The talk took place on Tuesday 26 March at the Sheldonian theatre. The speaker, Julia Gillard, was the first woman to take up the position of Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister in Australia. She served as Deputy from 2007 until 2010 and then as Prime Minister from 2010 to 2013.
Nuffield Department of Population Health, which is part of the University, organised the event. The full title of the event was: “Women and leadership – fighting for an equal world.” Julia Gillard’s commitments include serving as a patron of CAMFED, the Campaign for Female Education.
In a post on Facebook, Ania Kordala stated how she had allegedly emailed ahead to ask the organisers if she could bring her toddler, “putting the request” in the ‘Special Requirements’ box available to those signing up. The event’s host, Professor Valerie Beral, directed through her Personal Assistant Sarah Atkinson, responded: “Unfortunately, babies and toddlers can not attend.”
Allegedly, Ms Kordala decided bring her child along anyway “to see what they say at the door.” In a second Facebook post written shortly after the event, she said: “I was lucky to meet my college principal and ask her to back me up, which she did do so they let me in.
“They pick a seat for us, the talk is about to start, and I’m so excited and relieved.”
Ms Kordala reported that after her toddler “babbled”, “a lady from technical crew” approached her and told her she “needed to leave.” According to the student, she left the room to talk to the woman, who then “would not let her back in”, and she was told “her friend could get her stuff [which was left in the room where the talk was taking place].”
Reportedly, the “technical lady’s” reasoning was that Ms Kordala and her child were sat “right next to the video camera man.” However, she allegedly offered to “go to the other side of the room so the camera doesn’t pick up [the toddler’s] babbling” and was told: “No, you need to leave the premises.”
Head of the Nuffield Department of Population Health Rory Collins told Cherwell: “A student brought her young child to the lecture held yesterday in the Sheldonian Theatre, and I personally ensured that she was allowed to bring the child into the building. It is definitely not appropriate that she was later asked to leave with her child.
“We encourage students and others with families to participate fully in events run by the Department.
“In future, we will make sure that all staff working at our events are aware that families are welcome.”
Principal at Green Templeton College, Professor Denise Lievesley, told Cherwell:
“On arriving as a guest at the Sheldonian theatre to hear Julia Gillard I met one of the Green Templeton students, Ania Kordala, with her toddler.
She reported that she had been refused entry. I explained to Ania that I had no official role but that I would see what I could do.
I spoke to Professor Rory Collins of the Nuffield Department of Population Health, asking if Ania and her child could be admitted. He agreed wholeheartedly, and he and I went outside together to ensure that she was able to enter.
As far as I was aware this was satisfactory, so I am very sad to learn that Ania was subsequently asked to leave. I was unaware of this.
Green Templeton College prides itself on supporting students with families, and it is especially inappropriate that this happened at a wonderful talk by Julia Gillard about significant gender inequalities which still exist in our societies.”
Ania Kordala said: “As we are walking out of the building I hear the room filling with applause as Julia Gillard enters the stage and starts talking. About women in leadership. About equal rights and opportunities.
“Later on, the University of Oxford and Nuffield Department of Population Health will congratulate themselves on organising such an event and being at the forefront of a fight for equality.
“The talk will be watched many times and probably also receive media coverage. But this is just one side of the story.
“The other side of the story is a student parent who wanted to be a part of the talk. Who literally fought her way into the building despite being told ‘no.’ Who made it inside and got kicked out almost immediately after. Who is outside the building while everyone else is inside.”
Speaking exclusively to Cherwell Kordala added that “The fact that I was asked to leave is one thing. How it was dealt with is another.
“It was not only rude, the message was – We’re ruining the event, our presence is a problem, and the sooner we disappear the better.
“Even when I was already in the corridor and nobody could hear my daughter, there were 3 or 4 people impatiently waiting until I gather my stuff and pointing me to the door. I had to remind them I had a buggy, go get it, (carry up the stairs with a toddler in one hand and buggy in the other) and then ask to leave via an accessible entrance and not the staircase.
“I was so mad I was hardly talking, I was just pointing to the where the buggy was and where the accessible entrance was.
“I have been lucky to have a supportive PI, an amazing co supervisor, and a great family friendly group. I have attended lectures with my daughter before (one on Athena Swan in DPAG, but not only) and even a Christmas carols service in Keble College chapel. There had never been an issue until yesterday. She normally either sleeps through the event or plays with books. If she starts disrupting the event or cries, I leave.
“If you’re organizing an event after 5pm, especially if the event is about equality, women in the workplace, try and organize it in a child friendly place, or offer a crèche service for the event. We don’t stop being interested in the world just because we are parents.”
The University, and event host Professor Valerie Beral have been contacted for comment.