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Businesswomen urged to be brave at Cumbria’s International Women’s Day

Cumbria’s businesswomen were urged to be brave to overcome challenges and make the most of their careers at an event to celebrate International Women’s Day this week.
Businesswomen urged to be brave at Cumbria’s International Women’s Day

Almost 100 women attended the event, Cumbria’s International Women’s day, hosted by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce at North Lakes Hotel & Spa, Penrith.

The day started with four workshops covering topics including Women in Innovation, Business ResilienceEquality and Diversity and Financial Freedom.

After lunch attendees then gathered for the panel discussion which featured Joanne Hunter co-director of Grasmere Gingerbread, Angela Barker group director, safety excellence & assurance at QinetiQ, Joanne Holborn partner and head of employment law and training at Baines Wilson, and Nikki Dixon marketing director at Daniel Thwaites.

The discussion covered topics including business ethos, technology, gender equality, and role models. The panelists also talked about their careers and how being brave had paid off.

Joanne Holborn explained that to her it’s important to treat people how you want to be treated and that at the beginning of her career, she had to fake it until she could make it she said: “As a trainee solicitor I had to go to court, I was going to be against a QC, and I was a little scared but I just faked it until I made it. I want people to have confidence in themselves and be brave.”

Joanne Hunter shared her struggles to establish her career. She said: “I was brought up in a home where the men were the ones who worked, my brothers were supported but education was not something I was encouraged to do. I thought there is a world out there and I wanted to explore it. I worked in tourism and I gained lots of experience but I didn’t have any qualifications. I went back into education and finally came back home to take over the family business.”

Nikki Dixon admitted she wouldn’t be able to do her job if it wasn’t for her husband. She said: “My husband is a stay-at-home husband, he looks after the children which gives me the chance to pursue my career. He is supportive and always says if I couldn’t do the job I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. I would say for everyone to have confidence in their abilities and believe in themselves.”

The panel spoke for almost two hours before bringing the discussion to a close in time for the day’s prize winners to be announced.

Eve Halliday head of commercial and business growth at Cumbria Chamber said: “We are proud to have been able to bring together so many women (and a few men!) for such a vibrant and inspiring day. There was a real atmosphere of positivity, with attendees talking about their achievements and careers, sharing advice and knowledge, and forging new connections. A huge thank you to everyone who joined us, our amazing panel and of course our sponsors who helped to make the event possible!”

Joanne Holborn said: “We have sponsored this event for about 10 years, it is so important to recognise diversity and equality. It is good to be able to celebrate women’s careers in the county.

“For many years, people moved away for work, but this day demonstrates that the county is not just somewhere to go for a holiday; it’s somewhere you can build a career and a business. An event like this helps to show the variety of careers available and how a diverse team can make a big change.

“It’s good to hear about what other people have experienced and how they got into their careers. For some, it was a direct route, but for others, they have used what they learned to move forward and upwards.”

Angela Barker said: “It was a pleasure to attend this year’s IWD event hosted by the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce at the North Lakes Hotel and Spa.  It was an impressive turnout in terms of attendees, speakers and companies in support of the event. I’m happy to come back with some fabulous new connections via LinkedIn and to have extended my network, especially with people who due to our lines of work we probably would never normally have met. We collectively made the event a safe space to discuss key issues and challenges we have faced over the years and that we are trying to continue improving for future generations. I enjoyed being a panellist alongside some impressive ladies and hope that participants feel what we shared is relevant and useful. Thanks so much for the invitation. It was a privilege to be part of the event.”

Caroline Adams relationships officer at Cumbria Community Foundation who attended the event said: “Thank you to Cumbria Chamber for organising such a fantastic event. It was a great opportunity to meet women from across a wide range of industry sectors and share our stories. The workshop sessions were really informative and the panel discussion both inspiring and insightful. I’m already looking forward to next year.”


Cumbria Chamber would like to thank its International Women’s Day sponsors including title sponsor, Baines Wilson LLP, Department for Business and Trade, North Lakes Hotel & Spa, in-cumbria, Rachael Bell Wealth Management, University of Cumbria’s Cumbria Innovations Platform (CUSP II) and supporting sponsors Realise HR and Grasmere Gingerbread.


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