We always mark International Women’s Day (IWD) at Allia. And we’re not just jumping on the bandwagon for one day of the year either – our ethos has always been genuinely focused on equality and diversity for all. With a staff team that’s almost 65% female, and with women making up 3/5 of the senior management team, it makes a change from the many male dominated businesses around. Additionally, our business support programmes always seek to work with under-represented groups, and to date 59% of the founders we’ve supported in London are female.
The pandemic is having a devastating effect on gender equality
This year however it seems even more important to celebrate the achievements of women in our society, with the Covid crisis exacerbating many issues of inequality. Globally, thousands of women have been put at an increased risk of domestic violence, with charities reporting an 80% rise in calls in the first 3 months of lockdown1. Plus the pandemic is having a devastating effect on gender equality, with multiple studies revealing, ‘women are bearing the brunt of extra childcare and housework and are losing jobs in greater numbers than men, [and] campaigners, politicians and work experts [say a] dearth of female voices at the heart of government risks putting 50 years of progress into reverse’.2
So, this IWD we want to celebrate the achievements of all inspiring women – from the frontline workers, to the celebrities who use their voice publicly to stand up against inequality, and the colleagues and friends who are struggling to manage the seemingly impossible task of juggling work and childcare. We salute you all! We asked our team and some of the female founders we work with to tell us how they ensure equality in their businesses, and to name women that have inspired them.
Rachel Coquard, Director of HR, Allia: I nominate Cheney Hamilton, Founder and MD of Find your Flex who also set up mummyjobs and daddyjobs. Her companies are not just job boards; Cheney writes some great articles/blogs as a movement for change to raise the profile of flexible working and inspire others to embrace her vision for the future which inspires me. Their values state people are at the heart of what they do, they expect diversity and inclusion and add social value which for me cements their existence. https://findyourflex.co.uk/the-find-your-flex-group-mission-and-values/
Sophie Fryer, Marketing & Comms Assistant, Allia FBC: The woman that inspires me is my Grandma. Despite being in her 70’s, this woman doesn’t let anything stop her. She is brave, adventurous and is always looking for something new. She once said to me ‘I want to experience everything’, and some of the things on her bucket list just make my belly jump (wing walking being one of them). She’s a mother, grandmother, sister, wife, teacher, survivor and a role model to me in every way. She’s a social butterfly, is up for anything and can walk miles around me.
Rachel Flower, Active Orbit founder: I am inspired by everyday stories of success such as people who raise money in their communities, volunteer in food banks, take time to help their neighbours. I’m a big believer that success should not be about those material things eg hitting a 6 or 7 figure revenue or getting funded. My 11 year-old daughter is inspired by Greta Thunberg and rightly so – in the park this week she spoke up and politely asked a teenage boy to pick up his dropped litter. I was so proud of her. I’m always inspired when people use their voices for good and speak out about causes that they care about.
Martin Clark, CEO, Allia Impact: I’m sure I’m not alone in being inspired by the female prime ministers who have led their countries through Covid better than men – Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand), Sanna Marin (Finland), Angela Merkel (Germany) and Mette Frederiksen (Denmark).
Omadelle Charles-Bailey, Front of House, Allia FBC: My beacon of inspiration is the African American poet, civil rights activist, producer and multi award-winning author, Maya Angelou. She does not only inspire me through her numerous uplifting poetry, films and novels, but also by her unwillingness to waiver and crumble through adversity. One of my favourite quotes of hers is, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ I live by that mantra.
Hebe Foster, Telescope founder: Our business is motivated by the lack of opportunities for frontline staff to contribute to the policymaking process (they have lots of ideas and deep expertise but very little power and influence in the system; there is real opportunity for more collaboration and inclusivity that could make tangible change). And so, we’re inspired by our participants! Across justice, transport, adult social care, health, refugee rights, and homelessness, we’ve been blown away by the genuine curiosity and enthusiasm our 60+ participants have brought to a programme deliberately designed to challenge mainstream, comfortable ways of thinking.
Joanna Morales, Nu Nude founder: As a fashion brand whose mission is to offer a diverse product offering of all skin shades and sizes, our whole ethos is diversity, and everything we do is centered around this. So, we ensure everyone involved in the business is from diverse backgrounds, different races, ages and ethnicities – this also allows a deeper organic reach to the audiences we want to attract.
Phil Caroe, Director, Allia C&C: I chose to make a pledge that I wouldn’t speak on an all-male panel a few years ago. Having a diverse panel enriches the conversation. Men and women may think differently, take a different perspective and bring a variety of experiences to any issue, so if you include only male voices you could be missing valuable insight and wisdom. Secondly, the panel make-up is itself a statement. However unintentional it might be, an all-male panel subtly signals that it’s men who are the experts, the leaders, the ones whose opinions really matter. That’s simply not true, and it’s not a message I’m willing to be part of.
Sally Bain, Marketing & Comms Manager, Allia FBC: I’m inspired by Jack Monroe – food writer and anti-poverty campaigner. In previous times, she had £10 a week to feed herself and her son, and now she writes recipe books for people who are living on extremely tight budgets. She has survived real hardship and has turn her life around to the point where she has written six cookbooks, writes for national publications, appears on television and speaks at events. I admire her resilience and passion to challenge the inequalities in our society, campaigning against causes of poverty and austerity in the UK.
Laura Nicholls, Head of Marketing & Comms, Allia FBC: Writer and activist Arundhati Roy is known for her novels (which I love) as well as her non-fiction and political writing, all of which she writes with passion and unflinching honesty, with compassion and solidarity for those living in a world of war, chaos, terrorism and violence. She holds up the power of stories, and how they can reveal the truth, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes tragic and always beautiful – seeing them as a way of letting those without a voice tell their truths.
‘Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe’.
And finally, a word from The Do-Gooders: We are a female-founded social enterprise. We’re proud to have grown an 84% female team and get ad-hoc support from Ranwo, a fellow social enterprise that empowers single parents by educating and employing them to do virtual assistant jobs on a flexible basis. Read more on our own IWD blog here.