International Women’s Day 2022
An Evening With Women Who, Worcestershire
On Tuesday 8th March we celebrated International Women’s Day with an event in the beautiful Undercroft at Worcester Cathedral. We heard from speakers on a range of topics to help inspire, support and connect local women in business, and were joined by members and partners from across the county.
Thank you to our sponsors Louise Squires from Inspired to Change, Rebecca Widdowson from Hallmark Whatley Hulme and Aasia Baig from Centenary Lounge UK for speaking at the event, and to West Mercia Police, BIPC Worcestershire, Worcester Business School and Worcestershire Mums Network for joining us, and to the talented Erica Jean Music for the wonderful live music.
We kicked off the event with a Women Who, Worcestershire Welcome!
International Women’s Day (or IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific.
Today’s theme is Break The Bias
“Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”
At Women Who, Worcestershire we are committed to supporting women in business and life. We fully support this year’s IWD theme #BreakTheBias by calling out bias, discrimination and stereotyping, made deliberately or unconsciously, when we see it.
Collectively, we can all work to help forge women’s equality – sooner and faster. Thankfully gains are being made, but there is still a great deal to achieve on many fronts.
Therefore, International Women’s Day sees a number of exciting and important MISSIONS aimed at:
• raising greater awareness about issues impacting women’s equality
• taking a stance to call out inequality while working to forge positive action
• highlighting and applauding where important gains are being made
• celebrating women’s achievements and accomplishments
Thank you for being a part of our first major IWD celebration!
Today is also about celebrating you – our Women Who, Worcestershire members and partners, and all that we’ve achieved together.
Where did Women Who, Worcesterhire come from?
In February 2019 we set up a small Facebook Group to help connect the female business owners of Worcestershire.
It wasn’t long before news of our new group circulated and women from all over Worcestershire, running small to medium enterprises, were joining the group and the community grew exceptionally fast. I don’t think we’ve gone one day in the last 3 years without at least one new member joining, and I think that’s mainly down to the members in this room recommending Women Who, Worcestershire, so we thank you for helping the community grow.
The group was designed to help women network. However, for us, we felt that ‘networking’, in the very traditional sense, was quite intimidating, a bit too formal and pretty expensive. We use the word ‘networking’ because everyone knows what it means but we like to look at it as more building genuine connections. We’ve found this approach to be much more affective when it comes to gaining support for your business.
This led us to developing a more hybrid style of ‘networking’ which allows our members to connect with others in a very relaxed, non judgemental and friendly way. We offer daily advertising within our online group and daily themes are designed specifically to help members highlight their own skills and businesses and to also facilitate those genuine connections that I’ve just mentioned. We offer a free face to face network meeting once a month to allow members to then build on those connections made online.
It is with huge thanks to Angela Leaver at Ravenmeadow Golf Club for allowing us to use her facility at no charge, which enables us to continue to offer this meeting out for free.
Having both set up businesses as sole traders ourselves, and meeting one another through networking, we understand the value of Women Who, Worcestershire and how the community benefits members both professionally and personally.
With now over 1000 members, Women Who, Worcestershire is the largest network in the county for female led businesses and we are extremely proud to be able to offer our members peer support, free online and face to face networking, free and paid for advertising opportunities and the means to connect and collaborate with other members to help them develop and grow their businesses.
Our members are at the heart of a thriving business community. Together, we are the Women Who inspire, motivate, support, create, educate and so much more! We believe in the power of working together and encouraging collaboration over competition. We want every member to feel welcome, able to ask for advice and get real value from being a member – both for their business and personally too.
We believe networking is a really important part of a successful business.
The dictionary tells us that networking is “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.”
But we think it’s much more than that!
Running your own business is hard work – hugely rewarding, but not always easy. We like to think that joining a networking group like ours gives you the support you need to keep going, even on the tough days when you wonder if it’s worth pursuing your dream. We like to think that Women Who, Worcestershire members will celebrate your successes, cheer you on from the side lines and give you a lift when you face challenges.
