Over 150 celebrate International Women’s Day at Chamber event

Author - Courtney Hiles

Date published:

The Chamber celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) by bringing together inspiring women and stories at an event which was attended by over 150 people.

The Inspiring Females Seminar, which supported charity Feeding Families, featured motivational speakers who demonstrated the life-changing potential of a more inclusive society, honouring this year’s IWD theme – inspiring inclusivity.

Alix Bolton, chair of the Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Forum, said: “These events provide a platform to celebrate the achievements of women in our region and showcase the transformative power of inclusivity.

“When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world. Together, let’s continue to inspire inclusion, empower women, and create a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

Juliet Sanders is the CEO of Feeding Families, a charity based in the North East that offers support, hope and security to those experiencing food poverty.

Speaking at the event, Juliet said: “We’re looking at being really inclusive. We empower the women in our business, we’re trying to grow the culture from the inside. We love our whole community that enables us to do what we do.

“We try and target people who can’t access a food bank, we look at where the gaps in provision are. There are so many people that the food bank model doesn’t work for. We support other charities, schools and organisations that don’t have a food offering.”

In their first year, Feeding Families helped 719 families. Last year they supported 12,500 families over Christmas and, at the year end, the team will have helped around 50,000 families this year.

Juliet added: “What started as one box of food is now replicated thousands of times. If we keep taking small steps, the small steps eventually make a big difference.

“There are such inequalities in the system at the moment. The recent Budget is negatively impacting the lowest income families yet again. We need to find people who will drive this, advocate this and we need to feed into that. We can be a voice, you can be a voice. We need to step up.”

Ali Taylor, founder and CEO of True Colours Theatre Company, also spoke at the event. The theatre school provides a safe place for people to thrive without fear of judgment.

The majority of its members have additional needs such as autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders, physical and life limiting conditions and various mental health issues.

Ali said: “I went through school feeling like I couldn’t fit in. Theatre was my outlet, I could unmask myself. I wanted to create a place for children where they wouldn’t have to feel unaccepted and where they wouldn’t have to conform. Everyone deserves to be themselves and to shine.

“That’s what True Colours is all about, we’re really proud of what we do. We’ve created a really inclusive environment, which is so important to us.”

Ali was diagnosed with ADHD and autism and her niece was diagnosed with a life-limiting condition as a toddler, this inspired Ali to set the school up.

Ali and the team attended the House of Commons last year where they won the top award for the best holiday activity scheme in the country. The performing arts school also recently received a makeover by BBC’s DIY SOS team after the charity was given the keys to a derelict building in Wallsend.

IWD, which is celebrated annually on 8 March, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

The Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Forum has been a driving force for change, advocating for policies and practices that promote inclusivity and equity. It also feeds into initiatives such as the British Chambers of Commerce’s Workplace Equity Commission, chaired by Square One Law’s Gill Hunter.

We are working with the forum to produce a report which highlights the importance of women progressing in the workplace.

Themes include the benefits of a diverse executive team and the impact on workplace culture; flexible working and managing caring responsibilities; creating progression routes for women; workplace policies around the menopause.

Alix added: “Studies have shown that companies with diverse leadership teams outperform their counterparts, demonstrating higher levels of innovation, employee engagement, and financial performance.

“By embracing diversity and inclusion, we will not only foster a more equitable society but also unlock the full potential of our businesses and communities.”

Our Inspiring Females Awards are set to launch in May and the Inspiring Females Conference will take place on 22 May.

The Inspiring Females Seminar was held at Grand Hotel Gosforth Park in Newcastle on 7 March.

Photo caption: (l-r) Alix Bolton, chair, Women’s Leadership Forum; Juliet Sanders, CEO, Feeding Families; Ali Taylor, founder and CEO, True Colours Theatre Company; Ashley Carney, events and awards manager, the Chamber.

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