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International Women’s Day Event Roundup

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International Women’s Day is an annual event that’s been on my calendar ever since I was introduced to the concept back in 2015. Our small efforts to raise aspirations and celebrate women will influence and encourage future female leaders, so on March 8th we hosted another wonderful celebration of Women in Business by bringing together local professionals to inspire and raise up women in our region.

This year we had the pleasure of hosting a work placement during the two weeks leading up to IWD. Ella Brown worked with us to gain experience and insight into the world of work.  Social mobility is a passion of mine, so being able to offer exposure and experience to the next generation is incredibly important.

Ella is very talented, and well on her way to a career in journalism, so we were very lucky to have her with us for the two-week duration.

Below is Ella’s perspective, in her own words, of this year’s IWD event, and what a great success it was.

Saffron Saunders

International Women’s Day at StartUp Croydon, by Ella Brown

International Women’s Day 2023 has been and gone, and what a day it was. StartUp Croydon – a start-up business charity for small and medium-sized businesses – set the bar high with an event at their main office to commemorate the occasion and reflect on what it means to be a woman in business.

This included speeches from the CEO of StartUp Croydon, Saffron Saunders, who interviewed Start-Up trustee Georgina Thomas on some of the challenges of being a female leader, as well as a workshop from Xero expert and Jern Financials CEO Esther Kyesimira, and one-to-one sessions with Adryanne Johnson, Managing Director of ALJ LDN.

The day started with talks from the event’s sponsors, NatWest and Tyl, with Rochelle Tomlin and Kerry Harris speaking about the offers and services of their respective companies. There was then another talk from Ayesha Iqbal, founder of Wizz Media, who’s spent almost 20 years in media and has worked with ITV and the BBC to help bring the stories that matter right to the public.

Within the following break, I got to speak to some of the guests, including Veshali Patel, owner of Pinnacle Advisory Services, who had this to say when asked about when she realised she’d be treated differently as a woman in business, “I think the kind of industry that I’m in- finance-it’s very male-dominated traditionally, so having been in this industry for twenty-five years, I have come through the ranks to see where I’m surpassed by my male counterparts to get promoted, or put on a job for managerial positions. Now, empowering myself and women have the knowledge to be able to do what we do and just as good as the men.” Veshali also cited Oprah Winfrey and Deborah Meaden as two of her inspirations because they’ve overcome their adversities and are still champions for women.

Adryanne Johnson had this to say when asked about her top three barriers to women in business today, “It comes under inclusivity and diversity, and it mainly comes down to your childcare. It’s the barrier that women have in regards to – before you can even throw yourself into a career like that – you need to make sure your childcare is in place. And the second thing is, there is still a big stigma, I feel, not only being a black woman in business but just a woman in general, and the fact that I have to kind of show and prove that much more that I’m capable of doing the job.’ Through her business, which focuses on Operations Management for small business owners and helps create structure for their company, Adryanne continues to inspire black women and girls, in particular, with her drive and motivation to help others.

Once the networking break had finished, it was back to talks and workshops, this time with Esther speaking about the offers and services of Xero, and guests having the opportunity to have a pre-booked 1-2-1 session with Adryanne to help build solid business plans that can help develop their companies and move them forward. The talk on Xero explained how businesses could use the software for their accounts, meaning companies can now put their financial information in Xero and do their accounting themselves instead of keeping every receipt and invoice.

Next was lunch, which included salads, rice, chickpea curry, jerk chicken burgers, and vegetable patties and more courtesy of TNK Catering, a traditional Caribbean restaurant run by two sisters and a friend, Tanya, Nicola and Karen. Their values are based on culture and tradition, with their produce coming from the Croydon market and their meat coming from the local halal butchers.

An interview between Saffron and Georgina followed, which was informative and reminded me of the barriers that women of colour, in particular, face in terms of reaching success but was also inspiring and served as a reminder that if you have the motivation and surround yourself with the right people who can help you push your business forward, you’re more likely to succeed. At the end of the interview, I got to have a quick chat with Tameica Reid, who was at the event as a representative of her own company, Platinum Range, which focuses on supported living for people leaving care, and who also cited Oprah Winfrey as one of her inspirations stating that, “that is one of my top people that has inspired me over the years, growing up.”

And after the event, I also got to speak to Ben Oram, the Operations Manager here at StartUp Croydon, on his thoughts about how the world of business can be more progressive towards female leaders, “There’s a lot of opportunities where subconsciously or perhaps even consciously, men do get given the opportunities to apply for things, whether that be funding or jobs, and higher roles inside companies. And being aware of that when the decisions are being made can be quite important. I think – quite telling – is on our courses, the majority of people who turn up are women, and my theory for that is because they don’t get those opportunities quite the same in other places. I think a lot of men feel that perhaps they already know it, or they know the right people and get the chances given to them.” He also went on to name ‘awareness of the situation’ as the first thing that needs to happen, and then things can be worked out from there within the business world.

Ben’s positive and progressive attitude and other forward-thinking men, alongside the women at the event, carry the belief and determination to see the business world continue to improve for women, with many before them celebrating International Women’s Day with the same vision for women of the future since the origin of International Women’s Day in New York, America.

According to the BBC, International Women’s Day was founded by Clara Zetkin just after the turn of the century in 1909 after women in New York marched through New York City in 1908 and declared that they wanted the right to vote, shorter working hours and better pay with the first event being held there the next year after the Socialist Party of America decided to make it a national celebration. The idea to make it an international event came from Zetkin, who put the idea to the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, who unanimously agreed and by 1911, there were celebrations in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Austria, with the UN first celebrating the event in 1975.

It would turn out to be the first of many celebrations, with each generation of women uplifting the next to clear the way for women as a whole in the corporate world, yet maintaining the same vision and hope that the founders of this celebration had all those years ago, a vision and hope that was present throughout the entire StartUp Croydon Event, which will undoubtedly make its mark for many years to come.

Ella Brown, for StartUp Croydon

Background | International Women’s Day | United Nations (Article)
International Women’s Day | Overview, History, & Facts | Britannica (Article)
About – (Article)
International Women’s Day 2021: History, marches and celebrations – BBC News (Article)

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