who became a radical, non-conformist MP for Wigan and supported the foundation of the Manchester Guardian. Lawrencina was the daughter of Liverpool merchant, Lawrence Heyworth who was born in Bacup, Lancashire, and built up a successful business trading with South America.

Beatrice’s birth was followed in 1862 by the birth of a long awaited son, Richard, and by a ninth daughter, Rosalind in 1864. Richard’s death in 1864 and her mother’s grief overshadowed Beatrice’s childhood and adolescence.

Beatrice Webb had no formal education but Richard Potter encouraged his daughters to read widely. They experienced the London Season and mingled with the family’s friends, including the philosopher Herbert Spencer who advised Beatrice on her reading. When he visited North America on business Richard Potter usually took two of his daughters with him. In 1873 Beatrice joined him on a trip which included visiting New York, Niagara Falls, Chicago and Salt Lake City and began to regularly keep the diary she was to continue until the end of her life.

Beatrice and Sidney Webb c1895

On the death of her mother in 1882, Beatrice Webb as the eldest unmarried daughter undertook the management of the household for the following ten years until her father’s death. At the same time the support of her sisters allowed her to organise four months of the year to undertake her own work beginning her interest in research and social investigation. This included an incognito visit to Bacup to visit her mother’s family, working as a rent collector in Katherine Buildings in the East End and undertaking research for Charles Booth’s Inquiry into London Life and Labour.

In 1883 Beatrice became infatuated with the radical politician Joseph Chamberlain, but it was not a match which would have enabled her own work. By 1888 Chamberlain had married elsewhere and in January 1890 Beatrice met Sidney Webb and with a courtship of fits and starts began a partnership of over fifty years whose fruits would include the founding of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As she wrote in 1936:

“In old age it is one of the minor satisfactions of life to watch the success of your children, literal children or symbolic. The London School of Economics is undoubtedly our most famous one; ….”

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

Read more about Beatrice and Sidney Webb in LSE’s digital archive, Webbs on the Web.

LSE 120th anniversary

Find out more about LSE’s history and join in the 120th anniversary celebrations at #LSE120

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Feb 11 2015

LGBT History Month at LSE

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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month takes place across the UK every year in February. It celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. LSE Spectrum (@LSESpectrum), the LSE network for LGBT staff has the following events taking place later this month: 

A Night at the Movies with Spectrum!

Double Bill: ‘Paris is Burning’ and ‘Talking Transgender’

Date: Wednesday 18 February
Time: 6-8pm
Venue: 32L.LG.18, 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Drinks and snacks provided.

paris-is-burning-posterParis Is Burning is a 1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. The film is considered to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and critics have praised it as a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America. Running time: 76min approx.

Talking Transgender introduces a group of transgender individuals who candidly share their personal stores with compassion, honesty and humour, to widen knowledge, to increase understanding and to promote an awareness of transgender issues. Running time: 26min approx.

To register:

LSE Spectrum Literary Festival lecture

A Little Gay History

Date: Monday 23 February 2015
Time: 1-2pm
Venue: NAB 2.04, New Academic Building

Speaker: Professor Richard Parkinson
Chair: Sue Donnelly

Spectrum1Richard Parkinson will present a ground-breaking LGBT history project by the British Museum, drawing on objects ranging from ancient Egyptian papyri to images by modern artists such as David Hockney and films such as James Ivory’s Maurice, to discuss how and why museums should represent same-sex experiences as integral parts of world culture.

Richard Parkinson is Professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford and was previously a curator at the British Museum. He is a specialist in Ancient Egyptian poetry of the classic period. Sue Donnelly is LSE Archivist.

All events in the Literary Festival are free to attend and open to all. E-tickets can available be booked online via LSE E Shop.

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