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COEL and Birketts discuss ‘Finding your element’ for International Women’s Day

Stay true to your values, find opportunities to help others and enjoy the moment – those were some of the takeaway messages as COEL and Birketts hosted an insightful panel discussion on International Women’s Day.

Held on Friday (8 March) at Birketts Cambridge office, the panel featured women from industries ranging from health, law and defence to the built environment and communications.

COEL Birketts International Women's Day - Suzie Thorpe and Lizzie Bradbury
COEL Birketts International Women's Day - Suzie Thorpe and Lizzie Bradbury

They explored the theme of ‘Finding your element’ in a lively discussion designed to break barriers and inspire inclusion – the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.

A breakfast seminar explored success and leadership, with the panel explaining how they tackled obstacles that hindered their way, dealt with imposter syndrome and debated whether finding their element came at a cost to their personal or professional lives

The panellists were:

- Shantha David, head of legal services at UNISON;
- Maiya Fleming, assistant quantity surveyor at Henry Riley Consultants;
- Dr Tamsin Holland Brown, paediatrician and clinical lead on the NHS England clinical entrepreneur programme;
- Inspector Hannah Ellis, Ministry of Defence Inspector; and
- Faye Holland, founder of cofinitive.

COEL Birketts International Women's Day
COEL Birketts International Women's Day

The panel was chaired by Suzie Thorpe, from the Women Making Waves podcast and radio show and Cambridge 105 Radio, with the first question of the day going to Shantha: What is success to you?

"Winning a major case didn't make me feel successful,” she replied. “The greatest success was to realise that I needed time to stop and find peace and enjoy the people around me. It's all about enjoying the moment."

Wider industry topics were also explored, including women in construction. Maiya spoke about how she actively supports young people in considering apprenticeships in the industry, with women in fields such as construction still underrepresented at under 11 per cent of the global workforce.

The benefits of paying it forward was another key message from the morning's discussions, with encouragement to support things that align with you and your values.

Faye urged the audience to “give people that leg up whenever you can” while Tamsin told how her work in developing a groundbreaking intervention to improve children's lives in low-income countries was a great example of paying it forward.

"If you're in a storm where you can't see the way forward, hold fast and stay true,” she said.

COEL Birketts International Women's Day - Hannah Inspector speaking
COEL Birketts International Women's Day - Hannah Inspector speaking

The audience joined in for a Q&A, representing organisations from across the region, including the University of Cambridge, Savills, Cheffins, Feilden+Mawson Architects, Carter Jonas, Gleeds, The Cambridge Building Society, Barclays, Owers Warwick Architects through to Bidwells, CB3 Consulting and Babraham Research Campus.

The event followed a breakfast seminar last year on the theme of women and risk taking.

Lead organiser Lizzie Bradbury, communication and engagement manager at office and lab fit-out specialist COEL, said afterwards: “COEL consistently looks to raise the profile of women in property and construction. Our delivery of this is made stronger by collaborating with others in the industry, which is why we are delighted to partner with Birketts in hosting a celebration of International Women’s Day.

“Our panel discussion, which included representatives from diverse disciplines and varied age groups allows for an inclusive debate on helping activate positive societal and cultural change.”

Birketts’ Maria-Christina Peyman, a partner at the law firm, added: “Birketts was delighted to partner with COEL to mark International Women’s Day 2024. This year’s IWD theme was ‘Inspire Inclusion’ and our panel event set out to do just that, bringing together Cambridge’s leading female voices to debate purpose and professional fulfilment.

“Addressing gender diversity is a core focus for the firm, with the proportion of women in the Birketts partnership increasing by 13 per cent since 2019-20, thanks to the introduction of a number of meaningful initiatives and actions.”

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