Realising equality on International Women’s Day 2020
To embrace International Women’s Day 2020, we ask leading Worcestershire businesswomen about what inspires them and how they’re fighting for equality in their organisation.
The International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme of: “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights” is helping to forge a gender-balanced world. We ask 5 businesswomen from Worcestershire how they’ve both seen and affected changes over the past year to realise women’s rights for equality locally.
“I think we should celebrate this theme. As there are still widely reported national issues around gender equality in senior positions, and the gender pay gap, why not enable women to continue their learning and development in whatever style forum meets their needs,” says Sharon Smith, CEO of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce.
Sharon heads up the 8th largest Chamber in the UK, having joined as Director of Finance and Corporate Services in 2007, which supports over 4000 businesses a year across the two counties.
The award-winning Chamber has achieved a fantastic representation of gender equality on their Board, Area Council, within their senior team and within the company. The team firmly believe the diversity of skills that this brings to their organisation maximises high performance in their teams and, in turn, provides better solutions for their Members and customers.
“Personally, I have also joined 6 other boards across Herefordshire and Worcestershire including, the Herefordshire Business Board, Worcestershire Business Board, Herefordshire Enterprise Zone, Malvern Hills Science Park, Worcestershire Works Well and WINN so that I too can share my knowledge, values, ideas and experiences within these groups, bringing representation from a gender equality perspective to key partnership groups across the two counties.
The Chamber is proud of their ever popular, growing Women’s Business Forums in both Herefordshire and Worcestershire, alongside their Women’s Business Conference. Although officially open to all genders, the group provides an opportunity to network at a different time of the day that may be more conducive for some women. The feedback is that whilst never excluding anyone, sometimes groups with common features – be that business sector, gender, age or anything else – enjoy the opportunity to discuss similar challenges or thoughts with that group. Sharon continues:
“I’m passionate about ensuring that all individuals are given equal opportunities in every role within business – from the boardroom to the shop floor, there is so much to be gained by a true and genuine mix of all our combined skills and individualities. These opportunities must be embedded through into our culture, and not the result of an arbitrary count of gender equality numbers. There is no doubt in my mind that embracing all people can help with the talent shortage and raise our overall economic performance.”
Julia Williams, Chair of the Worcestershire Ambassadors, is a businesswoman with a background as a dynamic leader across profit and non-profit organisations in the area. Julia’s experience is diverse, and her work towards a gender-balanced world is inspiring. She says:
“I have always surrounded myself with positive people and distanced myself away from negative situations. I value and listen to the advice of others but I trust my own instinct because I recognise that this is my journey and the advice given may not be right for me and my situation. I try to follow my own advice and aim to be brave, trusting that I know the right direction. What’s the worst that can happen? If I fail, and the decision was not the right choice, I’ve learned to accept the outcome. I’ve realised that failure is part of my success, not the opposite of failure.”
MD of Worcester-based Prime Mix Marketing, has recently extended her Agency’s offering, combining her talents with those of other businesswomen locally. Christina says:
“It’s great to see so many women starting up their own businesses to provide flexibility in their work life balance. Certainly, when I started my own business 6 years ago, there were very few women entrepreneurs, and this was reflected in local business events which were largely attended by men. Now the options for women are endless. Career paths for professional women are certainly not as black and white as it used to be, stay at home full-time or go to work full-time.”
Flexible working provides an untapped resource of experienced, skilled professional women, to build successful businesses and support growth in the local economy. And that sentiment has been mirrored by the multi-award-winning founder of the UK Cyber Security Association, Lisa Ventura. Lisa is fully committed to supporting women who wish to enter the cyber security industry. Lisa undertakes a variety of awareness-raising campaigns and a mentoring service to encourage more women to enter the industry. She says:
“Many are often put off by the fact that it is a very male-dominated industry, and while there is still a long way to go, great strides are being made to ensure that women feel comfortable about exploring cyber security and tech as a viable career path. We provide a free of charge mentoring service to women looking to enter the industry with a particular emphasis on supporting those who are considering a move to cyber security after a career break and on young women who will be taking their first steps into the world of employment. We also run webinars, take part in careers fairs, and give talks in schools.”
Megan Warburton is the Communications Coordinator for One Worcestershire, the initiative led by Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Worcestershire County Council. In the course of her role, Megan liaises with up to 400 companies across the county and says:
“It is inspiring to witness more women at the forefront of Worcestershire’s business scene, and I anticipate that young women will be motivated to believe in themselves and understand the extent of what they can achieve, which is anything they desire! Historically, women have had to confront challenges, and it is important for businesses and organisations to understand that empowerment is crucial and gender equality is fundamental to a healthy working environment. One Worcestershire champions this concept and always endeavours to shine a light on the fantastic work that women do.”
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