Image International Women’s Day 2016. What did you do to mark it?

Gossip Girls, Gossip Girls Talks, Wokingham Gossip Girls, IWD16, International Women's Day, 2016, Thames Valley Police, The Park, SloughIt’s International Women’s Day today. Twitter & other social media platforms have been alight with chatter about #PledgeForParity, the 2016 theme for IWD.

Two years ago, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Clearly, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done when it comes to gender equality. But lots of amazing women (as well as some amazing men) are working to bridge that gap. And today was all about that.

So I cut the strings which tie me to my desk and decided to mark IWD16 in some way. I didn’t want it to be just like any old day. I was invited along to an event arranged by Police Inspector Nicola Pierce of Thames Valley Police. A year in the making and her first event for IWD, it was truly a great few hours with some incredible women.

A number of senior police women spoke at the event. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Hall from the Met and Detective Superintendent Kath Barnes from the South East Counter Terrorism Unit. Both amazing speakers, both sharing their experiences as women in the force.

They were joined by Viv Bowra who’s speech took the audience on an expedition to the Canadian High Arctic. Viv was part of the Leaseplan Arctic Challenge. The trip was organised for 20 women to go on a 100km to challenge the gender equality question. Months of training, both mentally and physically, the trip for Viv was all about Identity. Some women loose their identity when they become mothers. Others are working to reaffirm their identity, others are testing their identity and some are still searching for theirs. Just watch this to see Viv’s incredible journey…

The take outs from Viv’s speech.

It doesn’t matter what you do…but you must do something.

If you want to do something fast, do it alone. If you want to do something well and with success, do it with others.

Viv spoke for her inspiration – her father and her two young children.

And then Gilli Coston took to the stage. Gilli is MD at Wyless. A leader in the Internet of Things, Gilli is a strong supporter of diversity and inclusion. She was a wonderfully inspiring speaker. Talking about her mentors, couragous coaches and models of experience, Gilli had a few principles to share.

Get comfortable with the unfamiliar – what would that be for you? Public speaking for me but you need to push and challenge yourself to grow.
Grasp the nettle. (Or eat the frog as my friend Caroline says!). In other words, it might be hard, it might be tough but just do it.
Create opportunities for others. If you can’t do something yourself, gift that opportunity to others who will benefit.
Be self-aware – know your own abilities

Gilli told her story but I was touched by her statement that although we all have our own stories, our stories converged today as we all sat together and celebrated International Women’s Day. So true. We all felt part of something and it felt good. And Gilli’s inspiration? Her mother.

Danielle Allen was up next and boy did she grab that nettle! Her first time ever speaking to a crowd she was getting comfortable with the unfamiliar in front of 200 people. Go Danielle! A 28 year old girl with dreams and hopes and plans. A young mum who wants to change and improve her life. She’s doing just that and god she was good. Myself and my neighbour had tears in our eyes when she’d finished. Her inspiration? A friend and colleague who she works alongside. A friend who has climbed the corporate ladder (though bloody hard work and determination) and someone she aspires to be like.

Amanda Allen, Style Advocate then wrapped things up. Her message, image isn’t about anything fluffy. Get it right and people will listen to what you say. There’s a whole post on personal branding and the importance of image but I’ll cover that of in another post as it’s something I’m really interested in.

So it got me thinking. Who’s my inspiration? I have so many people who inspire me but this year it’s a bit of a no brainer. Two women instantly spring to mind. Mouna & Spring Flower. Two of my newest friends. Two international women. Two of the strongest women I know. Two of the best mothers I’ve ever met.

Gossip Girls, Gossip Girls Talks, Wokingham Gossip Girls, IWD16, International Women's Day, 2016, Thames Valley Police, The Park, SloughMouna and Spring Flower are from Syria. I met them last summer in Greece. I was on my family holiday. They were running for their lives. They were taking great risks. They were heading somewhere. They were heading anywhere. To protect themselves and their families. Despite everything they smiled. They played with their children. They helped each other when Spring Flower’s little boy was sick on the boat we were all travelling on. They shared their stories with me. They were and still are amazing women. They are in my thoughts daily. They are in my thoughts when I think I’m having a bad day. My days will never be as bad as theirs have been in recent years. And when I feel as though life’s not fair, I stop myself. Life isn’t fair. But not when it comes to mine. When it comes to theirs.

International Women’s Day is about celebrating being a woman. It’s about standing up for other women. It’s about recognising other women. It’s about applauding other women. Today I’m applauding Mouna and Spring Flower.

So, who inspires you? Did you do anything today to mark #IWD16? Did you read anything or share anything online with the IWD16 hashtag? Please do comment and share your thoughts and experiences. I’d love to hear them!

And don’t forget, it doesn’t matter what you do but you must do something. What are you going to do?

Happy IWD16 everyone. Here’s to great things!