City of London International Women’s Day #CityIWD2020
The City of London International Women’s Day event was held again on Friday 6th March 2020. This fourteenth celebration held in Guildhall brought together an impressive group of speakers on the theme #EachforEqual and helped to raise important funds for the domestic abuse charity Refuge.
Each of the speakers told us something of their lives, careers and approach and then responded to questions from the audience. These ranged from the impact of Artificial Intelligence on future jobs, the pros and cons of social media on women and girls and advancing your career if you are not academically gifted.
Welcome by Alderman Alison Gowman
Alderman Alison Gowman – the first woman partner in global law firm DLA Piper and Alderman for the Ward of Dowgate – the second women in the long history of the City of London to hold that position – welcomed everyone to the Guildhall, thanked the City of London Corporation for hosting the event and HSBC as the main sponsors and introduced our Chair.
Chair Ranvir Singh
Ranvir Singh – the award-winning presenter and political editor for Good Morning Britain- was the chair for the #CityIWD2020. Ranvir introduced the International Women’s Day theme for 2020 #EachforEqual and how this empowers all of us to do something, whether individually or corporately. She also spoke about her support for the charity Refuge. In her role, she has heard so many personal accounts of domestic abuse and the huge disparity in how people are treated. “Violence against women is still a scourge on our society.” She outlined the support Refuge provides including the 24/7 National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247.
Sonita Alleyne OBE, FRSA, Master of Jesus College Cambridge
Sonita Alleyne – Master of Jesus College Cambridge and founder of The Yes Programme, a unique online service that helps school pupils make career decisions – was the first speaker. Sonita told us about her early life in East London and her parents’ key role, especially the focus they placed on education. She talked about life being a series of doors and how we must push ourselves a little to step through these doors. She showed us how her curiosity and her approach of being “flexible, but certain, to listen and be analytical” has enabled her. She encouraged us to “build our lives through a position of optimism and a degree of possibility.”
In the group discussion on advancing your career, Sonita spoke about what’s needed to achieve is “hustle”: those skills and motivations that help us move forward, like the gift of the gab, sales skills, organisational skills, entrepreneurial skills “we can re-set the doors we allow people to go through.”
On making men our ally in #Eachfor Equal, Sonita said, “We’re all in it together, take away barriers and we all benefit. This helps everyone have better, more meaningful lives.”
Roma Agrawal, MBE FICE, Structural Engineer
Roma Agrawal – structural engineer, who has designed bridges, skyscrapers and sculptures with signature architects including The Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe, and designed the foundations and the ‘Spire’ – explained how her love of science and design led to her discovering engineering to be a great combination between the two, “Using maths and physics to solve problems and make sure buildings stay up!” Roma’s thoughts on #EachforEqual were that, “We all some privilege and we all have a role to be encouraging and supportive; we can listen, understand and, where necessary, challenge.”
Professor Fiona Wilcox, HM Senior Coroner for Inner West London
Professor Fiona Wilcox – HM Senior Coroner for Inner West London and a bencher at Middle Temple, Fiona is dual qualified in law and medicine and a Fellow of the FFLM. She teaches widely, including on the Masters in Forensic Medicine at QMUL – Fiona spoke about her career as a “very long walk, with lots of hills and deep valleys.” She first qualified as a doctor and worked for 13 years as a GP in East London. She then retrained as a barrister, and after a number of roles is now Senior Coroner in West London “a judge who investigates death”. She was quick to explain, “this is interesting and not depressing; you see people at their most humane”. Her role involves, “a lot of listening, thinking and building bridges”. Her key approach is to treat people with honesty and respect.
Fiona was asked about how she delivers difficult messages. She explained “I think carefully about what I have to say and deliver it as honestly and simply as possible, then I shut up and give time for the message to sink in”.
Flavilla Fongang, Founder of 3 Colours Rule and Tech London Advocates for Black Women in Tech
Flavilla Fongang – founder of 3 Colours Rule, an award-winning branding and marketing agency – talked about her early life in Paris and her mother’s words “Education is your first husband”. On arrival in London, she studied for three degrees and worked in many jobs, including door-to-door sales, event management and receptionist, learning important key life skills and lessons on the way. Even now she never stops learning, “I am constantly learning, technology makes so much available. It is a constant obsession with me and keeps the brain young!”
On social media Flavilla said, “If you are clever about it, you can improve your professional chances; you can use your power and connections to be supportive”.
The Organising Committee and Future Events
The City of London International Women’s Day Event Committee is supported by representatives from HSBC, The City of London Corporation, The City of London Police, (FANY) Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps, JDHR, Mitie Security, Refuge and City Security magazine.
If you would like to be added to the mailing list for future International Women’s Day celebrations, please get in touch with the organising committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography at event: Martin David
Refuge photograph: Julian Nieman