The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is Be Bold For Change, and this year I celebrated it three times.
I met first with Sixth Form students from Burntwood School and Ernest Bevin College in order to explore their experiences and how we can work together to make change happen. We were lucky enough to be joined by Nekoda Davis, who won a gold medal in judo at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and represented Team GB at the Olympics in Rio.
Then, I sat on a panel for a ‘Challenge and Change’ event, where we discussed how important professional development is in empowering more female leaders to progress. Many present discussed their negative experiences of returning to work following maternity leave; as a mother to two young children myself, I sympathise deeply. I also spoke to Vana Koutsomitis, The Apprentice runner-up 2015, about the challenges she has faced as a woman in business.
We are so fortunate in Tooting to have so many businesses, charities and other organisations run by women. For a final celebration, I invited 50 of these inspirational women from across the constituency to Parliament where we discussed what it means to be a female leader. We also heard from two great woman MPs Dawn Butler and Sarah Champion about their experiences climbing up in a male-dominated profession.