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Maddy Christopher


Deputy Editor

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International Women’s Day 2024: Inspire Inclusion

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Today is International Women’s Day 2024 and this year’s theme is Inspire Inclusion.

So, instead of coming up with a feisty piece calling out gender-based injustice and offering guidance on how to create change, this year we have gone in a different direction.

This year we want to inspire women and allies, by sharing stories of women from the HR and L&D industries coming together.

Here is a selection of their stories…

Happy International Women’s Day 2024

Yasmine Alani, Head of Creative Learning, DEI & Culture, Media Zoo

I think a moment that really captured female empowerment for me recently was running a department with two other women. I don’t think I’d been in a space before where the senior leadership gender balance was completely female. 

It was a real girl power moment and all the things you expected to happen (ie. leading with compassion, empathy and understanding) were happening. 

I believe leadership is about creating psychologically safe environments, and it was lovely to see this happening unconsciously. It was definitely a different vibe than previous more male-dominated teams – I didn’t have to fight for my right to be at the table.

Cheryl Allen, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Atos

I have been blessed to work with some amazing women during my career and relish the occasions when you connect with one or a few special people and just know from the outset that together you can make ‘the magic happen’. 

Occasions I can think that really spark this for me include working with a small group of talented ladies in forming a ‘kids club’ to support our working parents during the pandemic, bringing to action our first HR robot, and shaping a progressive strategy for DEI in anticipation of our new co-launch. 

Special moments shared with special ladies! Thank you and Happy IWD!

Cathy Hoy, CEO, CLO100

As a woman in leadership, I faced both challenges and opportunities in establishing CLO100, yet it was the unwavering support from a network of inspiring women (and men) that turned this dream into reality. Their encouragement transformed hurdles into stepping stones!

We had many supporters when we started the company, both male and female. But the early support from people like, Sonia Johnson, Jo Cook, Helen Marshall, Erica Farmer, Tracy Shah and Katja Schipperheijn in particular, who not only supported me, but actively went out of their way to help, really demonstrated the power of collaborative strength among women. 

I’m incredibly thankful for their support and faith in what we’re doing as a business.

Laura Overton, Founder, Learning Changemakers and Cofounder, Emerging Stronger 

In the vast exhibition hall, after 15 years of sharing my research, I faced a pivotal moment. As a confident business owner, I had chosen to let go of my company to explore new horizons. 

Exiting the stage for the last time, I tried to smile but did not expect to feel so bereaved. Three women, delegates from the other side of the globe, saw past my bravado. They whisked me to a nearby bar. For an hour they listened, laughed, and cared. 

Their welcome re-ignited my courage when I needed it most. Never underestimate the impact of small actions. Moments matter in inspiring inclusion

Ekua Cant, Career Coach and Trainer

In July 2023, I decided to ‘come out’ and share with women in my LinkedIn community that I am neurodivergent. 

In the past, I had not wanted to disclose and I felt that having labels was something to my detriment, something negative and I felt a sense of being less than and not worthy. However, hiding your invisible disability (which is something I have tried to do in the past) doesn’t make it go away or make it invisible. 

I decided to embrace my authentic self, to embrace my full self and tell the world I was proud of being a black, left-handed, neurodivergent woman with dyslexia and dyscalculia. I stood up and empowered myself and others to recognise that we are all unique and special and have different gifts and talents.

Kate Clay, HR Director, eStar Truck & Van, Mercedes-Benz 

The ultimate empowering moment for me came on the day I was asked to join the Board here at eStar. Before me, there were no females on the Board, so this has been a very proud moment in my career. 

Being in the commercial vehicle sector means it’s very male-dominated, so to hold such a visible position gives me immense pride, knowing that other women can see there is a place for them in senior positions within this industry too. 

I am determined to use my platform to be visible and act as a role model in the automotive community.

Liz Pemberton, Director of Learning & Development, Progeny

During lockdown, we ran a series of virtual wellbeing events and in one of them I interviewed David Beeney from Breaking the Silence about mental health. He asked me a question about my love of running and I mentioned in passing that it has improved my menopause symptoms.

As soon as I said the word menopause, the online chat went mad and it became apparent that many colleagues were struggling in silence. From here, we’ve created a more menopause-friendly working environment, one element of which is our regular menopause cafes. 

Here, women across the business can come together and share their experiences and ideas for best practices – it’s been very empowering.

Nicky Marshall, wellbeing expert and Director, Discover Your Bounce

In 2017, I was running my business solo, passionate about bringing wellbeing to individuals and the workplace. I was frustrated and wasn’t moving forward at the pace that I had envisioned.

I met Sharon Critchlow through a mutual friend and we instantly connected. As friends, we had shared values and laughed a lot. When I approached her to become a director in the business, I was delighted that she said yes! 

Together, we have not only expanded our work and subject matter, but we have also impacted many thousands of individuals and teams, helping them to live healthier, happier lives. I love our work and I’m excited for our future.

Kate Plamer, Employment Services Director, Peninsula UK

There are many moments during my career where I have felt empowered – from listening to women champion menopause to holding my own in a room full of middle-aged men at just 24 years old when I worked in facilities management.

But most of all, I felt empowered when the amazing women I had the privilege of working with rallied around to support me through my tough pregnancy as the morning sickness was in full swing. 

The support these women offered was a light at the end of the tunnel, so much so that I have a second child!

Want to read more about IWD? Read Why do we only celebrate women’s careers on International Women’s Day?

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Maddy Christopher

Deputy Editor

Read more from Maddy Christopher

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