Guest Blog by Rachel Wootliff, WINS Herts Hub Volunteer
Our first WINS Hertfordshire Hub event explored female leadership, our superpowers, strengths and challenges under the premise that countries with female leaders have dealt with COVID-19 a lot more efficiently and effectively than male leaders. To help us explore what female leadership looks and feels like, were 5 brilliant ‘women leaders in sustainability’.
Before we dive into the key findings from that discussion, let’s introduce those panellists and share their career stories to date.
Georgia Elliott-Smith, Managing Director, Element 4
With an environmental engineer background, Georgia started off as her career as an environmental manager, working with a contractor to develop their environmental policies, carbon assessments and making their supply chains more ethical. She took a career break to have her children, worked in the film industry and ran her own business for several years. It was only a few years ago when she got involved in Extinction Rebellion in London that our climate and ecological emergencies really hit home and she became not just an environmentalist by profession but also an environmental activist. Georgia is currently leading on action taking the UK government to court over UK emissions trading scheme.
Sian Conway, Founder of Ethical Hour
Sian’s journey into sustainability wasn’t linear, having a background in sculpture and working first as a creative artist and then in marketing.
Sian had two revelations in her life, firstly when she went to Sierra Leone working at a UNESCO World heritage site, helping women set up micro businesses. The country had such a bad reputation but Sian really saw the beauty there. On returning to the UK, she worked for a social accelerator – working with 50 social enterprises – before entering the corporate world and realising she hated it. Her second revelation was when she went on holiday to Cambodia and couldn’t quite believe the disposable culture she encountered. From that Ethical hour, a weekly Twitter chat for small business owners with a social & environmental purpose was born, quickly followed by the Ethical Hour Membership community and network.
Tara Button, Founder of BuyMeOnce
Tara has always identified as being an ‘environmentalist’ from a very young age but fell into joining the rat race in London working as a creative copywriter in advertising where she’s wasn’t that fulfilled or happy. Being given a Le Creuset for her 30th birthday was a revelation in products built to last but it took her 4 years from that moment to take her interest in longevity of products further. Realising no-one was sharing recommendations on things that last and on finding ‘socks with a lifetime guarantee’ she created a website with 100 products – went went viral, with 600,000 people finding her in a week. The next day she quit her job in the rat race and BuyMeOnce was born.
Kate Levine, Kate Levine Consulting
Fight for things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you – Ruth Baden
Kate Levine’s story starts growing up in Australia in the 80s at the start of the HIV & AIDS epidemic. There was no treatment for this at that time and she directed her anger around that whole situation into volunteering and working in information centres, both in Australia & London. Working in a PR consultancy wasn’t really where her heart was but about 20 years ago an opportunity to work with an energy company that partnered with Greenpeace, opened her eyes to what work she could be doing, which she then sought out, alongside working on social justice issues and trans inclusivity awareness. An introduction with the CEO of the Body Shop five years ago resulted in getting a global role for their Sustainability and Biodiversity programmes. However during the pandemic, Kate felt something change and she has recently left the Body Shop to set up her own PR consultancy for organisations of all sizes seeking to create positive change.
Giovanna Jagger, Co-Founder of Woken Up.Com
Giovanna grew up in South America and, like many of the other panellists, experienced in turning point in her career when, in helping big corporates in ‘doing the right thing’, she could see the way they were doing wasn’t very good or enough. In trying to help create change, Giovanna experienced the challenge of having to work with leadership teams who didn’t really understand. Working with such companies who weren’t doing enough was frustrating but through her reaching out, her activism with the climate strikes in London, she started to collaborate with Simon Puleston Jones and became a co-founder with him on Woken Up – a new global social network with purpose.
The depth and quality of the conversation that then flowed over the course of the evening between our panellists and attendees demonstrated the very best of our Women in Sustainability Online Events. Fortunately we had the incredible Carlotta Cataldi visually recording the discussion which led to the following infographic.
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