Break the bias was this year’s theme for International Women’s Day this year. Henley Mayor, Councillor Sarah Miller was invited to speak at Henley Manor Care Home to talk to residents in the morning and she organised an event at The Relais Hotel in the evening.
At Henley Manor Care Home, Sarah spoke of growing up in Henley with three brothers and having to speak louder and push myself to be heard. She took inspiration from her Grandmother Kit who was a strong woman. She said, “All the women and men in my life have helped mould me into the determined woman I am today. But I must admit I never ever considered that one day I would be Mayor of Henley. Nor did I see myself as a Henley town councillor.” Afterwards residents asked Sarah about whether she thought there would ever be another bridge across the Thames, what could she do about parking, speeding and graffiti and could be wheelchair lanes added to certain roads.
Henley Manor Care Home Manger, Ellie said, “It was a pleasure to have the Mayoress visit as part of International Women’s Day. The residents found Councillor Miller’s talk on her life and career very inspirational and insightful. We also loved hearing about all of the events and activities going on throughout the community and how we may be able to get involved.”
In the evening, around 40 local women joined together to hear talks from Emma-Jane Taylor, Sarah Burns MBE from Smartworks, Amanda Collins from Riverside Counselling and hosted by Imogen Scott, HR Director at Legal & General who champions female talent. Afterwards there was time for networking.
Grace Leo, co-owner of The Relais Hotel said, “What a privilege it is to welcome you all and for asking us to host you here. I’m really delighted. I want you to feel welcome and please feel free to come and visit us and use our facilities including our co-working club, The Salon in the Palm Court.”
Imogen said, “Originally I was going to talk about the under represented, gender pay gap, the impact of Covid-19 on women but then I crossed all that out this morning. I started thinking about what resonated with me today and thinking about Ukraine. There are mothers clinging to their children, carrying them to borders, sheltering them from bombs in Metro stations. Some women have been forced to bear arms to protect their loved ones and fight for their country. So many women have already paid the ultimate price. Across the globe, on IWD we celebrate the rallying cries of ending gender discrimination. Unfortunately there is no gender equality in armed conflict. It’s generally powerful men when wars are waged and ended.”
Emma-Jane Taylor, an activist focused on reducing child sex abuse. She said, “To live my life, enjoy my life by simply being me. Being you isn’t always easy and it can often be seen as a cliché. If I go back to when I was 21 (28 years ago) I had to find a career but there only seemed one career path at that time and that was corporate in admin or sales or even junior management but it was all sprinkled with a lot of grey!” I went from corporate position to corporate position and felt uncomfortable everywhere I went. I was square peg in a round hole.” Emma-Jane then broke out from her corporate world and set up as tap dance teacher alongside temping. She went on to form Stageworks 21 years ago and NutritiousWorks. She added, “I understood I had confidence and a voice and could collaborate. Proud to be here as a woman. We can unite in voice and break the bias.”
Sarah Burns from Smartworks spoke about their important work of getting women back into work and how they support them and Amanda Collins from Riverside Counselling gave a short history of how the charity started, how many people they now support and the ways in which they are helping people.
Henley Mayor, Sarah closed the evening by saying, “Today we celebrate and honour women visionaries, innovators, mentors. We continue to challenge gender stereotypes and bias. And we call out gendered actions or assumptions in order to ‘break the bias’. Not forgetting the women and girls in Ukraine caught up in this ugly conflict. Thank you for joining me this evening – it’s been a blast.”