International Women’s Day on 8th March each year is a great time for each of us at Women Leaders UK to reflect critically on the progress we have made and the impact we have had in taking action to drive gender parity.

This year’s theme, Embrace Equity, calls for collective activism, from grassroots action to wide-scale momentum and, so importantly, recognises that forging gender equity isn’t only about women, allies are incredibly important for the social, economic, cultural and political advancement of women.

So, what have we done and what will we do?

Local support has enabled us to extend our free mentoring to women and allyship training packages to businesses.

We recognise that a key element of the persistent gender pay gap is that too few women progress into senior leadership, and providing mentors can be a significant factor in building confidence and tackling the dreaded imposter syndrome that so many of us feel. Thanks to funding from Milton Keynes City Council’s Economic Recovery Plan, we have been able to extend our mentoring programme, offering free mentoring for women at all stages of their career.

And our mentors are not all women, as well as supporting male allies, we have developed an allyship training package for leaders within organisations to help them hold the difficult conversations about building workplaces where women thrive. Again, thanks to the support of Milton Keynes City Council we have been able to offer this free of charge to businesses across Milton Keynes.

MK Innovates inspires children to explore careers in STEM.

Alongside access to leadership roles suppressing women’s pay, we know that too few women follow careers in those specialist technical roles which typically attract higher salaries and we were delighted to deliver MK Innovates again in 2022, a one-day tech-festival which saw over 1200 children meet with leading local employers, engaging them in activities to inspire girls and boys to explore STEM. Focussing on those schools supporting the most disadvantaged young people we know that we are targeting action where it is needed most.

The Women Leaders UK Awards are back this year to celebrate the inspiring women in our community.

It’s been a busy year and 2023 is set to be even busier. We are delighted to be returning to a live awards event in which we can celebrate and elevate the visibility of the inspiring women in our community forging change. Supported by leading employers including Oracle Red Bull Racing, Aiimi, and Milton Keynes City Council, the awards showcase talent, create role models and inspire us all.  

You can find out more about our 2023 Women Leaders UK Awards here.

What’s coming up in 2023?

As well as the Awards, plans are well underway for MK Innovates 2023 and of course, we will be continuing to provide mentors and allyship training across Milton Keynes, playing our part to catalyse action and accelerate progress towards gender equity.

We are thrilled too to have been invited to join the Women in Business Taskforce, brought together by NatWest Bank in the Midlands and East of England. It is an action focused group, combining efforts to deliver tangible outcomes supporting women in business across the region, ambitious to provide the support and access for female entrepreneurs to unlock the £250 billion value to the UK economy identified in the Rose Report. The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship | NatWest Group. At our first meeting a wider inclusion issue was flagged, that of intersectionality. Paying attention to the ways in which various forms of inequality can operate together and exacerbate each other is essential for equity. LSE published a report in 2021 which showed that black women, regardless of whether they are from the UK or elsewhere are the most under-represented in the top percentile of incomes as compared to all other men and women and this difference persists to the top third of incomes. Black women are missing in the UK’s top 1% | LSE Business Review. This cannot be ignored and has been identified as a theme for the group.

Our own theme for 2023 is ’Partnership’. What we can achieve in isolation can be amplified through collaboration and we are keen to work with organisations to maximise collective effort and impact. It’s going to be an exciting year, please get in touch if you’d like to join us on our journey embracing equity.

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