Rhian Sherrington, Founder of WINS Network
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Gosh, how true is that for this past year!
Like everyone at the start of 2020, I had my vision and my plans. I’d set my intentions; I’d drawn up a detailed plan for how I wanted the Women in Sustainability Network to grow and develop this past year.
Between January and mid-March, the WINS Hub Leads threw themselves with passion and purpose into creating 12 fantastic events, kindly hosted at our sponsors premises. We brought together in person a wide range of ‘women in sustainability’, professionals at all stages of their careers, successful female founders, social entrepreneurs and start-ups. From Frankfurt in Germany, from Aberdeen down to Exeter, we explored the challenges and opportunities of being change makers in our fields, sharing solutions, building new relationships, finding new clients. Then the pandemic hit the UK and we all went into lockdown.
How could an events-based network survive?
Well survive we have, I’d even say we’ve thrived – although that’s with the caveat that’s only been possible through everyone involved in the Women in Sustainability Network working hard on nurturing our resilience, tolerance and gratitude!
But since March we pivoted online and have held over 39 online events, bringing together well over 1,700 women.
At first, I was doubtful that our coaching-led approach to how we run our in-person events would effectively translate to being online, but I quickly, and happily, discovered I needn’t be concerned.
As Thalia Carr, our Oxford Hub Lead, says; We learned that women still really want to connect meaningfully with each other. That with skill, you can use break out rooms to tremendous effect and can still create a relaxed networking environment which is so important for building meaningful connections.
We learned that we are attractive to women from all over the UK, as well as overseas, and were able to invite women who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to travel to our in-person events. This has created a rich diversity of opinions and perspectives to our always lively discussions, leaving our ‘women in sustainability’ community feeling listened to, inspired, nurtured!
As we see this challenging year now come to a close, there is hope on the horizon with the vaccines now being rolled out – but we’re not through it yet.
The Women in Sustainability Network will remain online for you as long as we need to be. After a well-deserved break, our WINS Hub Leads will be back later in January with a new programme of online events and I’m kicking off the New Year with two fantastic webinars you can find out about on our website. Find out more here.
I hope 2021 brings you good health, hope for a better year ahead and the optimism and courage to continue to be that impactful female change maker making a big difference to our world.
We asked our Hub Leads to tell us what they’ve taken away from 2020. What successes they saw and what they’ve learnt from a year none of us expected to have…
Sneha Patel, WINS New York City
Although I’ve had the most challenging year personally & professionally, I’ve become more resilient to change. I’ve learned to accept things as they are to manage work-life balance with raising a toddler, working a FT corporate job, taking on additional tasks, launching WINS NYC Hub, speaker engagements, and going back to continue Executive education. It’s okay to let the ball drop and shift your energy to where it matters the most in your day to day.
Be true to who you are as you navigate through change and ensure you are keeping true to your personal value/purpose for the greater outcome.
Be resilient if you are going through imposter syndrome at a point in your career and remind yourself that a business is a powerful act of change and could really help connect your purpose with people and systems to move you through your aspirations or deciding the next step in your career.
Lola Okunrinboye, WINS Aberdeen
2020 has been an interesting year for our WINS Aberdeen community. We had our first event of this year in March and it was our last in-person event of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We immediately pivoted to online events via zoom and this immediately attracted a new community of female change makers from across the globe. We had a total of 10 events, 16 amazing guest speakers and 165 attendees. The breakout rooms have been a hit, because it gave attendees opportunities to make connections and chat privately in the “women in sustainability” style. We are grateful and thrilled with all the feedback received and are excited to go into 2021 with momentum and excitement. It has truly been an adventurous year and we want to thank you for being a part of WINS Aberdeen this year.
Virginia Cinquemani, WINS Herts Hub
We have had beautifully lively discussions, from where the most important strengths women leaders need to have immediately emerged:
- Resilience, or the ability to bounce back from setbacks and being constantly put down by society
- Courage, to stand up, be heard, and not be dismissed, even if you are the only one in a room to have a certain opinion
- The ability to get out of your own head and inside other people’s heads and this (we all agreed) might be what prevents other leaders from being equally successful. Ego kills collaboration and it is in the way when trying to take decisions for the greater good
- Collaboration, and being able to listen actively to others and to bring them with you in your journey
Thalia Carr, WINS Oxford Hub
We had 83 women at our first WINS Oxford online event in April, stopping just before 8pm to go out and clap for our key workers. Zoom was new for WINS and there was a lot of enthusiasm and good energy in the break-out rooms. The event was ahead of its time with Agnes Altments and Orlaith Delargy giving their ideas of essentially how we might #BuildBackBetter post-Covid-19.
This year we’ve learned that women still really want to connect meaningfully with each other, break-out rooms and relaxed networking is important. We learned that women really want to grapple with important issues – and this year we’ve covered so much – the financial system, building back better, biodiversity, confidence, feminine leadership, decarbonisation, to name just a few topics!
Traci Lewis, WINS Bristol Hub
Our last Bristol hub in-person event in March was a fabulous affair, attended by a diverse range of over 100 women. We had inspirational speakers of all ages and backgrounds, followed by workshops, dancing and incredible food. We didn’t know what was awaiting us around the corner, however we certainly made it a celebration to remember during the challenging times which followed this year.
I am very grateful to all the brilliant speakers who have inspired and informed us at WINS Bristol events this year. Carla Denyer, Bristol’s Green Councillor kicked off our first event in January 2020; ‘I Am a Woman who Speaks’. We were then joined by an amazing line up at our International Women’s Day event in March, including; Natalie Fee, environmental campaigner; Donna Thomas, social investor; Mya-Rose Craig, teen birdwatcher & activist and Jaya Chakrabarti MBE, a digital activist & social entrepreneur.
Thank you to them and all our other speakers this year, who include; Iona Martin, Dr Alexandra Jellicoe, Rachel Savage, Tim Malnick, Dr Zara Nanu, Angela Hicks and Dr Asha Patel. Thank you to all of our wonderful speakers who have inspired and informed our women in sustainability community this year. We couldn’t do it without you.
Kirsty Innes, WINS Glasgow Hub
After sadly saying goodbye to Katy Murdoch, our previous WINS Glasgow Hub Lead who moved to Ireland at the start of the Summer, I’m excited to have taken on the role! I always loved the WINS events and meeting other women who thought the same way as me, several of whom have turned into friends, associates and even clients.
While it might be some time before we can meet again in person, by coming together, we can compound the positive social impact we make. I’ll do my best to continue to build our warm, welcoming and collaborative Glasgow community.