#BreakTheBias

Women of West Yorkshire celebrated as Mayor of West Yorkshire hosts first International Women’s Day conference.

Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe OBE, joined a panel of inspiring women in their fields at an event to round up a week of activities in support of International Women’s Day 2022.

#BreakTheBias

Saturday 12th March brought together women from the world of business, charitable organisations, and community leaders at a conference at Nexus, the University of Leeds. Chaired by Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, delegates were inspired by the wealth of commercial experience, passion, and advice from successful women panellists to an eager audience, including young women from Batley Girls’ High school, hosted by the Rt Hon Baroness Warsi.

Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, said:

“I laughed, cried, felt sad and joyful in the space of a number of hours. The conference was the first of its kind and will be repeated year on year, and I am confident that we can build on this year’s success. We will widen our programme of events and importantly we will highlight women’s successes throughout the year while campaigning for and promoting what needs to change, where there are injustices and barriers.

“I have been personally connected to every session and learnt something new from every speaker. I was also pleased to hear from women in the creative sector, an industry I know well. We heard from campaigner and broadcaster Stephanie Hirst who grew up in social housing and is now a prominent voice on the radio. She and fellow panellists told the audience that reaching your goals was a mindset, if you think you can, you will.

“As the first woman Metro mayor, I am listening to the voices of women, voices that too often have gone unheard. Events like Saturday are just the start, and I look forward to seeing the momentum grow.”

Joeli Brearley is the founder and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Pregnant Then Screwed, and delivered the keynote, talking passionately about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and childcare responsibilities. The audience heard how in 2022 women can still lose their jobs when they become pregnant and how, disproportionality women do the most unpaid hours of work within a family unit. Joeli is seeking, through public campaigns to change the status quo. Few in the audience would have not been moved as redacted voicemails of desperate women called her charity after reaching breaking point.

Delegates listened to women leaders in technology, including the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and Founder of Leeds based Artificial Intelligence provider UtterBerry Heba Bevan. Heba was joined by a panel of women who had successfully reached the top in their organisations. The speakers had each worked in technology and described the obstacles they had navigated in their careers, from being asked to make the tea by male colleagues through to assumptions about their abilities when English was their second language. The audience were let into tips on how to handle awkward situations in the face of embarrassment and insult by the panel.

Noushin Aslam Raja, Muslim Woman of the year and founder of the Moonlight Trust supporting refugees from around the world also gave a poignant yet uplifting speech. Noushin reminded the audience of hardship in the world yet provided heartening relief by her generosity and the bravery of her organisation.

Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe OBE, chaired the Safety of Women and girls' panel.

Speaking after the event, Alison said:

“Our panel brought to life everything that underpins our newly launched Police and Crime plan by amplifying the voices of childhood trauma and domestic abuse.

“I felt extremely emotional chairing this session, however there was optimism as I sat next to women and men who genuinely want to do better for the women of West Yorkshire and make amazing contributions our region. Our panellists spoke eloquently and highlighted how misogyny and sexual misconduct must be addressed in schools, led by young people telling their stories, to make it real and impactful.

“We also heard from experts in specialist fields of rehabilitation, the Founder and National Coordinator of the Muslim Women in Prison Rehabilitation Project, who explained that a prison sentence, for what is often low-level offending means a woman can be shunned from her family and culture, impacting the rest of her life. This must change.

“I believe however, that strong voices are coming together to make a difference and be the change that is needed, and life can and will improve for women and girls.”