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Women’s groups and initiatives

The University of Exeter runs a series of women's networks and initiatives designed to support career progression.

A network meeting for alumni, professional services and academic colleagues to discuss barriers and ideas about career development with senior colleagues who are happy to act as role models and share their experiences. The group aims to meet termly, inviting guest speakers who can offer advice on a number of themes relating to professional development. The arctic explorer Ann Daniels was the keynote speaker at the last meeting and shared her expertise around conquering mental and physical challenges, including a Q&A session. This was followed by an open dialogue on leadership and ways to support others with career progression within their organisation.

You can register your interest by contacting the EDI team:

WISEnet is an inclusive and welcoming space for all women at the University of Exeter, including trans women and non-binary colleagues who feel they would benefit from the network’s activities. We are an independent, member-led network and we connect with the University's Gender Equality Group to think about how we engage men as allies and advocates for our network priorities.

Find out more about the network.

The Women on Boards Scheme is being launched in 2018. The programme aims to provide and advertise opportunities to work shadow, undertake work experience or become a member of a board or committee group. We are seeking new and exciting career development opportunities for staff in placements across the region and will provide a matching service for those people interested in developing knowledge and experience in these areas. For more information visit the Women on Boards webpage.

You can register your interest by contacting the EDI team:

The Academic Woman group is currently and online forum and is developing to create face to face networking events. The aim of the network is to increase gender equality in academia through awareness raising, capacity building and networking for women in (or those aspiring to be in) academia.

We are working towards providing essential resources to help people in academia understand gender issues, to access tools and resources to overcome common barriers and to have access to an extensive network of support and potential mentors to encourage gender equality in leadership and decision-making roles in Exeter and in universities across the globe.

Our closed Facebook group offers a safe and supportive space for discussion, to encourage members to share their experiences of academic life and support one another in excelling in academic research and leadership. The group was formed after completing a SPRINT training course. We were so amazed at how many of our issues were shared (and gender related) that we were inspired to continue meeting and keep supporting other women in academia beyond the completion of the course.

At the moment we have an active Facebook group with 250 members. This is our main platform at the moment and is a closed group for women in academia:

What are Lean In circles?

The term ‘Lean In’ was coined by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, whose book uses research to shine a light on gender differences and offers practical advice to help women achieve their goals. The book challenges us to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what we can do, and aims to help us to work together to create a more equal world.

Lean In circles were borne out of this and are small groups of around 8 -12 women who meet regularly to learn and grow together.


How do I set up a Lean In circle?

The Lean In website is the best place to start: There are lots of resources, including all-in-one meeting guides to help you run your circle.

This section: has information on how to get started with a circle, who to invite and how to run your meetings.

We recommend identifying women who might be interested in joining your circle and holding an introductory meeting to talk about what you might want to get out of the circle and the sort of topics you’d like to cover. Here are some sample slides that you could use for an introductory meeting:

Lean In slides


What are the existing Lean In circles at Exeter?

IIB/ Research Services (contact Jenny Gay & Jess Hurrell)
PPBI/Finance/Admissions (contact Gemma Clutterbuck & Cat North)
St Luke’s (contact Lucy Hodges & Kelly Preece)

The circles aim to come together as a Chapter around once a term for networking and to hear from guest speakers – senior Exeter women who come and share their stories.

Soapbox Science showcases the research of women who are making significant contributions to the scientific community. Previous Soapbox Science events have transformed Exeter’s Princesshay into an arena for public learning and scientific debate; creating a dynamic and bustling atmosphere and learning environment for all.

Since 2015, a ‘Soapbox Science Alumni Network’ has been established at Exeter, with some previous speakers acting as mentors and providing support and guidance to new speaker recruits. You can also contact local organisers Dr Safi K DardenDr Ana Neves and Isabel Castanho with any questions about the event, how to get involved as a speaker, volunteer or sponsor, and our Soapbox Science Alumni Network.


Founded by a group of Exeter alumnae in London, the Alumnae Group or Exe-X helps tackle the specific challenges facing women in their careers. Through our events and activities we encourage alumnae to support each other in personal and professional development and we help involve alumnae in the life of the University.

Find out more on the Alumni and Supporters website.


Founded by a group of Exeter alumnae (female graduates) the South West Alumnae Group aims to help to connect female graduates in the South West and provide opportunities for alumnae to meet and network. The Group runs a diverse range of regular events on the first Tuesday of every month. Previous events have included tours of the Exeter Campus, speaker events, networking and visits to the Northcott theatre.

If you would like to join the South West Alumnae Group's email list to hear updates on events and news please contact Helen Crowther.