10 things we learnt from #IWDConnect

Thoughts -

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual event where women from across the world come together to celebrate how far they have come in society, and to use the day to continue the fight for equality.

To mark the celebrations, we joined forces with our friends at MSB Solicitors, Relish Catering, Beckoration and our very own Agent Academy, to host our second ever IWD Connect event. After the success of our event in 2020, we couldn’t wait to do it all over again!

On Friday last week, we brought together more than 160 incredible women from across the North West at The Venue at the iconic Royal Liver Building, for an afternoon filled with thought-provoking conversation, entertainment and like-minded company.

This year’s IWD theme is #BreaktheBias, so we heard the perspectives on this topic both from women who are just starting out in their careers, as well as those who are at the very top of their game.

Speakers included Jess Jones and Nikki Harris of MSB Solicitors and Sonia Bassey MBE, representing Cheshire East Council and Mandela8, Dr Monica Chavez, director of social and cultural curriculum at The City of Liverpool College and Sharon and Afiya Amesu founders of She Leads for Legacy.

In honour of the day’s celebrations, we were also incredibly proud to make a donation to Savera UK on behalf of all of our guests. Savera UK works tirelessly to eliminate honour-based abuse and harmful practises, as well as supporting survivors to rebuild their lives – an incredibly worthy cause for us to support.

1) We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go

Something a number of our speakers highlighted was that while we have seen a big improvement in the movement for equality, there is still a distance to go until this mission has been conquered, as most women continue to face setbacks and lack of opportunities due to their gender.

Sonia Bassey MBE said she has been forced to challenge bias since she was 17 years old and continues to do so today. What an inspiration.

2) There is still a big gap in women who possess positions of power

One point many of our speakers and guests came back to was the lack of women in higher positions within business.

Jess Jones told the room that while 61% of the legal industry is made up of female lawyers, only 35% of those are partners. This shows that while women are being employed into their desired industry, they are not necessarily being given the same opportunities to progress and advance in their careers as men.

3) A female-dominant world is not what women are demanding

In conversation, MSB’s Nikki Harris spoke about how what women want is equality – not ‘more rifts’. In business, we often see companies, institutions and brands using their female-dominant statistics to make a statement, however this can be just as harmful.

What women want and have strived for years to achieve is balance, not to run the world. Creating an imbalance that sways more towards the side of women, can do more harm than good.

4) Voices combined are more powerful than solo

As women, we need to unite and shout our message together.

As Sharon Amesu said, we need to use ‘the power of the collective voice to make change’. Women from every background will inevitably face inequality due to their gender at some point in their lives. It is a fight we all live and therefore must all take a stand for – and the best way to do that is together.

We all have a story and by sharing them as a collective, it is undoubtedly more powerful and effective than standing alone.

5) We can all make a difference

On Friday, Sharon’s daughter Afiya Amesu made the point ‘we can all make a difference’. Whether you are a woman just starting out in your industry, or one who is firmly established, we can all contribute to fighting for the cause.

It is down to women in all positions to use their voice, speak out and celebrate other women.

6) Women in powerful positions still face challenges because of gender

Even women in the highest and most admirable positions continue to face bias because of their gender.

A conversation that reoccurred at the event was that even those who have worked hard to climb the ladder and prove themselves are still met with obstacles because they are women.

Sexism is still rife in many industries and women in leadership roles still feel questioned and challenged on their capabilities simply because of their gender. Once again showing we still have a long way to go.

7) Support other women

Our fight for equality can only be achieved by joining forces with the people who fight the same battle as us. The only way we will progress and make a change is by supporting other women, always.

Sadly, due to the challenges women have faced their entire lives and a ‘need’ to prove themselves worthy, this can often force them to feel in competition with the other women around them.

Once we learn how to be genuinely supportive and kind for no other reason other than we each deserve kindness and support in this world, we’ll see true progress.

Approach every situation with the possibility of new friendship, new opportunity, new sisterhood.

8) Don’t be scared to challenge people

Many people are not used to having women in senior roles, and they can have a lot of opinions. Opinions on who you are, who you should be, how you should behave, and how you assert yourself – and one of the main challenges women faces is navigating that.

It is absolutely okay to challenge those opinions and call them out where necessary, and by doing so it opens up the opportunity for educating others and talking about equality.

9) Never neglect your personal wants in life

We learned that women sometimes feel a pressure to put their personal desires on hold or hide their non-professional achievements from their workplace to prevent judgement or opportunities to progress.

Some women felt that they needed to choose between wanting a family and wanting to be successful, but having both is achievable – as it always has been for men.

10) Put a group of women in a room together and it makes for a powerful gathering

While not a surprise, one thing we all took away from Friday is that putting a group of over 160 incredible women in a room together makes for a truly empowering afternoon.

By combining the knowledge, experiences and opinions of women from all different backgrounds, we highlighted the familiar struggles and reinstalled the message that we need to keep sparking conversations about equality. The battle is far from over but together, we can make a change.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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