Discussions around International Women’s Day #2 – Kate Glennie, Development Director


What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Growing up with a feminist, working mum in the 1980s I was very fortunate in having had a strong sense of the importance of striving for female equality instilled in me from a very young age, and I grew up feeling like all options were open to me education-wise growing up and then employment-wise after I finished university. I’m now the mother of a 7 year old daughter and sadly the state of the world makes IWD more necessary than ever to provide momentum for empowerment for all generations of women, across the globe. She’s a budding historian and I buy her a book each year on this day either celebrating individual women such as Rosa Parks or Ada Lovelace, or something about the Suffragettes – a particular favourite of hers.

You are the first Development Director at St Edmund’s, since coming into post, what do you make of the women of St Edmund’s (past and present)?

Having worked in Cambridge for a few years before coming to St Edmund’s, I have been really touched by the affinity of the female alumnae of St Edmund’s – no matter where I go in the world, affection for the College shines through and the women of Eddies are doing incredible things. I’m particularly looking forward to meeting the College’s first ever female student when I’m in the USA in May. Closer to home, I’m extremely fortunate to work with many inspirational female colleagues, within the College Fellowship – the Bursar, Senior Tutor and Deputy Senior Tutor especially and I’m proud to manage a majority female team within the Development Office and give support to fellow working mothers. I’ve also had the privilege to work with many inspirational female students in my time here, and I can’t wait to see what they go on to do next.

Your role essentially involves talking to wealth and power, which are still overwhelmingly male. How has your being a woman affected how you do this role?

Fundraising and Development in Collegiate Cambridge is interesting as it’s a female dominated profession in a still pretty male dominated environment. Being attuned to non-verbal signals such as body language, having the ability to read between the lines of what someone has said and the tenacity to persist are all qualities of a good fundraiser and some might argue that these are generally ‘female’ qualities – but not always so. So I’d say my success in my role has more to do with emotional intelligence than gender. That said, I’d be lying if I said that being the only woman in a room full of male donors has not been an advantage on occasion!

Who is the most inspiring woman to you and why?

Can I have two? I’d probably say my mother as one – she was the first in her family to go to University, overcame the odds to join the Foreign Office (the only non-Oxbridge female in her cohort) took a posting in sub-Saharan Africa with a 6 week old baby and has been an inspiration to me daily since then. She’s now months away from completing a Master’s degree in History, during which she’s had to contend with being widowed, moving house and recurrent illness. She makes me feel tired!

If I have to choose someone outside my immediate family I’d pick Tina Brown – a ground breaking journalist who edited Tatler, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker in the 80s and 90s – during which time she had two small children and a long-distance relationship with her husband. She went up against the male dominated hierarchy at Conde Nast and proved her worth countless times. For the past 10 years she’s convened the Women in the World Summit in New York which has been described as the “Davos of Feminism”.

If you could give one piece of advice to young women at the start of their careers, what would it be?

Speak up and be seen. Contribute to the discussion in a meeting, even if you’ve not been asked for your view – if you’re in the meeting, you’re in the meeting, get yourself noticed.

And if I was playing to my reputation in my office – Find yourself a pair of power shoes, ones that make you feel like you could take on the world (even if they’re power flats!) that give you the confidence to stride in to the office every day and smash the patriarchy. 😉

How will you mark International Women’s Day this Friday?

Other than my book purchasing? I’ll be attending the Conversazione dinner in College, which has a speaker talking about democracy. Shame it’s not a female speaker, maybe next year Fellows stewards?

This short piece is one in a series running through the week culminating on Friday 8 March with International Women’s Day. Keep your eyes open for the next piece!