L ast week, I attended the Women in Business Expo, a two-day virtual event designed to support, inspire, and guide women at all stages of their professional journey.
The event, hosted for the first time last year, was intended to take place at conference centres in central Manchester and at the ExCel, London, but moved online in response to the pandemic.
As was to be expected, Covid-19 and handling adversity were major themes. Diversity was also central, with conversations on big topics such as the value of ethnically and gender diverse teams, how to create an inclusive culture, and allyship. Balancing home commitments and work, leadership, imposter syndrome and confidence issues, and mental health, were also tackled.
Despite the new virtual format, the event was engaging, with plenty of opportunities to meet people from the interesting companies which attended, including Coupa, Tech Returners, Cirrus, Code Nation, and Collectively Done.
There was also a packed schedule of fascinating and inspiring talks from a whole range of women from different sectors and backgrounds – it’s hard to choose a favourite, but here are three of my top picks:
5 Ways to Create the Career You Really Want – Suzy Walker, Editor-in-Chief of Psychologies
“What you believe about life is what you believe to be true, and if you change your belief you can change how you live your life.”
Suzy’s practical and inspiring masterclass took us through a five-step process for creating a career you truly love. Starting with ourselves and our own beliefs, Suzy encouraged us to examine our past, as well as our vision for the future, to identify what really matters to us. She then taught us a number of strategies to help us get to that place we’d envisaged, drawing on key psychology principles around self-belief, confidence, and support networks, as well as her own personal experiences throughout her journalism career.
Developing an Inclusion Learning Mindset – Aduke Onafowokan, Lead Consultant at Inclusivitii
“Inclusion takes time, diversity is an investment, and equality is something worth fighting for.”
Run by the lead consultant at a diversity consultancy, which helps their clients create a more inclusive workplace, this workshop focused on understanding inclusion and developing the mindset needed to learn to be more inclusive. Aduke’s insightful presentation taught us to reflect on which stage of the learning journey we were at (unconsciously incompetent, consciously incompetent, consciously competent, or unconsciously competent), and focused on what steps we needed to take in order to move forward and grow. I discovered I was at the third stage, consciously competent, meaning I’m learning to learn and am aware of the important role of leadership in inclusion, but still have more work to do in order to reach the final stage, or “gold standard”.
Changing Banking for Good: My Story – Anne Boden, Founder and CEO of Starling Bank
“My big dream, when I was a child, was to have a job with a briefcase. That was it. Subsequently, I had a job with a Prada handbag, which is a bit different!”
The wonderful Anne Boden, the first woman to found and build a bank from scratch in the UK, talked us through her career journey in this fireside chat. Her talk covered the early beginnings of Starling Bank and what makes the company special, the state of the FinTech industry during the Covid-19 pandemic, and her experiences as a female leader in banking. She offered a wealth of advice, drawing on her own personal experiences and learnings across her career.
Overall, the event was enjoyable, informative, and incredibly inspiring. I learnt about leadership, even if not directly in a leadership role, resilience, self-belief and silencing my ‘inner critic’, and the importance of lifelong learning. These are learnings that I will take with me, and hopefully pass on to others along the way.