7 world-changing women we should all know about

International Women’s Day is all about celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias and taking action for equality.

Today and throughout history there are and have been many women achieving great things for sustainability; climate activist Greta Thunberg, Eunice Newton Foote the woman who discovered the cause of climate change, Winnie Byanyma – Executive Director of Oxfam International, or Vandana Shiva – one of the earliest thinkers to point out that environmental and climate problems disproportionately affect women.

Winne and Vandana: credit via eco-business. Eunice: credit via climate.gov. Greta: credit Anthony Qunintano, creative commons

At the University of Gloucestershire, we also have lots of women doing their bit for the world, from research, to embedding sustainability in the curriculum, to ensuring our university is a more equal and diverse place.

So, lets meet a few of them, shall we?


  • Clare Peterson – Equality and Diversity Manager
  • Anne Goodenough – Professor of Ecology
  • Janet Dwyer – Professor of Rural Policy and Director of CCRI

Tell us a little about what you do, and how it helps to drive a sustainable future

Clare Peterson – “I raise awareness and educate staff and students, helping them understand the challenges around equality and inclusion and empowering them to identify and challenge inequality so that together, we create inclusive campuses; develop graduates who can compete in a global economy and respond to complex global sustainability. Where possible, I try and encourage more innovative approaches, such as our Reciprocal Mentoring Programme, a partnership between our ethnic minority students and senior leaders; and our dance festival to expedite the cultural change the University is working to achieve.”

Prof Anne Goodenough “I get to research all sorts of ecological issues and try to find solutions to them in a world where these issues are becoming ever-more pressing. That’s seen me devising monitoring methods, developing suitable management and creating effective conservation. I work in the field and in the lab; on a range of species from birds to land mammals, bats, insects, and plants; in the U.K., throughout Europe, in the US, and in Africa. And even more importantly, I get to teach (and hopefully inspire) the next generation about ecological wonders, issues, challenges and how to find solutions.”

Prof Janet Dwyer “I direct a great team of active and engaged researchers who work with partners across the country and in a range of European and International projects too, helping to address challenges and barriers to more sustainable futures in the domains of land management, rural business, communities, food and cultural heritage, and nature and well-being.  A lot of our work revolves around concepts like strengthening beneficial social capital, making new connections and enabling more effective and lasting action, and raising awareness about the systemic linkages between environmental, socio-cultural and economic goals, actions and consequences, in that context.”

Which women have inspired you most in your home or work life?

Clare Peterson – “Here at the University I am incredibly fortunate to have the support of Baroness Rennie Fritchie of Gloucester who has worked tirelessly to create an equal society based on merit and not birth or friendships. She has a particular interest in helping women progress through the ranks and in the 1970’s, was one of the first full-time women’s training advisers and pioneered the training of staff in the then new Equal Opportunities Commission. In 2005 she was also made a life peer as Baroness Fritchie of Gloucester and in 2018, to mark International Women’s Day, she was included in a list of “Gloucestershire’s 50 Greatest Women.”

Prof Anne Goodenough – “It’s actually a man that’s inspired me most – but unfortunately for the wrong reasons. When I did my first ever conference presentation as a young (scared!) PhD student, a well-known male professor came up to me afterwards and casually implied that as I was not a man, I would ‘never get anywhere in science.’ I decided not to listen to him but instead to prove him wrong…”

Prof Janet Dwyer “So many – but maybe I’d mention 3: Eleanor Ostrom, whom I had the privilege to meet about 15 years ago and whose work is fundamental to much of what I do;  currently, female economists like Mariana Mazzucato who are gaining in public prominence on key issues around the need for significant societal change; and of course my mother, who has been a constantly positive and determined force for creative and supportive action for others, throughout her life.”

Having heard from some of our inspiring women at the University of Gloucestershire, why not have a think about which women inspire you and what you can do to promote equality, challenge injustice and do your bit for sustainability?


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