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University Women’s Day event sponsored by UAE government company

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

UoA International Women’s Day event was sponsored by United Arab Emirates government-owned oil and gas company Taqa

By: Anttoni Numminen

Women's day event - Photograph: AJN

On Friday 6 March the University of Aberdeen hosted an event celebrating International Women’s which was co-sponsored by a state-owned company of the United Arab Emirates.

The packed event at King’s College Conference Centre saw the three main speakers - Professor Linley Lord, who is Pro Vice-Chancellor of Curtin University Singapore; Gail Kent, who is the global policy lead for Facebook; and Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who is a world-famous psychologist and broadcaster - give keynote addresses celebrating women’s successes and empowerment.

The event was hosted by the University’s Vice-Principal for Research, Professor Marion Campbell.

The first address was by Professor Lord, who spoke of economic participation and the gender pay gap: “from 2020, in terms of economic participation, the gender pay gap will take 257 years to close compared to 202 years in the 2019 report.

“The issues women face are systemic, such as workloads which are gruelling as well as poor line management. Women lacking confidence and women opting out detracts from the work that needs to be done at an organisational level.”

Gail Kent, who is now the policy lead at Facebook and stood for Parliament in 2017, spoke of the contradictions within workplaces that prevented women from advancing, as well as speaking of her own experiences in politics and the tech industry.

The event, which was focused on promoting the rights of women, was co-sponsored by the University of Aberdeen Development Trust and the major oil and gas company Taqa.

However, Taqa is a state-owned company of the United Arab Emirates, a country which has a very poor track record on human rights. Emirati women must receive permission from a male guardian to marry and remarry as well as being legally obligated to “obey” their husbands.

When asked by The Gaudie about this apparent contradiction, Gail Kent responded by saying: “I mean I work for Facebook, so I think that big companies, like individuals, have a number of different issues they have to deal with at any one time. Again, I don’t know about Taqa so I can’t really comment on that, but I do know that a lot of these things are a lot more complicated and nuanced.”

The Vice-Principal for Research, Professor Marion Campbell, responded to the question by saying she agreed with Kent's comments, adding: “The support of our sponsor Taqa enabled us to bring hugely successful international speakers to the University to discuss and debate the empowerment of women. It allowed us to deliver a free, inspirational and uplifting event that was booked out and also brought the next generation of young students from local schools onto campus.”

The third speaker of the event, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a widely known psychologist, author and broadcaster, focused on the psychological aspects that tend to hinder the advancement of women’s careers.

Amber Rudd, the former UK Government Home Secretary, was no-platformed from speaking at a similar women’s day event at the Oxford Union, because of her role in the Windrush Scandal.

When asked about her thoughts on the no-platforming of Rudd, Papadopoulos said she was not a fan of de-platforming, however “uncomfortable or ridiculous their views”, adding that as a psychologist she wouldn’t encourage people to avoid their fears, “on the contrary.”


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