It’s the place to come for advice, when you need someone to talk things through with, people to run ideas past and help you work out what your next step might be. With a group the size of ours, there’s always someone who has been where you are willing to share their experience with you.
Joining Women Who will have got your products and services in front of a wider audience than you might otherwise have reached. People buy from people, and chances are the more involved in the network you become, the more people will want to buy from you and recommend you to others. Many of you here today are the ones proactively recommending each other both inside and outside the group. It’s basically free advertising!
If you need practical support for your business, we have lots of members who can help. Whether you need someone to help with book keeping, teach you how to get the most out of social media, a new logo and brand refresh or uniforms for you and your staff, there are people who can help you. Some of them are in this room right now!
We know that walking into a networking meeting for the first time can feel daunting, but here at Women Who, Worcestershire we’re a friendly bunch! Women struggle with imposter syndrome far more frequently than men, and that feeling that you can’t do something or that other people are better than you is a big reason that lots of women give up on their business.
That’s one of the reasons we are a female only business network. We recognise that society has a way to go in closing the gender gap and that many women feel intimidated by the presence of men in a business setting. Being a part of Women Who, Worcestershire means you don’t have to feel that way. Instead you’re part of a community of like minded women ready and willing to support you reach your potential. You have the opportunity to talk to so many different people, both online and in person, and with the support of all the other members your confidence will grow. Imposter syndrome, low self esteem or confidence doesn’t have to hold you back any more.
Many of us have built genuine friendships through networking. It isn’t just about growing our businesses, but about social support and our wellbeing too. That’s what we’re about – supporting you in your business and life.
Looking back over the last 3 years, its crazy to think that our community has grown from half a dozen women on day 1, to almost 1300 women today.
When we first started, it was only the facebook group and a free networking meeting once a month, and it was something we donated just a few hours a week to. Then we started using other channels – Instagram and twitter – and Carrie built us a make shift website.
And now? Things are very different. We no longer just donate a few hours a week – it’s safe to say that Women Who, Worcestershire is pretty much our entire lives – We realised in lockdown that we had far outgrown Facebook and needed a bigger platform so we instructed fellow member Emily Studholme from TIEM Design to build us a brand new website. The website is a place for us to advertise our sponsors, share news, updates and blogs and to promote our Charity of the Year. It also has an integrated Online Directory available to members to advertise their businesses.
The directory is somewhere that not only can the local community and local business communities visit to find Worcestershire based businesses to support but it’s audience is totally unlimited reaching all across the world – shining a light on the wonderful businesses of Worcestershire – and more specifically … female owned businesses.
It’s also somewhere to help our members connect with other members – if you’re looking to collaborate or connect with a particular type of business. It’s about so much more than just shopping! And we’re delighted with it’s performance, receiving thousands of visitors each month.
In October last year we launched our Co-Working Club which has become an amazing source of peer support for members. Not only does it give members an opportunity to focus productively, it also allows members to connect with other lone workers minimising the effects of loneliness, and increasing positive mental health.
And if that wasn’t enough … We’ve been nominated for a Worcestershire Hour Social Media Award and also been shortlisted for the Federation of Small Businesses West Midlands Start Up of the Year Award! The awards ceremony is next week … We’re incredibly proud to be shortlisted, but we’re kinda hoping to win!
Since the very start, we’ve raised over £4000 for local charities – we’ve worked with The Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust, Onside Independent Advocacy, Worcestershire Breast Unit Haven, and The Dawn Project.
All the charities we choose are local – staffed by local people, raising funds for local people needing support and they were nominated and voted on my our members.
We believe in supporting local in more ways than one – and fundraising is a big, important part of that for us. In fact it’s become such a big part of what we do that we’ve brought Natasha McCann on board to help us, specifically with organising all our fundraising activity this year.
This year’s charity as voted for by our members is Worcester Foodbank.
Three areas of Worcester are in the top 10% most deprived areas in the country, with 17% of children estimated to live in poverty.
