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‘Inspiring Potential’ - active, positive words for the future.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

8th March is International Women’s Day - Meg attended the 6th Annual commemorative breakfast at the Savoy hotel in London. The event was organised by Aurora and the HSBC bank, and attended by hundreds of guests. Meg gave the following opening remarks to start the celebration.


You’ll be glad to know that I won’t be long. I know that you are looking forward to your breakfast - as am I!


It’s a pleasure to be invited here today to take part in celebrating International Women’s Day. Particularly with a topic of ‘Inspiring Potential’ - active, positive words for the future.   


One of the most memorable occasions that capture the phrase happened a few months ago. I spent a morning looking at the work the Football Association are doing to encourage girls to play football - meeting girl’s football teams and watching a girl’s only coaching session in a primary school. These were 8 and 9 year olds, delighted to have the space they needed to develop their skills, without the boys interfering and running off with the ball. Last year they had been inspired by the England Women’s Football Team during the European championships.


I will be speaking later this morning at a conference of women engaged in the scientific, engineering and technology sectors. All of these areas are traditionally seen as the preserve of men. At the conference we will be celebrating the achievements of women active in these fields - women who too often have remained hidden from view. We need to recognise and celebrate our successes, including those of the women here in this room.  


Individuals do make a difference.  Individuals do have power and can make their voices heard. As Alice Walker, author of the Colour Purple says:

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any”. 


It seems to me that ‘Inspiring potential’ is something that has two sides to it - encouraging individual women to believe that they can achieve, and breaking down whatever barriers are holding them back. I think that Government has a role in both of these.


At the beginning of last week you may have heard about the launch of the report from the ‘Women and Work Commission’. They had a good look at the situation facing women in today’s world - including barriers to achievement.


The Commissioners went out to meet women around the country, to find out the reason why the gender pay gap still exists, why there are too few women in the boardrooms of our leading companies. But they also went to find evidence of good practice and solutions to problems.


Their recommendations are innovative and forward-looking, as well as being practical. Specifically they address the barriers to:

  • informed choice for girls at school
  • combining work and family life
  • lifelong learning and training.
  • improving workplace practices, for example how pay systems operate.  

I’d recommend everyone getting hold of a copy and joining in the discussion about just what we as a society need to do to make equality for women a reality. 


I would like to conclude by thanking Dr Glenda Stone and Aurora for all their hard work - not just today, but for the many women they help, the advice they give and the opportunities they provide for women to meet. 


Finally - Happy International Women’s Day.

Enjoy your breakfast!


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