Oxford University Careers Service have launched a new program of assertiveness classes exclusively for female undergraduates.
Based on the Springboard Women’s Development Program, a course offered by Springboard Consultancy, it aims to “ensure female undergraduates are equipped for their career after graduation – be it in academia, business or the third sector!”.
The four day program had its first run last week, and consists of three one-day workshops, as well as guest speakers from RBS and BP, which are sponsoring the course. A small number of sought-after internships at the two companies will be made available to the Oxford course participants.
The program hopes to encourage undergraduates in “taking initiative when making decisions in lives, careers and academic work’, improved ‘confidence and assertiveness as women’ as well as ‘increased awareness of their place as women in society and the world around them”.
Jonathan Black, Director of the Careers Service, said, ‘The program aims to give women the chance to focus on and understand their values, set meaningful goals, and build confidence and assertiveness so they feel more able to reach for their aspirations. It’s not about making them more aggressive or demanding to adjust to a man’s world, but encouraging them to be confident in themselves. The three day course also provides very practical steps from female professionals on how to achieve their goals.
“When we did a survey three years ago with the student union on what Oxford undergraduates thought about the industry, and what we found was women in general aren’t applying to high achieving jobs. In more male dominated industries they count themselves out before they’ve even applied because they think ‘they won’t want me’. We’re not saying that all women should aspire to these jobs in the City, but we are trying to show that they should feel able to apply for them.’
“What we find is that women can be pretty assertive in some parts of their lives but not in others,” said Jenny Daisley, the chief executive of the Springboard Consultancy which will run the programme along with staff at the university.
“The undergraduate sitting quiet as a mouse in supervision, giving the impression that they have not got anything to say, may have lots to say but needs positive advice so that they are not invisible.”
Balliol undergraduate Alice Hallewell, who took the course in 0th week, told Cherwell “I decided to apply for the program as I felt that I lacked academic and professional confidence, and this was holding me back in my uni work but also in pursuing my career goals. I had an overall aim or wish but no way in which to start working towards it. The highlight of the course for me was meeting a lovely supportive group of women and being able to open up to each other in a very honest way, it was quite liberating.”
“The program provided frameworks of how to approach things and take a step back to reflect on things before making decisions. It’s helped me to focus on what I really want and how to go about finding out about it and starting to take small, acheivable steps towards it. I now feel more confident in professional situations and more confident that I am making decisions and taking action for myself.”
Brasenose student Anna Broadley commented “Boys seem to have more self conviction, even when their self-belief is not necessarily based on any greater academic merit. While the girls are freaking out about whether they have done enough work for a tutorial, the boys are more likely to say ‘I’ll just blag it”.