Sara Williams, CEO of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, shares her thoughts on International Women’s Day and the role of women in business:
I’ve seen how International Women’s Day has grown in stature and prominence over the years. When I was first involved, it was quite a minor thing and quite periphery, whereas now it’s a major event and a lot of organisations want to do something about it.
Here at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, we’re marking this year’s International Women’s Day with our #EachForEqual event on Monday 9th March. I’ll be sharing my journey to become the CEO of the Chambers and some of the challenges and biases I’ve faced and overcome.
I’m also speaking at the Erwin Hymer Centre Travelworld International Women’s Day event later that afternoon, which will be really interesting as it’ll be a different audience and lots in people in Stafford who I’ve not met before. I’m very much looking forward to it.
And that’s just what I’m doing – there’s loads of events going on across Staffordshire and beyond to mark this important day.
I’m excited to share that we’ll be launching our Women, Work and Wellbeing Network, supported by NatWest and Plum Happy, at our International Women’s Day event. The network will see a variety of activities throughout the year, from workshops on self-awareness and challenging self-limiting beliefs through to social events such as a summer barbeque and Christmas party.
I’m looking forward to seeing some great inspirational speakers and getting to meet lots of women who are Chambers members at these events.
I want the Women, Work and Wellbeing Network to show the number of up and coming women who I come across that there are women who have been there and done it and got the t-shirt and that they haven’t pulled the ladder up behind them – they want to help and encourage other women into leadership.
I hope that the network supports women in being more confident: more confident to take on leadership roles, more confident to start their own businesses, more confident in public speaking. I find it really interesting how women lack confidence – even successful women – and so the network is about helping women feel good about themselves, build their confidence and take on those much greater roles of inspiring, leading and developing.
These days I do see more women in more powerful positions and having more prominence. We need to strengthen the equality between men and women so that we get away from the idea that business has a macho male culture and understand instead that it is just business and it can be done in lots of different ways.
It’s worth us thinking about what we do after International Women’s Day to make sure women aren’t side-lined in just having a day and that we embrace the real impact we have on the economy and society.
How can we engage more women, and get more women into the boardroom and senior roles? How can we make sure women aren’t seen as tokens but are recognised for the real drive, ambition and qualities we can bring to any organisation?
Those are some of the challenges over the next year, and we need to think how we as the Chambers can support overcoming these, both through the Women, Work and Wellbeing Network and everything we do.