Approach and demographics

In order to identify potential participants, senior members of the University were asked to nominate colleagues who they felt to be successful, inspirational women who may have an interesting story to share. From the outset there was a clear intent to involve women from all levels, all grades, all staff groups and from across the whole University. Nominations of women from the lower staff grades and younger in age were particularly encouraged to ensure that the project reflected the wider cohort of women at Cambridge.

Nominated participants were sent an online survey featuring these questions below:

  •  What would you point to as the achievements that have mattered most to you, and why? (These can be large or small, personal or professional.)
  •  What are some of the challenges you have faced, and how have you handled these?
  •  How do you think your gender has affected your working life?
  •  Which other woman/women at the University of Cambridge do you admire/ inspire you, and why?
  •  Having been nominated by colleagues for this project celebrating a diverse range of successful women at Cambridge, what is your best guess about why they rate you in this way?
  • What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to pass on to others?

The responses were reviewed to identify themes and illustrative quotes which form the basis for the chapters of the book. Of the respondents, twenty-six were then invited to participate in a one-to-one interview with the author and a photographic portrait session. These individuals were selected to reflect both the breadth and diversity of the women involved and also their ability to illustrate the strongest themes that emerged from the questionnaires. An advisory team consisting of senior University members involved in the project guided the short-listing process.