Celebrated on 8th March every year, International Women’s Day is one of the most sought-after events in the network. For the past 6 years, NZBWN has teamed up with Kea New Zealand to deliver an insightful and inspiring event honouring some of the fabulous Kiwi women here in the UK.
This year’s sold-out event, held at New Zealand House on Tuesday 5th March, focused on women who have created careers and businesses in male-dominated industries. With over 120 Kiwis in attendance (including a few men scattered throughout the room), this was clearly a topic of interest in our community!
Louise Chunn, founder of therapy platform welldoing.org and editor of bi-monthly magazine Planet Mindful, was our MC for the evening and introduced us to the following fabulous Kiwi women who all had captivating stories to share.
Joan Murphy, co-founder of fitness company FRAME, kicked things off with her story about how she came to start her successful business. When Joan first arrived in London, she found a job in advertising. Like all of us, Joan worked hard and played hard, but she felt that there was something missing from her life – and that was sport. She didn’t like gyms and realised that perhaps there were others out there who felt the same. So, at the age of 26, she and a British friend set up FRAME, where the emphasis is on ‘how you feel’ rather than ‘how you look’. Ten years later, they have seven locations, and just last month, they welcomed 18,000 ‘Framers’ through the door. Their company follows three principles, which they call the 3P’s: People, Passion, Perseverance. Joan believes if you follow these, then success will follow.
The next speaker was Anne Timpany, co-founder and CEO of the ATRA Group, a multi-million-pound building services company. After being made redundant in the 2009 recession, Anne convinced her husband that he needed her to help run his newly-formed plumbing business. In the UK construction industry, women make up a mere 14% of the workforce, and most of these are in clerical positions. However, being a woman in a male-dominated industry turned out to be an advantage, as it’s mostly the woman of the house who make decisions related to new bathrooms, kitchens etc. Their clients felt very comfortable talking and meeting with Anne, and this helped grow their business. In 2014, they made the decision to focus solely on the commercial sector. Taking advantage of the ever-growing city skyline, ATRA Group have proudly worked on such buildings as the Leadenhall Building aka the ‘Cheesegrater’, 20 Fenchurch Street aka the ‘Walkie-Talkie’, Facebook’s HQ and Battersea Power Station.
Up next was Francine Stevens, who took us into the tech world. She heads up innovation at Hiscox London Market, an insurance underwriter. Qualifying as an opera singer, Francine’s path to her current career was certainly not a conventional one. In researching for her talk, she uncovered some interesting stats, including estimations are that it will take women somewhere between 118 to 177 years to achieve gender equality. So, obviously we still have a lot of work to do to support the closing of this gap. Over the years, she has determined 3 lessons to help us in this quest: 1) sisterhood is vital; 2) be a rule breaker and break the conventions (without breaking the law, of course!); and 3) find your super-hero traits – what’s your own kryptonite that gives you your strength? Her final piece of advice was to be authentic to yourself.
Finishing on a creative note, was award winning film and television producer and NZ 125 Trailblazer, Finola Dwyer. Starting at a very young age, Finola was determined to break into what is notorious as being a difficult and ‘closed’ industry. As a self-confessed rule breaker, she has used this to her advantage in helping her get to where she is today. Her message to us was to be bold, be brave and to believe in yourself.
Once again, the network’s celebration of International Women’s Day was engaging, insightful and hugely inspiring! Huge thanks go to our network volunteers who helped make this event happen, Tania Beardsley from Kea New Zealand, Rhonda at Escence Catering for the delicious canapes, and our photographer Fran Hales – she did an amazing job of capturing the evening, which you can see here. We are also grateful to the business community who support our events, including sponsors Foremost Currency Group and Robert Walters; taste of home providers Yealand’s Estate and Karma Cola; and door prize contributors Amanda of Stella & Dot, Antipodes Nature, Ashley & Co, FRAME Gym, Newton & Pott, Pic’s Peanut Butter, The Bach, True Honey Company and Women of London Walking Tour.