Worcester Foodbank opened in June 2012 to provide people in crisis with emergency 3 day food parcels. They also offer a listening ear and signposting to further support.
The Worcester Foodbank’s aim is to restore people’s hope of a happier and more sustainable future where they can stand on their own two feet again.
Women Who, Worcestershire are promoting their work and organising a series of events to help raise vital funds to help feed more people in crisis this year.
Three Women Who, Worcestershire members have designed and created beautiful products to support our fundraising efforts this year, with each product lovingly handmade, sustainable and eco-friendly. 20% of product sales will go directly to Worcester Foodbank; with each purchase you will be supporting a local, independent business and an essential local charity.
Huge thanks to Sian from Gallus and Green, Emma from Reg and Ray’s Remedies, and Susan from Willow Tree Yarnery. You can have a look at their wonderful products this evening, and all three are available to order now.
The Next Phase
It is no secret that since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, our local business community has struggled, but, we have watched our members adapt and create new ways of ensuring their businesses survive. We are in awe of their creativity, determination and innovation.
That is why we feel it is vital that members get the recognition they deserve by shouting louder about their achievements and giving them a bigger platform to be seen and valued.
We have extended our online presence by developing the new website and are always considering new opportunities for members to be featured and supported.
To further extend our platform, we are also delighted to share that we will be launching our very own Awareness Day later on in the year and collaborating with the Business & IP Centre to run an event at The Hive.
We’re launching a podcast! The Women Who Podcast will be available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. We’ll be releasing lots of episodes over the spring and summer, so please go and subscribe.
By October 2022 we have plans to open up our very own Online Hub. The Hub will facilitate and promote professional relationships by bringing together local businesses and Business Service Providers, Consultants and Agencies.
We are also really excited about the launch of our Women Who, Worcestershire Safeguarding Programme which is designed to protect members by highlighting the possible dangers of lone working and giving them the tools needed to safeguard their wellbeing. We are already grateful to Louise Broughton for organising a talk for our members on the issue of safeguarding, a talk that inspired our idea to develop this Safeguarding Programme.
We’ll be working with Sally Monks from The Worcestershire Martial Arts Centre who is highly experienced when it comes to delivering self defence training, and with West Mercia Police.
We’re delighted to have Chief Constable Pippa Mills and Detective Inspector Liz Warner, and Chair of Women of West Mercia, here with us this evening. We’re incredibly grateful to them for their support on this important issue. We want all our members to feel safe, especially when working alone.
We at Women Who, Worcestershire, have also had to adapt to change and adopt new ways of thinking. Moving forward, we are feeling really positive about working with other local organisations to help better support our members and strengthen our already powerful community.
By working together we can really help shape a confident future of business for women in Worcestershire.
There are lots of people we need to thank for the help and support over the past 3 years, and most of you are here to celebrate with us evening.
You’re the people who have supported us since the beginning, some of you have been our Guest Speakers at meetings and regular meeting attendees, some are the creators of our fundraising products, all of those businesses on our directory so far, the charities we have worked with, and the organisations we’ve recently connected with to collaborate and work together to help support the female business community in Worcestershire.
Thank you to our official Women Who, Worcestershire sponsors Louise Squires at Inspired to Change, Aasia Baig at Centenary Lounge UK, Rebecca Widdowson at Hallmark Whatley Hulme and Denise Carter at Travel Counsellors, who sadly cannot be here this evening.
Thank you again to Aasia Baig for hosting evening events and our monthly co-working club at Centenary Lounge.
To Susan Birth, Louise Hickman and Michelle Robinson for designing and making last years beautiful fundraising products and helping us raise over £400 for The Dawn Project, a service that’s committed to supporting victims of domestic abuse.
Thank you. We hope you enjoyed your evening with us.
Carrie & Lisa
Creating opportunities through networking, events and peer support for female business owners and company directors in Worcestershire.
Surround yourself with a positive, supportive and inspiring network.