Union announces majority-female term card

Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Baldwin, and Ann Coulter among the line-up, which sees an increase in BME speakers on Michaelmas

Source: Oxford Union

The Oxford Union has released its Hilary term card, which promises a host of influential names and introduces a new ‘Women’s Leadership Speaker’ series.

Just over 50 per cent of all speaking participants are female, compared to just 21 per cent in Michaelmas term.

Of the 75 guests at the Union, 18 identify as BME, which is an 11 per cent point increase from previous president Chris Zabilowicz’s term.

The speakers include Oscar-winning Hollywood actress and activist Whoopi Goldberg.
Joining her is Saturday Night Live actor Alec Baldwin, currently filming the latest Mission Impossible film. Baldwin was recently criticised after his comments on the #MeToo campaign.

The founding president of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, will speak at the Union in first week.
Prominent American conservative commentator Ann Coulter, North Korean defector Hyeonseo Lee, and Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty will also deliver talks.

Among the seven women making up the new ‘Women’s Leadership Speaker’ series are former President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, as well as UN health advocate, Dr Alaa

Murabit, and British Fashion Council Chief Executive, Caroline Rush CBE.
From the sports and entertainment world, Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie CBE, Spice Girl Mel B, and DJ duo The Chainsmokers all feature.

This Hilary term at the Union will also see notable partnerships with Oxford societies. In association with OU LGBT+ Society, the Union will welcome trans rights activist Gavin Grimm, who last year took a case about transgender bathrooms to the US Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the Oxford University Islamic Society have teamed up with the Union to host a panel discussion on ‘Islam and Politics’ in 4th week, which includes a former Director -General of Al-Jazeera.

Such panel discussions are a new feature of the Hilary line-up. In fifth week, a panel including the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America will discuss the need for abortion reform.

A discussion on whistleblowing includes a Guardian journalist who covered the release of the Snowdon papers, and a Wikileaks Administrator. It will take place in seventh week.

In her welcome message, new Union president Laali Vadlamani wrote: “It is in diversity that we find strength.

“The advent of globalisation means that we are more aware than ever before of the issues that affect even the most remote corners of the world. We can no longer simply sit by
and watch.”

Speaking about the Women’s Leadership Speaker series, Vadlamani wrote: “Leading an institution which was founded at a time when women were not even allowed to enrol for
degrees at the University does, at times, feel rather surreal, but it is only through discussing the issues that women face that we can hope to further these incredible voices, and what they represent.”

In the weekly debate listings, the Union will discuss the Partition of India and whether tech empires threaten society. In first week, members will debate whether celebrity icons have corrupted feminist movements. By fifth week debaters will tackle the proposition that Westminster’s concerns do not extend beyond the Home Counties.

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46% of external debaters are female, while 20% identify as BME, both increases on Michaelmas 2017.

The growth in female and BME involvement in the Union’s calendar for Hilary 2018 follows Cherwell’s report on the society’s mainly white male term card in Michaelmas.

At the time, Oxford SU’s then VP for Women, Katy Haigh, said the institution “should surely have adequate power and resources to engage a more diverse range of speakers.”

The debates for this term, in full, are as follows:

  1. This House believes celebrity icons have corrupted feminist movements
  2. This House believes democracies should never ally with authoritarian regimes
  3. This House believes the rise of tech empires threatens society
  4. This House believes we cannot thrive without religion
  5. This House believes Westminster’s concerns do not extend beyond the home counties
  6. This House regrets blaming Wall Street for the global financial crisis
  7. This House regrets the partition of India
  8. Head to Head: Is NHS reform needed?

The speakers in first week will be Jamie Roberts, Twinkle Khanna, Alec Baldwin and Kai-Fu Lee.

The full release is expected on the Union’s website later today, and physical copies of the term card will be out on Wednesday.

Who’s speaking

1Alec Baldwin

Having been an actor on television, film and stage for almost 30 years, Alec Baldwin is one of the most well-known figures in the industry. He is the male performer with the most Screen Actors’ Guild Awards ever,  and in recent years has received worldwide attention for his portrayal of Donald Trump in Saturday Night Live. He is currently filming his role in the latest Mission: Impossible film. He has also recently been embroiled into political controversy of his comments about the #MeToo campaign.

He will be speaking on Friday, 19th January, at 4pm.

2Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter is an American conservative social and political commentator. She rose toprominence in the 1990s as an outspoken critic of the Clinton Administration, and has more recently become one of PresidentTrump’s most notable supporters. She describes herself as a polemicist who like to “stir up the pot” and “does not pretend to be impartial or balanced, as broadcasters do.”Coulter has vehemently defended her beliefs in twelve best-selling books, including her recent works Adios, America! and In Trump We Trust.

She will be speaking on Monday, 12th February, at 5pm.

3Whoopi Goldberg

An actor, author, comedian, television host, and human rights activist, Whoopi Goldberg is one of the few entertainers to win an Emmy Award, Tony Award, Grammy Award and Oscar. In a career spanning over three decades, Goldberg has been famed for roles in The Color Purple and Sister Act, as well as as hosting the popular daytime talk show, The View. She has stood by Cyndi Lauper in the Give a Damn campaign, combatting discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, as well as having co-founded andhosted Comic Relief in the US.

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She will be speaking on Saturday, 24th February, at 12 noon.

4Glenn Close

Notable for her performances in the films The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction and as Cruella Deville in 101 Dalmatians, Close hassix Academy Award nominations to her name. She also starred in the drama series Damages, winning a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards. As a passionate campaigner for gay marriage, women’s rights and mental health awareness, Glenn is the founder of BringChange2Mind and notably petitioned President Obama to pass the Excellence in Mental Health Act in 2014.

She will be speaking on Wednesay, 7th March, at 8pm.

5Gavin Grimm

Shortly after he began presenting as a man whilst at high school in Virginia, USA, parents of other pupils at his school complained about him using the male bathrooms. When the school board banned Grimm from doing so, he took his case against Gloucester County School all the way up to the Supreme Court. Grimm’s bravery in the first ever trans rights case argued before that court earned him the accolade of one of TIME’s 100 for 2017.

He will be speaking on Wednesday, 21st February at 5pm.

6Bryan Cranston

An American actor and director, Bryan Cranston is best known for playing Walter White in crime drama series Breaking Bad, a role for which he has won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor no fewer than four times. He was also widely praised for his portrayals of Hal in the comedy series Malcolm in the Middle, and Dr Tim Whatley in Seinfeld, and is currently starring in Network at the National Theatre. He is further known for his active campaigning against AIDS, a cause for which he raised donations at his 2014 Broadway show All the Way.

He will be speaking on Monday, 22nd January at 1pm.

7Mesut Ozil

Özil plays for Arsenal whilst also maintaining his position on the German national team – he has represented the country in two UEFA European Championships, as well as in two FIFA World Cups, contributing to 2014 World Cup victory. Considered by many as one of the world’s best players, Özil has won countless awards and Ballon D’Or short-listings.

He will be speaking on Tuesday, 20th February, at 5pm.


  1. So what? Does it really matter if a speaker is male or female? Surely no one thinks that women are intrinsically better or worse at public speaking than men are? I look forward to next year’s announcement that the Union has managed to put together a line-up of speakers all of whom are left-handed.

  2. Oxford is becoming utterly ridiculous. ‘identify as BME’. Is this not just a personal vanity project for the current Union team?

  3. Why is the abortion event a completely one sided lecture from a pro-abortion lobby group, rather than a discussion or debate? Disappointing.

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