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International Women’s Day 2022

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The Chamber Network is working to challenge stereotypes and break gender bias and accelerate women’s equality.

Today, we are shining a spotlight on female business leaders in LCCI membership, and we asked Abby Ghafoor, CEO, Arc Management Consulting, Jacqui Thornton, Head of Facilities, Brown Shipley, Katherine McCullough, Head of UK Property, Merchant Land, Sarah Wilson, Owner and CEO, ACE Travel Management ATG UK and Natalie Chapman, Head of Policy – South, Logistics UK and Connected, Liveable London Committee Chair what International Women's Day means to them and what advice they have for women in business.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Abby: It’s my favourite time of the year! IWD represents the progress made in recognising the contribution women have made so far celebrated locally, nationally and globally.
Jacqui: It’s a chance to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of well deserving women.
Katherine: I’ve heard it get questioned before – why do we need it. To celebrate success and female advancement. However, there are range of issues impacting women in society and the workplace – the impact Covid had on female’s careers particularly and how hybrid working should remain an equal opportunities and success enabling arrangement. Pension equality, adapting successful careers that can complement life stages, discrimination and unfortunately as last year drove home to us all safety and security as we walk the streets. It’s an opportunity to shine a spotlight on these.
Sarah: A day to celebrate women who have made history and to ensure the future of equal opportunities for women both in the UK and across the globe!
Natalie: For me, International Women’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to champion success and celebrate all that women have achieved. It is also a good time to reflect on the positive progress of equality, as well as raise awareness of the further work that must be done across the globe.

Who is a female role model that has impacted your career and why?

My favourite role model is Malala Yousafzai who has been a huge impact for me. Malala is great example of someone who has turned the word “Adversity” on its head by taking challenges into positives. This has helped me in my career in business to always look at any challenge as an “opportunity” for positive outcomes.
Jacqui: Selina Scott as one of the first women to present the news and carry out interviews in hostile areas. Her ability to command the attention of her audience in a truthful empathetic way inspired me to take risk and be open about how things can be improved even if it might Not be what other want to hear.
Katherine: I started off in property finance in my early 20s. The women about 10 years ahead of me stood out as there were far fewer of them. Also, at the time pushing yourself into those roles required a thick skin. I think to an extent that has changed. But although as a group of females each were strong personalities - I was welcomed and encouraged to reach high by people like Suzie Orrell, Julia Caunce & Paula Devine. I was also probably a bit annoying to be honest. I smile now but at 24 thought there was nothing I couldn’t do.
Sarah: I had the chance to hear Kanya King speak at a conference. She’s the founder and CEO of the MOBO awards. To hear her speak about her journey from quite humble beginnings, her success and achievements whilst elevating diversity was absolutely inspiring.
Natalie: Throughout different stages of my career there have been various women that have inspired and supported me. As a result, I feel it is important to pay that kindness forwards; especially in supporting those that are starting out in their careers and are looking to build confidence.

What advice do you have for women starting out in business careers?

Abby: Building relationships leads to growing your network, people do business with people even if your brand is completely virtual it still has a brand personality, be authentic and transparent. Seek the best mentors in your sector throughout your career, with hard work and focus the success shall follow.
Jacqui: Be clear on what you want to achieve and involve those who can compliment your own skills set in helping you to develop your journey.
Katherine: Understand it’s a long road. Be determined and confident but also it’s a marathon not a sprint. The world doesn’t fall apart if you haven’t got where or what you wanted in the first few years. Be creative and don’t give up. Good female managers are absolutely excellent once they find their business voice and identity. Certainly in real estate that may involve brushing off some louder brasher voices that talk over you in your early career. Consistency and resilience does really sort that out.
Sarah: Be prepared to take risks. Don’t be put off by the curve balls, nothing will be quite like as you planned. Build a great team around you.
Natalie: I would advise women to be bold and to not be afraid of applying. Also, to reach out to others; if there is somewhere you aspire to be, reach out to someone in that position and ask them for advice.

How can businesses, Governments, and business support organisations, like LCCI, encourage and empower female business leaders and entrepreneurs?

Abby: Female business leaders are empowered by understanding their painpoints which in turn enables an organisation to support, having company forums which connect women with other women in business can be useful to engage with entrepreneurs and female leaders.
Jacqui: I believe organisations can support women with a commitment to run workshops host events and forums and introduce women to other women who have achieved and are true role models.
Katherine: Make access to education and careers as open as possible for the younger generation whether it’s through affordable higher education degree alternative apprenticeships. Maintain strong policies to support female employees through choices around parenting and adoption, the menopause and to keep workplaces accessible and inspiring places for mature and younger women. If the opportunities support like this provide are there – women leaders and professionals have the ability to achieve their potential and contribute brilliant things through different stages of their working lives.
Sarah: Eliminate sexist language in corporate world such as Chairman. Promote businesses to encourage flexible working for men. Have role models for both men and women who have equality in home and workplace.
Natalie: Logistics has traditionally been a male dominated industry, however it has really changed in the 18 years since I joined, and it is fantastic to see so many females choosing to make a career in Logistics. Women are not a minority - they account for roughly half of the population - so if businesses are not attracting females, then they are missing out on a very large pool of talent. I think it is important for businesses and government to explore what the potential barriers are for women and why there is a lack of uptake in certain roles and sectors. For example, in logistics, the vast majority of HGV drivers are men. While there may not be a definitive answer, elements such as a lack of safe, secure overnight parking and welfare facilities undoubtedly plays a crucial role. Logistics UK is working with government to try and address this.