From challenge comes change

Business woman working on iPad

International Women’s Day 2021

From challenge comes change. And 2020 tested us beyond anything we could have imagined at the start of the year. But without it we risk becoming complacent – when we are challenged, we are forced to think, to adapt, to innovate.

The disruptive power of Covid-19 has forced us to evaluate and reassess almost everything. Trends we thought would take a decade to take root happened within the space of weeks and months. And as much as these were positive, lockdown also demonstrated that a lot of progress we thought we’d made was incredibly fragile and could be undone in a flash.

Ahead of International Women’s Day 2021, we were joined by some outstanding speakers and special guests as we asked, how do we take this moment to reset the agenda?

We move the debate from one of representation to one of genuine equality, addressing the barriers (and opportunities) that Covid-19 has highlighted for us all.

From challenge comes change, so we #ChooseToChallenge

Catch up on the sessions

If I could tell you just one thing; notes to my younger self

If you could go back and offer your younger self some advice, what would you say?

Julia Lalla Maharajh, founder of the Orchid Project, shares the key lessons she has learnt from her experience in the private and public sector, how’s she overcaome the barriers she’s faced, and reveals the advice and guidance that has played a critical role in shaping her career.

Why are we still talking about girls in STEM?

By April 2020 it was clear that the only way out of lockdown was a vaccine – and as teams across the globe started to work on finding one, there was an unspoken fear that it was an impossible task.

Yet science has triumphed, and vaccines are circulating. What is even more remarkable is the role diversity has played in the research teams that made these breakthroughs – so why, some 40 years since the debate started, are we still having to talk about the scarcity of women and girls pursuing careers in STEM?

Why were women worse hit in a global crisis - and how do we stop it happening again?

We are not all in the same boat. While Covid-19 has proved more fatal for men it is clear that women are more likely to bear the brunt of the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

In this session our panel tackles the big issues hindering diversity in the workforce – pre-existing but exacerbated by the pandemic. How can we affect a genuine change in mindsets and move away from default male workplace culture? And how can we build the skills that allow women to access meaningful, well paid work as we move from recession to recovery?

The female scientist who helped develop the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

Professor Catherine Green played a leading role on the Oxford University team which, in conjunction with AstraZeneca, developed the first coronavirus  vaccine to be tested in Europe.

Catherine specialises in creating vaccines for clinical trials and over the last 15 years has contributed to vaccines for diseases including malaria, TB, influenza, MERS, Zika, rabies, plague and Ebola. In this interview Catherine discusses her experience of developing the vaccine in a small team led by Professor Sarah Gilbert, how she motivated her team when things didn't go to plan, and how she dealt with the sudden global media attention.

Has female leadership been more successful in a global crisis?

Covid-19 is the ultimate example of the unique challenge that ambiguous threats pose to leaders. And yet the pandemic response of certain nations and organisations has been vastly more successful than others, with commentators asking – is this due to radically different styles of leadership?

In this conversation we ask what happens to organisations that are led differently, and what can we learn from leadership in a crisis that we can apply to our day to day lives. Do women lead differently to men and, if so, how?

Tales our mothers told us 

The stories we tell, the language and tone we use, the narratives we create have more impact than we know. 

In this session, playwright and author Stella Duffy asks, what happens when we aren’t represented in the narratives we hear? And what do we do to change the tales our mother told us?