An ongoing conversation about gender politics hosted by Birkbeck College.

The project ‘Against the Odds’ has been developed as part of Birkbeck’s diversity agenda and campaign to promote tolerance and freedom from discrimination. The project fits in with the College’s Mission Statement, to ‘seek to promote an inclusive working and learning environment for its students and staff’.

The aim of this project is to celebrate women who have succeeded ‘against the odds’; positive female role models to help challenge stereotyping of women and perceptions about their roles in society. It seeks to portray their individual journeys to success in traditionally male dominated industries through visual images and discussions. What ‘success’ means is for the participant and the viewer to define. It aims to challenge the viewer’s ‘unconscious bias’ by offering up different stories that challenge the viewer’s own assumptions and expectations of self and others.

‘Against the Odds’ is a collaborative project consisting of Jackie Jefferson and Patricia Crampton formerly of Birkbeck, design studio NONUMBERS who have previously worked on other Birkbeck diversity projects, photographer Leonora Saunders, and speaker, academic and dealer Wendy Meakin who conducted the interviews.

Leonora specialises in portraiture and she has been working on diversity projects celebrating professional women for the past several years. ‘10% and rising’ is a collection of portraits of women from all industries where they make up less than 10% of the workforce, an astonishingly varied selection of vocations from mechanics to surgeons as featured in the Guardian. Leonora was commissioned by CMS Cameron McKenna to develop the Athena Project to highlight the importance of female role models, mentors and leaders within the firm, clients and the UK Government by showcasing their achievements and pioneering stories to a wider audience.

In this collaboration we have sought to showcase women who have worked or studied in a subject or industry where there is less than 20% representation of women through visual images and discussion. We want to highlight women from diverse backgrounds who have struggled ‘against the odds’ to succeed in their chosen field.

The exhibition aims to promote wider participation and engagement with education through using ‘success stories’ to encourage self-belief and the confidence to achieve, challenging the stereotyping of women. The definition of success is about their journey – where they have come from and what barriers they have overcome to achieve their goals.


We would like to thank all those who were involved or contributed to the ‘Against the Odds’ Project. In particular, special thanks to the Chair of the Birkbeck Equalities Committee, Professor Leslie Moran and Adrian Tribe, Web Manager.

Patricia Crampton - Former Birkbeck Equalities Manager
Jackie Jefferson - Consultant
Leonora Saunders - Photography
Adam Orzechowski - Photography Assistant
Kiri Mellalieu - Hair and Make up
Wendy Meakin - Interviews
NONUMBERS - Film & Design

Many Thanks to:
Marian Bell
Caroline Bos
Margaret Gilchick
Joni Lovenski
Winsome Pinnock

If you have any comments or would like to be involved in future equality and diversity initiatives, please contact diversity@bbk.ac.uk