For the first time in their history, All Souls College has elected two women to its annual Prize Fellowships.
Liz Chatterjee and Katherine Rundell have been chosen after the famously gruelling application process required for entry to All Souls. It included an examination at the end of September in which 60 applicants were whittled down to a shortlist of 6 from which 2 were chosen.
Katherine Rundell has said that she feels the college is “making an effort to shift their image” and said she decided to apply for the Prize Fellowship after going to one of the open evenings which she described as “brilliant”.
Dr. Hanna Pickard, who won the Prize Fellowship in Philosophy in 1997, declared that the college is “delighted and pleased” that Liz and Kate have been admitted and has described them as “incredibly strong, academic candidates”.
Pickard goes on to say that “the college is extremely pleased that the percentage of women sitting the Prize fellowship did dramatically increase this year. The two Prize Fellows elected this week were both women- the first time this has ever happened”.
She adds that though there is an “unusual[ly]…large number of young fellows” the college has been “concerned” about the shortage of women that have been applying to the college and states that they are “actively trying to change that”.
In recent years women have been enjoying a larger presence at the traditionally male-dominated, elite college. Up until the 1970s there were no women at All Souls at all, but in the past few years Justine Firnhaber Baker and Devi Stridhar have been chosen for the Post-Doctoral Fellowship with Cecilia Heyes and Angela McLean more recently being selected for Senior Research Fellowships.
Sarah Beaver holds the position of Bursar in a college which has been trying to break way from the overly traditionalist image. Eight women have been elected over the last two years. The first woman to be elected for a fellowship was the late Susan Hurley in 1981. There have been 11 female Prize Fellows (including Chatterjee and Rundell), and out of the 77 fellows currently at All Souls, only 14 are women.
The Warden of All Souls, Professor Sir John Vickers, has said that the college is “totally committed to equal opportunity” that elections are always “based on merit”, and, as stated in the All Souls Equality Policy, that the college “rejects discrimination on racial grounds [and] other invidious grounds”.
However, Vickers added that the college was in fact “concerned a few years ago about the proportion of women entering” for the Prize Fellowship and began to organise specific open evenings for women in order to explain the college background and encourage more female applicants.
Rachel Cummings, Vice President for Women within OUSU (WomCom), commented, “The admissions also highlight the success of All Souls’ attempts to attract more female applicants and the positive consequences when they do.”