Women Breaking Barriers continues to inspire students to become future female pioneers
Women Breaking Barriers (WBB) is a student-led initiative supported by the University of Leeds' School of Law that aims to celebrate the successes of women.
Co-President Grace Edwards told the School of Law about the events that WBB has organised this semester.
How to Become a Paralegal
Our first event of the year was called ‘How to become a Paralegal’ where a panel of six inspirational women discussed their journey to becoming a paralegal. This was one of our most well-attended events, with the Moot Court Room full of students learning about this often less well known about route into law.
Hosted by my fellow Co-President Eliza Brownsford, the panel had a fruitful discussion about their reflections on the pros and cons of paralegalling and application advice. Amongst other excellent panel members, we were very lucky to be joined by Kelly Cunningham who manages the Transactional Services Team of specialist paralegals and qualified lawyers at Reed Smith. Kelly imparted lots of tips on what she looks for in paralegal interviews and how to stand out through extra-curricular activities such as being in committees like WBB!
Our second event was our ‘Future is Everyone: Social Mobility, Diversity and Inclusion panel’. We hosted three incredible women: Jessikah Inaba, the UK’s first black and blind barrister, Nancy Williams, barrister at Doughty Street chambers, and Asma Iqbal, partner at Chadwick Lawrence. This was predominantly organised by our Vice President, Emmy Edwards, who wanted to have an event which provided students from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds with role models.
A standout moment of this term was hearing Jessikah Inaba speak about the challenge she has overcome to achieve what she has. Constant setbacks, such as her university ignoring her requests and providing her with larger texts instead of braille despite her blindness, mean that her journey has been tougher than most. The determination and grit that she embodies to overcome the persistent barriers that she has faced is the epitome of WBB’s ethos and it was an honor to listen to her.
The speakers covered many topics including their most notable achievements, dealing with unconscious bias, and how to tell when companies are actually committed to social mobility and inclusion. A notable quote from one of our speakers was, ‘even if the table doesn’t have a seat for you, pull one up. You deserve to be there’. It was particularly emotional to listen to Jessikah’s poem on how her blindness affects her. Overall, it was an incredibly moving and empowering event, and we were very lucky that these women gave up their time to speak to us.
We also had a yoga and beading event on Friday the 24th of November 2023, following feedback that attendees would like a social event to have a safe space to meet the committee and other like-minded students.
Our Careers and Sponsorship Rep, Sedek, has introduced a monthly newsletter with opportunities for law and criminal justice students. This has proved a real success with lots of students engaging with the newsletter each month.
In semester two, we hope to host an International Women’s Day Brunch, as we have done for the previous few years. It is always a fantastic opportunity to bring female students together to uplift and encourage each other. We are also planning a panel event tailored towards the Criminal Justice sector, to provide insight into different areas for School of Law students.
We will also be recruiting for new committee members in April and we welcome applications from Criminal Justice and Law students! Follow our Instagram @wbbleedsuni for updates on all events!
I first joined WBB as an undergraduate rep in my first year (2020/21). Being at university during Covid was very strange, so joining WBB provided me with a group of strong women and gave me a sense of belonging in the law school and at university! I loved being part of the committee and have remained on it throughout my degree. I’m really proud to be Co-President this year and to be able to lead the committee alongside Eliza to create amazing, impactful events.
Why would you recommend students attend WBB events?
University can be a challenging time, with a mix of independence, loneliness, freedom and hard work, there is a lot to take in. WBB aims to provide female-focused events which promote community by bringing students together with inspirational women in the legal and criminal justice sectors.
We have hosted esteemed guests in the School of Law, including Baroness Helena Kennedy, and Harriet Wistrich, and the committee are extremely proud that we are organising similar events this academic year.
We hope by attending WBB events which shine a spotlight on the amazing work of female lawyers, that students will see what is possible for them to achieve, and gain inspiration and useful contacts for their future careers. Above all, we hope to provide a safe space in which students can feel part of a community and gain confidence and self-belief to achieve their goals.
The 2023/24 WBB Committee
Co-Presidents – Grace Edwards (CJC Year 3) and Eliza Brownsford (LLB Year 3)
Vice President – Emmy Edwards (LLB Year 2)
General Secretary – Faye Bell (LLB Year 3)
Research and Communications Correspondent – Alizah Malik (LLB Year 2)
Equality and Diversity Representative – Amani Moosa (LLB Year 3)
Careers and Sponsorship Representative – Sedek Abrahem (LLB Year 3)
Social Media Representative – Hannah Williams (LLB Year 2)
Undergraduate representatives – Nour Zeina (LLB Year 2) and Pragnitha Mandava (LLB Year 2)