United Molasses

Colleagues join forces to celebrate International Women’s Day

Posted on 29 March, 2023

Sarah Cripps, Marcela Lopez, Frances Aggrey, Isabel Conde-Arias and Felicity White braved the snow and ice to travel to Belfast to take part in two days of celebrations. In total, 20 women from different companies within W& R Barnett came together to take part in the events.

The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2023 was ‘Embrace Equity’.

Following lunch on the first day, the W&R Barnett contingent took part in a session entitled ‘Embrace the Spirit’.

A fun element to the session saw participants having to talk to three different people in the room, each time telling a different story about ‘Who Am I’.

During the afternoon, the group also explored why ‘equity’ as opposed to ‘equality’ is so important.

Explaining what is meant by equity, the IWD website says: “Equity can be defined as giving everyone what they need to be successful. In other words, it's not giving everyone the exact same thing.

“If we give everyone the exact same thing, expecting that will make people equal, it assumes that everyone started out in the same place - and this can be vastly inaccurate because everyone isn't the same.”

Tailoring solutions to meet the needs of an individual rather than applying the same solutions to everyone was a key message. An example of this in action has been the adoption of flexible working policies within W&R Barnett. Another example is the subject of childcare and not assuming that this is something that is a factor for all women.

Next on the agenda to ‘Embrace Nature’ – and despite the icy cold weather - was an hour’s hydro-biking on the River Lagan, organised by Lagan Adventures.

The women were joined by CEO William Barnett for this unique water sports experience, a great way to see the historic Belfast waterfront including the Harland and Wolf cranes, Obel Tower, historic bridges, canal structure and much more.

The hydro-biking was followed by much needed Black Forest Hot Chocolates!

The evening took the theme ‘Embrace the Celebration’ and included a lovely dinner in the private dining space at Waterman House in the city, providing a further opportunity to meet colleagues from across the group and share stories with each other.

As Marcela said: “It was great to be able to relax in each other’s company. It wasn’t about which office you are from, but about hearing each other’s experiences and challenges, enriching our knowledge.”

The first day also saw the group collect £195 for the charity Refuge – which was increased to £1,000 by W&R Barnett.

On Friday morning, the group travelled to the Institute of Directors’ Women’s Leadership Conference at the Crowne Plaza in Belfast attended by over 500 delegates.

An action-packed itinerary included a keynote talk from health and education advocate Sarah Brown along with further talks from Baroness Floella Benjamin, Gráinne McNamara, Managing Director - Technology Strategy Team at Accenture and special guest Dame Kelly Holmes, the Olympic and Commonwealth Gold Medallist.

W&R Barnett director and CEO of the group’s Commodity Trading Division Claudine Heron took part in one of the panel discussions at the event.

Sarah Cripps commented: “I found Sarah Brown’s talk particularly inspiring including how you can find the most unlikely allies. She gave an example of former US President George W Bush and how by finding the right angle, she was able to unlock funding for one of her causes. A lot of what she said came back to the importance of education.”

Another powerful speaker was Dame Kelly who talked about how, despite living in an open society, it had taken 34 years for her to finally be able to come out as gay.

Dr Sinead Kane was another remarkable speaker, who despite being 95% blind has achieved so much as a visually impaired athlete, practising solicitor and double Guinness World Record Holder.

In February 2018 she broke the Guinness World Record for the furthest distance covered by a female on a treadmill in 12 hours and was also the first blind person to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents, a feat which she completed in less than seven days in January 2017.

The UM team took away many memories and learnings from a whirlwind couple of days.

Sarah said: “It was great to have time away from the office to consider different challenges and how we overcome them.”

Frances said: “It reinforced the need to speak up if you see something that isn’t right.”

Isabel commented: “Spending time outside of the office and having so much interaction with colleagues from our group was the big thing for me.”

Marcella added: “Learning from other people’s experiences is so important and reminding ourselves that we are 100% capable of achieving our goals and more.”

To ensure that the momentum gained from their time in Belfast can be built upon, an ‘Empowering Women’ Teams channel has been created to keep the conversation going and to share experiences and ideas.

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