In the Rotunda, Aston Webb

The University of Birmingham is marking International Women’s Day with a special exhibition celebrating the incredible achievements of its inspirational female staff, students and alumni.

From the first female magistrate, to an Olympic gold medallist, the Making Space exhibition highlights the local, national and global accomplishments of women from the University, past and present, and explores issues of gender representation in Higher Education more widely.

As universities increasingly consider how they can display more diverse images of their workforce to challenge preconceptions about gender roles, the University of Birmingham – which in the 1900s was the first university to open a women only hall of residence - commissioned artist/anthropologist Liz Hingley to capture a series of intriguing portraits of women from the University. Liz also produced portraits of objects, capturing how women past and present are represented through material culture.

These images “emerged” around campus and on social media, without explanation, through performances, on shared computer screensavers and big screens, using the hashtag #uobmakingspace, in the three weeks leading up to the launch of the exhibition on 8 March 2017.

Clare Mullett, University Curator and Head of Research and Cultural Collections at the University of Birmingham, said: “Following traditions established by the oldest academic bodies, the University of Birmingham has immortalised its key protagonists since its foundation in 1900. These portraits, adorning public spaces, depict predominately male figureheads and academics. ‘Making Space’ is an exhibition that aims to place depictions of inspirational women at the very centre of the UK’s first civic University and create a lasting legacy for the future.”

The exhibition will be on public display until 21 July 2017 and will contribute to the University’s equality objective to “increase the proportion of women in senior posts”.

The University is committed to the goals of Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) and has achieved awards across many disciplines. It is also due to host the International Conference on Women in Physics in July 2017, where the Making Space portraits will showcase the University’s ground breaking women to an international audience.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir David Eastwood, said: “We are hugely proud of the enormous contribution that women have made to the University and beyond, and this exhibition will help to showcase the research and innovation of female staff, students, and alumni, which has broken new ground, pushed forward the boundaries of knowledge, and had an enduring impact on people’s lives.”

For more information please contact Deborah Walker, Head of Communication, or telephone +44 (0) 121 414 6681. Out of hours please call the press office on +44 (0) 7789 921165 or email the Press Office

  • The exhibition will be held in the University’s historic Rotunda exhibition space from 8 March – 21 July 2017. Media wishing to attend the launch should contact the press office in advance.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.